Tuesday, July 19, 2011

180 Is a Magic Number

Legislators and others have for years now made it a paramount objective to keep children in school some how, some way, for 180 days. Few school systems actually accomplish that goal, but many people are very much focused on that number.

In West Virginia, that may be unattainable. School staff often supplement their meager incomes by taking summer jobs, so starting and ending dates are not extraordinarily flexible. Holiday vacations are pretty much set by parental requirements. People go out of town over Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving regardless of whether or not school is in session. There is also the fact that, even if you did mandate school during Thanksgiving week for example, few would show up. Often, the teachers plan little for those times anyway. Finally, the period after the mandated state testing has become an academic dead zone.

Most teachers agree that it is the quality of instruction, not the number of days in school, that matter. College students and home schooled children spend much less time in "school" such as it is, yet often seem to get more done in less time. A home schooled child can get accomplished in a few hours what public school cannot finish in a day. But then again, public school as it exists now may be an increasingly anitquated concept.

Our students do not get the bang for the bucks spent. So long as we focus on a number of days, and not what happens in those days, our education system will continue to fail.

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