WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Post-Labor Day school start in Delaware. Really?

This A.P. story is running in our newscasts today:

"A task force studying whether Delaware schools should wait until after Labor Day to start classes is meeting for the first time.

The task force, which meets Thursday in Dover, was formed after state lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this year calling for a study of the issue.

The resolution suggests that starting school after Labor Day could provide an economic boost to Delaware by extending the summer beach tourism season."

I've opined about the absurdity of this before. Time for some "adult" in the room to inform this task force that the trend in the world is towards MORE days in the classroom (or the modern on-line equivalent), year-round schooling with staggered vacation breaks, etc.

For the parochial interests of beach merchants to trump such common sense is truly the tail wagging the dog.

It also flies in the face of CORE testing and teacher accountability (although I have profound problems with both, for reasons I've brought up before). And the folks advocating this absurdity apparently have failed to consider days off for winter storms, flooding, hurricanes, etc., which already shorten the academic year.

I grew up in a part of the country where we hardly EVER lost a school day for ANY reason. In grades K--12, I can remember only ONE time our schools closed, and that's when the snowdrifts towered two to three feet high. We started school before Labor Day and didn't get out until the second week of June. Many kids took summer school, not necessarily for remedial reasons, but for enrichment.

And Delaware is even considering SHORTENING the school year. Really?

Posted at 7:16am on December 12, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:17am
Meanwhile, as pointed out several days ago, the U.S. lags in education achievement, and the countries it lags behind have - wait for it - year 'round school.

And Allan Loudell and the media, in general, should look to the beams in their own eyes. They are the great enablers of schools closing because of the weather, especially winter weather. They hype weather with their scare forecasts. And they encourage closings by dropping everything to announce them. Because the media push school closings, administrators have gotten the idea that closing is what they are supposed to do. Just as the media have encouraged others to rush out and buy milk and bread if any snow is forecast.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Dec 12, 2013 10:23am
I remember while being stationed at Eielson AFB [1972-73], about 30 miles east of Fairbanks, Alaska, as an AFRTS broadcaster [AFRN 1490], the ONLY time the schools on base or in Fairbanks closed was due to the cold, -49 F, no wind chill. Most of the kids did walk to school [handicapped had buses].

Interestingly, it was so dry and cold there that the snow lost its slipperiness. You could drive on the snow-packed highway just outside the base easily at 50 m.p.h. with no danger of sliding. When the temps got closer to the +32 F mark, THEN you had the same slippery issues as we have here.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 11:44am
The shorter school year is a good thing. School should never start before Labor day, and should never end after Memorial Day.

The Fact that Delaware benefits economically is a plus... There is no correlation between how long a person is kept in school and how much they learn...

The most common analogy is that one day you watch 10 hours of CSpan and the next you watch 10 minutes. 2 years from now, which are you going to remember? Obviously something that happened in the 10-minute one... because a higher percentage of the time your brain was recording, was being spent on it..

Time off is necessary for learning... That is why our brains have to sleep...

So if we can make our children smarter by more time off, and improve our state's economy even marginally at the same time, it is a no-brainer...

The principle behind Allan and BillS's contention is that you can FORCE people to learn, therefore force them to stay longer in a boring class... They may learn, but what they learn is that they don't like you or what you are offering....

It appears that keeping the summer summer, does not affect education one bit in the slightest....

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 12:08pm
And Bill's contention that the media are responsible for school closings because they provide a service where people can come to find out if they need to go out on the roads or not, is preposterous.

The guideline of whether to stay open or close correctly centers around money... Is it worth opening up? If yes, then stay open. If no, shut down... With schools, that cost is aggravated by buses sliding off roads and the costs particularly those which are medical, also associated with that...

One can look back to the Midwest, where roads are straight, everyone knows how to drive in snow, sufficient snowplows for clearing the area exist, and it is cold and snowy almost all the time, instead of having warm days and getting 10 inches suddenly... and realize that in the Midwest, money was not a big part of the equation then. It could have cost more to actually shut down and create a disruption...

What is the point of keeping schools open when the most one can get in, is 15% of one's students? You would have to make up that day anyway....

No one closes on a whim, unless they are very rich... Closing is a big deal, and a lot of variables weigh in on whether to attempt to stay open, or cut one's losses.....

Bottom line: Even if one child dies because you kept school open to prove you were a tough cookie and were all masculine and wouldn't let a foot of snow cause you to close school because you were tougher than nature.... society loses... it loses big time.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 1:03pm
Kavips: You lie - yet again! Students regress academically during the summer break. You PC types are incapable of dealing with facts and with logical thought. But summer vacation "feels good" and that's all that matters to you bleeding heart - promote self-esteem types. You PC nazis are in a race with the tea-baggers to see who can do the most damage to the country. The only thing PCers and tea baggers are right about are their assessments of the other side.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 2:52pm
I have to agree with Bill on this one... teachers usually spend the first two months of the school year re-teaching students what they have forgotten over Summer break. We no longer have an agricultural economic system that requires kids to stay home and "work the farm". Why not switch to a full year of school, but include more "short breaks" throughout the scholastic calendar...the young minds (and the teachers) get a break, but minimal time is lost for maximum learning?

