Friday, February 7, 2014

Making it up

For those of you outside Ohio, you may not be aware that the weather here has been downright awful. My sons had four straight days called off school, and those were Friday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I've been watching the developing story line at the statehouse about the mad clamor to grant school districts another 4 so-called "calamity" days, meaning districts don't have to make them up.

I've always been concerned about this rush to shorten the school year due to Acts of God. On the one hand, I get it. What difference would tacking a few days on to the end of school have in the grand scheme, right? I mean why delay summer recess by a few days?

However, I'm also keenly aware of this fact: American kids attend school less frequently than other children in the industrialized world. This post from Education Next sums up the issues nicely -- about how there appears to be a growing body of evidence suggesting that more time in school improves student achievement.

While I wouldn't say that test score improvement should be all we care about, improvements there do indicate, at least somewhat, that increased time equals increased learning.

The first politician I ever worked for in 1994 went around the state of Massachusetts advocating for a year-round school calendar. Three months on, one month off. That has some appeal to me, especially given how our long summer vacation tends to leave kids behind when they start up the school year.

But my basic issue is this: why should my kids have less instruction because of bad weather? I know it's inconvenient for me as a parent to have our children in school a few more days (not to mention out of school during our Antarctic weather!), but should that inconvenience outweigh my son's right to a full year of 3rd Grade instruction?

Perhaps the best thing the state could do would be to delay the state's proficiency tests by a week or so so that students can be best prepared for these increasingly high-stakes tests.

But telling parents that their children really don't need two weeks of instruction (as the additional 4 calamity days would essentially do) really makes me wonder where we draw the line? If two weeks aren't necessary, why not three? Four perhaps?

I know this is fairly arbitrary, but I believe my sons need at least 180 days of instruction, no matter how inconvenienced I may be.

But I could be wrong.