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Instruction Days vs. Learning Days?

June 12, 2009

We have only a few days left in our local school calendar and I found myself musing about the days in the calendar year.  Is it just me, or does it seem that the last few days of school are pretty much wasted when it comes to learning?

My kids are all having “end of school” parties, which are on separate days from their all-school “field day,” which is different from their “<insert special group/club> end of year party.”  And, there’s even a separate party for all the kids in class who have birthdays during the summer who can’t celebrate their birthdays IN CLASS with the rest of their school chums.

As the old saying goes, “Don’t confuse fishing with catching.”  Apparently this goes for instructional days vs. learning days, too.

This year, I find this particularly amusing because the kids SHOULD have gotten out on Wednesday, based on the original schedule.  BUT, we had a lousy winter so they have to have two extra makeup days to replace those instructional days lost to snow.

But, you have to ask yourself:  why?  Let’s be realistic…how much learning — real learning — is occurring in these last 10 days of school?  It’s been party after party, one special event after another.  Homework…not any to speak of.  Classrooms are being un-decorated, celebrations are happening, and yearbooks come out any day now.

Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT complaining about end-of-year celebrations. What I’m complaining about is the paradox between schools and districts that bemoan the fact that they don’t have enough time to teach the curriculum, yet we DO seem to have all this extra time for non-learning activities. And, what is the VALUE our kids are deriving from being in school two extra days.

Probably zero.  Where the problem lies is that schools must have students attend a minimum number of days.  If the minimum number is cut — say due to weather problems, power outages…you name it — they have to make them up at the other end. And, they are also allocated FUNDS based on these days.  See, schools and districts get their share of the tax revenue based on (among other things) the technical term I like to call “BIS” — “Bottoms in Seats.” That’s why attendance is so important.  For every day kids are not in school it reduces the funding allocation in school.

Now, we would all HOPE that the time spent in school is actually spent on learning, but really — how much learning is taking place RIGHT NOW?  We’ve just essentially taken 10 days out of the 180 day school calendar and turned it into “end of year wrap up time.”

That’s 6% of our children’s education time for this year. I guess my biggest issue is that on one hand we hear “we don’t have enough time” (and I wrote about that in a previous blog, too,) and at the same time the schools are willing to give up this valuable learning time.

We all get “summer-itis” of course.  But, 10 days worth?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 13, 2009 9:51 am

    Hi I think this is a fantastic blog, keep up the good work…

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