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Dec 12, 2013 3:38pm
Before saying this is a great idea, I've got some questions I need answered.

My assumption is the same 180 day school year, just spread out over the entire year, so same amount of time off, just smaller parts through out the year, sort of mini-breaks rather than the 2 month veg out followed by the 2 month refresher.

If you add actual days to the school year, say adding one month so approx 22 extra class days [so that the school year would expand from 180 to 202, the other added expense will be in teacher salaries as they'll be working those extra days and will need to be compenated for that additional work. It would be interesting to hear how many teachers would want to work year round this way.

Another issue that will be an upfront cost, before this plan could be launched is A/C. Most Delaware schools do not have air conditioning, so the first issue will be paying to upgrade most of the schools in the state with A/C. That's going to take some serious money.

The other issue is what about summer school for those who failed and didn't make the grade. So will the schools be forced to flunk and hold back kids who don't make the grade rather than giving them the opportunity to pass by retaking the class in summer school, or will they just push them on?

All these things would need to be addressed before the state or the school districts try selling the idea to the general public.

Given the anti-tax mood of the nation, and in Delaware the anti-pay additional money for failing schools, selling this added expense with no guarantees [how can they guarantee] of better scholastic performance is going to be very difficult. So while the idea has real merit, my guess is, this will not happen soon in Delaware.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 4:09pm
MikeFromDelaware: Yes, anti-spending sentiment is a major barrier to any serious changes in school operations. Heaven forfend they should get rid of all those layers of administrators.

In much of the country, schools start around the first of August. They get out after Memorial Day but still summer vacations are much shorter than this area.

In high school, kids who fail only fail a specific course and only have to make up that particular course. Schools really should start coming up with ways to let elementary students advance at their own rates, and those rates are not always the same for every area of study. One kid may be failing in math and ahead in reading. Ideally, he should be able to take more time on one and move ahead on the other.

It might also be worth considering going back to semesters, or even trimesters or quarters for elementary grades, so students can advance in smaller steps (and not be held back to repeat an entire years' work). For all their addiction to teaching fads, in many ways schools are stuck with 19th century modes of operation.

It's funny that we hear schools stayed closed in the summer to let kids work on their family farms. Doesn't make a lot of sense because the heaviest work load on farms comes during planting and harvest (not the summer). In parts of the country (like around here) where universal public education came late, well-off families - the ones who could afford education for their kids - pre-AC would go away during the summer. Seems more likely that's how schools started extended summer breaks.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 5:34pm
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. BillS. True, immediately after summer break, a child has regressed from where he was in June. But, by starting in September, that child's knowledge absorption will plateau much later than does a child who starts in August... By March, that child's brain is saturated and no new knowledge enters in until after the next break.. Yet, the late-returners are able to soak-up knowledge still until the middle of May.... The total amount absorbed by both students is the same.

Some school systems get great results with longer teaching periods. Other school systems get worse results with longer teaching periods. Some school systems get better results teaching shorter periods. Some school systems getting poorer results teaching shorter periods...

And Mike, your points were well thought-out. Longer years may be good for extended babysitting, but they really don't help children learn anymore than shorter years.

The period of teaching has no relevance on learning results. The longer stretch of time is diluted and equals the potency of the shorter time-frame with more concentrated learning....

So education depends upon other factors. The students can do as well in a shorter school year. From my perspective, they will do much better... A rested brain works much better than a tired brain.

BillS, instead of me, is the Tea Party Bizarro Universe's equivalent. He is Mr Pizza in Bizarro World...

Hillary Clinton is the PC type. That I'm in her company is a pretty good compliment, I would say...

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 6:01pm
Kav: I'm sure you can cite peer-reviewed studies to support your claims about educational retention and length of the school year. Please do.

And some more homework on Hillary would be helpful. Neither she nor her husband are PC types. Corporate lawyer (and board member) for Wal-Mart. Those land deals. C'mon.
Hmm. She kept taking time off from her law firm to be a mommy and to campaign. I wonder if she complained that she wasn't earning as much as the male partners. Maybe that makes her politically correct.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:39pm
I'm not against the idea in and of itself, but to do it for the sake of extending the tourist season to benefit the beach resorts is the wrong reason. Any reason for doing this should be based strictly on academic-related issues, not for the convenience of the tourism industry. You could argue, even though it's a bit of a stretch, that it amounts to a form of corporate welfare.

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