Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Proposal Somewhat Less Modest than Swift

Education reform is in the air. Indeed, it IS the air. The words are as ubiquitous as 'safety issue' on a school leadership team, 'ADHD' at a parent conference, 'EALR' and 'GLE' at a teacher in-service.

While this article is nearly 2 years old, it captures the recurring and consistent patterns of this rather tired discussion. I particularly like the headline--WA education advocates lobby for school reform. The advocates named in the title include 'education leaders,' like the state superintendent and a parent from Tacoma. Teachers and teacher representatives, the story tells us, were absent.

The only person in that bunch that really could be called an education advocate was the mother, from the Black Education Strategy Roundtable. The superintendent's advocacy is inflected with his organizational interest, and teachers, especially when represented by the union, have personal job interests at stake.

Organizationally speaking, that makes both the superintendent and teachers, education advocates AND pursuers of their self-interest. I, for one, have something less than complete confidence in the views of such advocates.

And frankly, the proposals that come out of such 'advocacy' are marginal, or at best, so generic as to be meaningless--

A longer school day and more credits for high school students, preschool for low-income kids, all-day kindergarten, more fairness in the way the state passes out money to schools around the state, and more money for librarians, counselors and nurses.

No surprises there, and hardly disagreeable, except on the part of the teacher's union, apparently.

But what really can come of this kind of proposal in a political climate and budget crisis such as we are currently experiencing?

So, a modest proposal for more school days (so less summer and vacation drop off), without adding to the 180 teacher days!

40 5-day weeks for students, with Fridays reserved for enrichment, special projects and activities, extra remediation, etc., and staffed by half the teachers. In other words, the teaching (and, perhaps administrative and classified) staff works 9 out of every 10 days, with one Friday off and one Friday at the special bonus day.

Cancel the in-service days, stop the numerous days off that only schools take, and so on. Make necessary adjustments for the normal holidays and we can get 200 school days for a little bit more operating expense.

Students get more instruction time, less vacation-related loss, and more time for 'bonus' activities, or class schedule variation.

This, of course, is not The Answer, but it seems more plausible than hopes for a reorientation that involves a few billion more dollars every year.

On the other hand, it is AN answer...it just depends on what the question is.

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