Saturday, February 20, 2010

Evidence of the need for more learning

"There is absolutely no evidence at all
that adding these two days
had any impact on the learning process."

---Greg Stumbo

This from John Sherffius in Slate:

This from H-L:

Legislators defend cut of two school days

FRANKFORT — Legislative leaders on Friday defended a House proposal that would cut two school days to help balance the state budget. The loss of two instructional days, which were added in 2006, would not impact a child's education, argued House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, during a joint news conference Friday morning.

"If you look at the actual number of instructional hours that we're still allocating, we exceed six of our seven surrounding states," Stumbo said. "There is absolutely no evidence at all that adding these two days had any impact on the learning process."

But education leaders on Friday expressed regret that lawmakers were considering cutting school days and reclaiming $35 million in excess school funding to help balance the state's two-year budget. Reducing the number of school days to 175 will save the state about $34 million each year.

"I feel strongly that reducing the number of days in the school year is going in the wrong direction," said Stu Silberman, superintendent of Fayette County Schools. "I understand the issues with the state budget, but Kentucky already has one of the shortest school years in the country." ...


Anonymous said...

Richard, help me out here. Do you really believe Stu is right? That the loss of two instructional days will impact student success? I think if teachers could teach, instead of having scrimmage tests quarterly, instruction would improve.

Also, can you give me some information about calendars here. How many days of instruction do kids in Tennessee, Illinois, and Ohio have? How can we have one of teh shortest calendars? We start in early August!!!! Could we not dispense with these in-service days?

Richard Day said...

Yes, Stu is correct. The Stumbo/Williams idea is a move in the wrong direction.

There's no polite way to say this. Arguing that less education will keep us just as smart - is stupid. Since neither Stumbo nor Williams are actually stupid, I assume their true motivations lie elsewhere.

This seems to be avoidance behavior - an effort on their part to avoid doing what they already know needs to be done (tax reform), until after the next election cycle. By that time things will be worse.

This is certainly NOT a good idea. If it was, they would have campaigned on it. They would have presented bills to reduce schools days to ....what? 100? How about 50?

We can argue about what happens during a given school day, or what should happen. But at the base, there are teachers and students. To the extent that we can maximize the amount of time students are engaged with high quality teachers it will benefit them and ultimately all of us, and the state economy.

Despensing with inservice days is also wrong-headed IF we are using them properly; that is, to make teachers better at teaching. If we are only using them for sexual harassment and blood-borne pathogen training, they are much less useful. Those should be simplified and moved online. Once a teacher demonstrates an understanding of the requirements, move on.

In fact, more PD is needed, but only that which adds to teacher skills - not the bureaucratic crap that can dominate at times.

We need a big focus on formative assessment in association with the new testing program, for example.

As for the number of school days, I'm not sure about the latest data. According to an Education Commission of the States 2004 report, 1 state had 170 days; 2 more were under 174; 5 were at 175; 30 go 180 days and 2 states were over 180.

Internationally the picture is worse. Many countries have longer school years than the U.S. According to a UNESCO study of 43 countries, 33 of them have school years longer than 180 days. Some go as many as 220 days per year.

Anonymous said...

I think it should be mentioned that since Stu came to FCPS, the number of days alloted to practice testing and learning checks have increased. This is not instruction under the eye of a "skilled teacher." This is nothing but test preparation, and often times, as in the last district learning check, the students in my math class were not even exposed to the particular core content yet.

Richard Innes said...

There is another side to this story. Because we don't have good performance data (no one trusted CATS -- hence its demise), how can we really prove this either way.

This is what happens when the education community itself doesn't demand high quality, revealing data.

If the two extra days were just used for more scrimmage for CATS, then the politicians might actually be right. But, how can anyone tell?