Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why We Are Failing In Education

With the cancellation of classes in all area school districts again today, we will soon find out just how much of a priority we place on our children's education.  All of the districts have run out of "snow days" that were built into the calendar at the start of the year.  That would mean making up today's lost time at the end of the year in June--or holding classes on a day that was previously scheduled as off--like during Spring Break.  You would think that would be an easy decision for districts to make, since their own surveys show that education is a "top priority" for the community--and their goal is to provide kids with the most education possible.  But what will come of our extreme winter is a tidal wave of opposition to any plans to add days back into the calendar.

Action Two News already had a story last weekend about parents who DON"T want the lost class time made up.  "We have a family trip planned at the end of the school year" one mother complained.  "My kids usually go to a camp in June--so we wouldn't want them to miss that if they had to make up days", worried another.

In those two comments, what message is sent to kids, administrators and the "community"?  That my child's education is not as important as a trip to Wisconsin Dells, or Great America or to the cabin up north or to some youth camp.  And forget about making up a day during Spring Break, because there are all of those trips to Florida, or Arizona, or the Bahamas (or un-chaperoned excursions for high school girls who end up dead on Aruba)--some of which were booked through clubs at the schools themselves!

Administrators are just as guilty of shuffling actual education to the bottom of the priority list.  You may recall a few years back, the Oshkosh School District (which at the time had NO snow days built into their calendar) passed on adding days to the end of the year and instead went with the ludicrous idea of just adding a few minutes to each remaining school day in order to meet the minimum number of classroom hours--rather than the absolute minimum number of days in class.  I'd like to think that every teacher adjusted their curriculum, class plans and syllabuses to add .4% more learning to each of those extended classes--rather than just making the extra two minutes additional "getting ready to go back to your lockers with your books time."

Of course, we wouldn't have this problem if schools moved away from the 19th Century basis for their calendar--that kids need to have the summer off to help on the farm.  I wonder what percentage of Wisconsin students still need to have those three months away from the classroom to handle "chores" and "help bring in the crops"?

Just looking at the Oshkosh school calendar--with its weeks off for the Holidays and Spring Break and scattered days off for "teacher development" and early dismissals for "collaboration"-- leads you to wonder if we aren't just teaching our children when it's "convenient for us"--rather than as much as they need it.

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