I would like to comment on the Observer-Reporter editorial, “We no longer need children in the fields,” which was published April 12.
As I tell my students, you lose credibility when you don’t get the facts right. The popular belief that opinions are the new truth, which then are considered “fact” is disturbing and insidious.
The editorial stated that the proposed Washington School District calendar calls for 183 instructional days; however, the documentation passed out by Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo at the school board meeting clearly indicates that there will be 180 instructional days, which is the norm.
Under the proposed modified school calendar, instructional time before scheduled spring achievement testing will be shortened due to longer breaks. This puts our students, who seek the same jobs, seats in college and scholarships, at a disadvantage in relation to schools where traditional calendars continue and students have more instructional time before spring testing. If this was a sporting event and other schools had three to four weeks more practice time before the “big game,” everyone would understand the inequity. State-mandated testing has been a problem for our district in the past; however, recent results have shown growth and much promise.
The 2013 Pittsburgh Business Times Guide to Schools ranks Washington School District at No. 5 in the “overachiever” category. Inflated breaks with too many stop-and-start segments will break the continuity of student effort and performance. Our district, the kids, their parents, our community and educators are judged on these state test scores. Until that changes, maintaining a fair and logical school calendar for the kids is a must.
The two basic arguments for “modified calendars” are summer learning loss and the lack of engagement in summertime activities for some children. I delivered a great deal of documented research to the board, which indicates that there is no proof that modified school calendars improve learning and engagement, but that it does increase cost.
And now for a history lesson: At one time, school calendars were based around the agrarian way of life; however, the present school calendar in America is not. In 18th and 19th century rural America, school was based on agricultural seasons, but summer was not when kids were needed in the fields. In most areas, they were needed in the spring for planting and the fall for harvesting. These farming kids went to school in the summer and winter. Kids in the cities at this time attended school year-round. Educational reformers pushed for coordinated schedules. When states started taking control of education they made it compulsory and coordinated the 180-day school calendar.
Jeffrey A. Bunner
Bunner is the chairman of the social studies department for Washington School District.