Put school days prior to testing
One more call to bow at the altar of NCLB.
Parents of Montgomery County public school students spoke out recently to let the school board know that they did not like the idea of delaying spring break until April from its usual place in March on the school calendar. The parents apparently won on this issue, showing the power of parental involvement.
However, they may not have shown the wisdom of parental involvement.
While parents are right that April is late in the school year to schedule a week-long holiday, there is a major reason that a delay makes sense - the growing importance of accountability testing to the future of schools.
By delaying spring break, school systems allow for additional learning days before crucial testing required by the federal No Child Left Behind program. While a case can be made that NCLB testing has assumed far too important a significance in the learning process, the indisputable reality is that too much depends upon NCLB testing for educators not to use every edge they can find to help improve scores.
That's why several school systems in Alabama, including Autauga County schools, and many systems in other states are delaying spring breaks until after testing occurs.
Montgomery school officials simply did not do a very good job of selling parents and the public on the need for delaying spring break until after testing, so the predictable outcry prompted the school board to back down on accepting the administration's proposed school calendar for next year.
Now two other versions of the calendar are being circulated to principals and teachers for input on what changes to make to the calendar for the school year beginning in August. Both versions have spring break at the traditional time, March 19-23.
What is different is how the two versions would treat two of the additional five days that the Alabama Legislature made available by extending the school year.
Option 1 would add two days by making the Thanksgiving break just three days long, from Wednesday through Friday. Option 2 would keep the weeklong Thanksgiving break, but shorten the Christmas break by two days, with it beginning on Monday, Dec. 25, and ending Tuesday, Jan. 2. Under Option 1 the Christmas break would begin Thursday, Dec. 21, and run through Jan. 2.
Both options would allow two additional teaching days prior to accountability testing, but place the additional three days at the end of the school year. Either way, Montgomery schools will be missing a wonderful opportunity to have even more teaching days prior to accountability testing.
Perhaps the school board should consider a third option; one that would shorten the Thanksgiving holiday to just Thursday and Friday and shorten the Christmas holiday as well, perhaps starting Friday, Dec. 22, with students returning Jan. 2. That third option would get four additional days earlier in the school year.
Whatever option the school board takes, Montgomery County residents should hope the administration has learned that it needs to do a much better job of selling the public, and especially parents, on the need for making any major changes in the school calendar.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES