Thursday, August 12, 2010
Arguments for an Early Start
School is starting or has started for many Central Indiana communities this week. Yesterday, for example, Indianapolis Public Schools and several other Marion County school districts returned to class. If the students aren’t back in class this week, then they are likely back in class at the start of next week.
It’s early, and students (and some teachers) are likely belly aching about having to go back to school, but it makes sense to start now given our current laws.
In recent times, the state legislature has required 180 days of school. Prior to Tony Bennett’s tenure as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, that 180 day number was sorta kinda just a guide. Schools could apply for waivers or have half days and use creative math to come up with 180 days.
So, let’s say you’re the MSD of Podunk. A winter storm comes through your area and cancels school for four days. Under the old system, the MSD of Podunk could request a waiver from the state to cancel those days, and it would likely be granted.
Bennett ended that practice as one of his first acts in office and has told schools that he expects the districts to be in class 180 days, come heck or high water. He also said that any days short of that would have to be made up. Thus, he ended professional development days and other half days of testing, etc. Basically, he wants 180 days of instruction, and I support him.
For every week you go later for the start of school, you can add one week at the end of school. So, that means that if you do the math, a post-Labor Day start as many argue for right now puts schools in session into mid-to-late June. It’s simple math. Add up the energy costs as the AC gets cranked for an extra month, and you begin to see that financially, it just doesn’t make sense for districts in the state.
From an instructional standpoint, a Tuesday-after-Labor Day-start doesn’t make sense, either. Right now, the current schedule allows most schools to nicely end its first semester at the winter break point in December. When school resumes in January, the second semester can begin as a fresh start. I know that when I was in school and we legged over that winter break, teachers would always load me down with homework.
I can accept many ideas for educational reform, but I just can’t see where an “after Labor Day” start does anything but recall somebody’s “good ole’ days” of yore. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I say let the educational professionals determine start dates and school schedules. Besides, I think the time for year-round school or the "balanced schedule" is upon us, perhaps. That goes back to school funding, however.
That’s a can of worms for another day.
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