Printed letters, January 31, 2013
Those who are railing against a school calendar that possibly starts in early August should perhaps talk to parents of kids who go to schools where this happens (as well as staff).
Both the coveted Caprock Academy and Christian Community Schools begin school in late July or early August. As a parent with a child who has this school calendar, I can tell you I think it’s fantastic.
My daughter loses much less knowledge over the summer, resulting in less time reviewing when school starts again. Being able to take a vacation in October, when many tourist attractions are less crowded, is also very nice.
While change is always scary, frankly, I am so happy my daughter’s school went to this calendar two years ago. I hope the school doesn’t do away with it. Some District 51 schools used to have a year-round track, and parents who used it were upset when it was eliminated.
I would just recommend not running away screaming from a schedule in which kids start school in early August.
Parents must voice opinions on school calendar changes
Are parents fully aware of what the District 51 school board is proposing concerning changing the school calendars? The options involve starting school either the first week of August or in the latter weeks of July.
Some parents have no idea that the new proposals would make August nonexistent as a vacation option.
The school board has stated that “after time to adjust to changes,” most of the changes will be seen as positive. Also, teachers will be more motivated (really?) and a study from 2003 was quoted as saying “there being a possibility of this intended change having an impact on students.”
One ten-year-old study does not convince me that our entire community needs to be so drastically impacted. Author and Stanford professor Larry Cuban showcases more recent studies that provide little evidence that lengthening the school day will make marked change in student performance.
Teachers who used a combination of old-school with new-school agendas were shown to be the most productive. District 51 has many wonderful teachers who feel they are not being heard.
Numerous studies have shown that later school start times are directly correlated with lower truancy, better student health and decreased tardiness, which results in higher test scores. Also many countries with shorter school years and school days boast higher scores and grades.
Another factor that dramatically affects test scores is the class size. Any teacher who has had taught a class with 25 or fewer students knows that the quality of instruction is significantly greater than teaching a classroom of 30 or more students.
Cutbacks have been necessary due to budget cuts, but some things don’t make sense. Several changes were implemented as soon as they were announced.
Please let school board members know they don’t need to rush ahead on drastic and immediate changes without getting more input from the community. Starting the school year this early will also impact many businesses, programs, students with summer jobs, etc.
While more students graduate, do they have critical skills?
A recent Daily Sentinel article by journalist Emily Shockley reported graduation rates in District 51. Using a complex set of numbers, it described student progress through public schools. A 2012 high school graduation rate of 77.7 percent was a celebratory milestone, compared to the previous academic year.
The article drew us through a vast swamp of numbers. Tales of graduation rate increases, tracking students, administrative reactions, special monitoring of seniors, dropout rates, GEDs, early grad rates, alternative schools and on and on. Supplemental oxygen may be helpful for working through it all. In the end, we infer that great effort is expended keeping students in school.
The article lacks mention of academic accomplishment. Can the students read? Have they been exposed to historically good literature? Do they grasp analysis? Can they demonstrate arithmetic, algebra and geometry computations? Can they write what is in their minds in a readable manner? Do they know an unvarnished history of our country? Do they understand the structure of our government?
Most importantly, is learning effectively imparted by simply keeping them in school? If so, how do we know that? Why do so many, most surprisingly at the senior level, drop out?
Students abandon the system despite being bombarded with all manner of new teaching methods, clever encouragement, tantalizing entertainment and vague assurances of how staying in school applies to a successful future.
Consider a radical notion: It may be that some dropouts have an innate sense that their own time is being wasted and they’re being cheated.