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Dover Post
  • EDITORIAL: Winter ushers in silly season at Delaware schools

  • It’s becoming increasingly apparent with every passing snowstorm that Punxsutawney Phil must have seen Bigfoot’s shadow back on Groundhog Day, because this winter is a beast with few signs of letting up.
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  • It’s becoming increasingly apparent with every passing snowstorm that Punxsutawney Phil must have seen Bigfoot’s shadow back on Groundhog Day, because this winter is a beast with few signs of letting up.
    With another month to go before the official start of spring and temperatures expected to dip lower as the calendar turns from February to March, more winter weather seems inevitably on its way.
    And that means there’s the potential for more school closings.
    Weather has wreaked havoc on academic calendars up and down the First State, with some districts closing in on two weeks of lost classes. Tests have been postponed, school projects delayed and countless lessons have been interrupted. There’s no doubting the closures are having a real impact on instruction in our schools. But as officials huddle to decide how to proceed with making up classroom time, students are watching. And that means there’s a lesson to be taught: that there’s more to teaching our kids than simply demanding they get a requisite amount of classroom hours before the school year is out.
    State law requires students in Kindergarten through 11th grade to receive 1,060 hours of instruction time in a given school year, while the number for high school seniors is 1,032. Obviously unified standards are important across all districts but at some level, there’s an arbitrary element that goes into deciding on a final number. Do younger students really need 28 hours more instruction than seniors in order to have a successful academic year? Or, alternatively, is there some grey area here?
    Could state law be changed to offer a range of acceptable hours, so only time missed above a certain threshold required making up? Right now, it’s up to Delaware’s Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and his state board to allow for any exceptions, and they likely won’t make a call until April – when the tulips are in full bloom and the snow is gone for good.
    But many districts aren’t waiting.  Some will tack on days at the end of the school year, while others – most recently Appoquinimink – will extend the school day to make up for lost time. And that’s where we’re doing our kids no favors.
    Is an extra three or five minutes tacked on to the end of science class really going to benefit students in a meaningful way? To put it another way, in a five-minute block, how much could a student possibly learn about water displacement or biogenesis?
    So often we talk to our children about common sense, and then make decisions that defy logic right in front of their noses.
    Page 2 of 2 - But, local school boards clearly believe their collective hands are tied; that they must get to the bureaucratic magic number of 1,060 hours. We’d suggest they start by asking teachers to give up their remaining in-service and development days and replacing them with full-blown school days. That would help limit the inconvenience to children and families who may have vacations or camps already planned for spring break or the early summer, and would make the instruction time truly worthwhile.
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