Last week the Pickens County School board decided students will not be required to make up seven of the nine school days missed this year because of wintry weather, with March 21 and March 24 having been approved as the only two make-up days for both students and staff.
Not only do we think seven missed days of school will negatively impact students education, the BOE’s decision adds insult to injury when you take into account that the state is requiring teachers make up all nine days.
The state school board granted each district the option of whether or not they would require students to make up those days and we respect their decision to give local boards freedom of choice. We only wish our school board had put top priority on academics and cut some holiday time, or added days to the end of the calendar.
After Pickens began to run up a high snow day count, it seemed like board chair Wendy Lowe agreed that more class time was called for. Lowe said she thought the breaks should be downsized for the sake of academics.
We understand make-up days are a tough decision for the board, which has to juggle the remaining months in the school calendar and the possibility of cutting into family vacation plans. We believe a better approach would have been requiring students make up at least five days of missed days. They could have forgiven the other four days which the state allows as a standard weather policy, assuming no state of emergency situations.
Many of us at the Progress have school-aged children and we know how long it takes for them to “get back in the swing of things” when their regular schedule is interrupted. With four days missed in two separate weeks because of the snow, we might as well count those single days of attendance lost causes. If we look at education globally, U.S. students should probably be in school more than they already are – we don’t need to hack off more days from the calendar because it’s inconvenient to make them up.
In her blog, AJC writer Maureen Downey points to a study that found poorer performance among students during years with a high number of snow days.
“In a study that spoke directly to time lost to snow days,” Downey writes, “researchers by Dave E. Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen examined how Maryland and Colorado schools fared on state assessments in years when there were frequent snow days compared to years where there were fewer. The study found the percentage of students passing math assessments falls by about one-third to one-half a percentage point for each day school is closed.”
Teachers are already slammed with material they have to get through, and a week-and-a-half out of school is a lot of curriculum to make up. We’re thankful dates for the CRCT were ratcheted back for more consistent blocks in the classroom, but we worry there’s going to be even more “teaching to the test” to make up for the lost time.
We were disappointed to see local and state education leaders jump at the chance to avoid the hassle of figuring out how to get in a few more days, which brings us back to the question of the teacher make-up days. If kids aren’t there, what will teachers be doing for those seven days? The Pickens school board has already tacked on two extra “post-planning” days to the calendar, and we wonder how much additional post-planning is needed beyond the original schedule? Isn’t that similar to a baker delivering a wedding cake, then spending the next two days in the kitchen thinking about the cake but not baking anything new? To us this sounds like a waste of taxpayer-funded time.
Beyond the necessary planning days, if we’re paying teachers to be at school our children should be there too.