Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Starting late

There is a push in Maryland and some other states to begin the school year after the Labor Day holiday.  Why do we want to do that?  Long ago and far away the school year always started after Labor Day.  Then came lots and lots of other school holidays.   Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Weekend, longer spring breaks so families could travel, and more and more snow days.  When kids walked to school or rode public transportation there were many fewer snow days.  Now the liability of running busses on bad roads has created more snow days.  Having students stand on the corner on dark winter mornings hasn't helped either.  So in order to be able to end the 180 day school year by mid-June schools started opening in late August.  This was a perfect example of "you can't burn the candle at both ends".
So now we are going retro and some politicians are advocating for a post Labor Day start.  Their reasons are really interesting- it is good for business. We need the student workers in the seasonal businesses and we need the families to vacation longer.   Isn't that quaint- we shortchange a child's education because it is good for business.  In order to squeeze in the 180 days by mid-June, it is recommended that we reduce teacher training days and possibly reduce the school year to 170 days.
Research has repeatedly shown that the single most important variable for improving education is the quality of the teacher.  There are other studies that keep telling us the U.S. is losing ground to other countries because our education system is slipping.  So our answer would be to reduce teacher training!!
We also know that kids forget a lot over the current summer break.  Many schools don't even begin teaching new material until the end of September as they help kids to catch up.  This situation is particularly true in communities where parents do not work with kids over the summer.  Reducing the number of days in school would only exacerbate this issue.
Once again we have politicians butting into school policy.   Where are the educators on this?  Where is the push back from school administrators or the unions? If this idea should become a fait accompli there will be lots of jumping and shouting.  But then it will be too late.   It is only now that teachers' unions are upset about Common Core.  Where were they 5 years ago when Common Core was getting started?
"Professional" educators are a bunch of wimps.  I put the word professional in quotes because it is the only profession I know that continually rolls over and lets people without training and with little to no investment in the child's education to make the rules for the profession and for kids.  Nature abhors a vacuum and the so-called professional educators have allowed the vacuum to be quite large.  Can't blame the politicians for leaping in for their own aggrandizement.  The students?  Who looks out for their interests?  Beats me.

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