As we suffer through what we hope are the last arctic gasps of winter 2015, I would like to do a little forecasting of my own. Much has been made, in recent weeks, of the strain that winter weather has placed on school districts across Michigan this year and, to a larger degree, last year.
For weeks I’ve been reminded of the reoccurring scene in the movie, “Groundhog Day.” The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., the radio turns on and the DJ says: “It’s cold out there today.” His partner, deflated, responds: “It’s cold out there every day.”
In light of the excessive amount of cancellations that have accumulated these past two school years, one state lawmaker has proposed an increase in the number of “forgiven” days allotted to districts. Currently districts must make up every lost day beyond six, in order to receive full funding from the state. The bill that was introduced in the State House would increase the number of these free days to nine.
Only they’re not free; there’s a significant cost to every instructional day we lose to weather.
Last month, our students left school on a Wednesday afternoon and didn’t return until Tuesday – and it wasn’t a vacation. Ask a teacher, coach or band director how difficult it is to make up for that lost time. It’s nearly impossible.
Now to the forecast I promised. We don’t know if these prolonged cold snaps (even colder than we’re accustomed to) will become a fixture of winter in our state; but, here’s something we know for absolute certain: for educators, instructional time is our most precious commodity. With each lost day, there’s a 100 percent chance our students fall behind.
Every day has an objective.
In a recent publication, we profiled an important intervention program for struggling first grade readers in the District called Reading Recovery. The goal of the program is to bring students who are behind to their grade level standard. It’s highly technical work that is founded upon daily 30-minute sessions with professional interventionists. Since the sessions build upon one another, success requires time and consistency. This is just one example of many.
When we lose instructional time, our students suffer. Adding minutes to the instructional day or simply writing off the loss is not a fair compromise for lost time.
We don’t have dueling priorities in this district. Student safety and student achievement are both paramount concerns. We can (and do) make concessions in support of both. That said, we couldn’t support anything that would potentially place even more instructional time at risk.
– Matt Wandrie, Superintendent