Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meatloaf Again????

The New York Times recently reported on President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan advocating for a longer school day and year. The school calendar, as we all know, is outdated. Once upon a time, most families needed everyone home in the summer to harvest crop and prepare the soil for next year. One barrier to more effective education in our schools is that most schools operate out of an industrial age mind-set (more on this in a future post) tied to an agricultural calendar. These two outdated systems conspire to create a frequently fragmented and sometimes sputtering experience of school. Teachers (who enjoy the current calendar as much as their students) will be the first to tell you that they have spent a good deal of September revitalizing, refertilizing, and sometimes replanting.  One solution is to add more days and there is growing support for a more evenly spaced schedule (see the National Association for Year Round Education).

While the economic consequences of an extended year would have to be worked out, what concerns me is what is driving this agenda for the President and his policy-makers.  The desire to level the global playing field is laudable, but test scores are once again being held up as the measure of success.  When higher standardized test scores are the goal (as they are now), then standardized teaching to the test becomes the preferred means.  Better test taking will not necessarily make us more competitive in the world market place, not unless there is a global run on correctly bubbled OMR sheets.

I have often heard Dr. Quaglia quip, "You can't make a bad meat loaf better by making it bigger or leaving it in the oven longer."  Adding hours to the day and days to the year does not involve a new recipe.  We need to completely re-think the way we do school.  If that means a different calendar, I am all for it.  If it just means school as usual for a longer period of time, it sounds like yet another half-baked solution.

(For a related point of view on this, check out teacher Marty Foley's blog from yesterday.)

1 comment:

Marty Foley said...

Love the meatloaf analogy.