Am I a geek or a nerd?

Does Michigan Need a Longer School Year?
September 13, 2010, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The soon to be former Governor Granholm suggested last week that we require 180 days of school each year. Eight years ago we did require that, 2002-03 was the last school year that all district in the state had to meet for 180 days. The requirement was changed to allow districts flexibility in scheduling and negotiations with unions; the requirement until very recently was simply in hours: 1098. The unintended consequence of this was that many districts began meeting for 170 days or less, meeting the hours requirement by adding a few minutes to each class period each day.

Any teacher can tell you that adding 3 or 5 or even 10 minutes to class meetings does very little to the amount that they teach in a day; I remember when we had to make up extra snow days and did so by adding 3 minutes to classes until we had reached the appropriate number of minutes. I taught no differently. So what really happened in these classrooms? If teachers still treat one day of class the same as they did under the 180 day requirement but now have only 170 or less days to teach, what do they leave out?

The question remains: does it matter? Does 180 make a difference? How much? There is some evidence that longer class periods, longer school days and longer school years can impact academic performance if that time is spent on academic tasks. That bit of evidence does not promise results and we are left to wonder if the additional cost is worth the possible (not promised) increase in test scores.
Which brings me to my bigger problem with this. Granholm proposed a longer school year so that our students can perform better on the MEAP and MME. There is no mention of examining how we use the school day, what we do with our HS students with extremely low reading levels (we currently require them take Biology, never mind that they can’t read), how to effectively teach transient students, or the shoddy construction of the MEAP and content area MME exams. A longer school year that provides more of the same will just get us more of the same. I support more time in school, especially for our struggling students, but we also need a change in requirements that allow districts to be flexible in meeting the needs of their constituents.


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