Last night I attended a meeting at our local public school. Our superintendent was the guest speaker. He spoke to the crisis currently facing schools here as well as across the state and nation. Over the last couple years, our district has reduced staff by 10%, followed by a big reduction in school days. We are now at an unbelievable 161 student-contact days a year. (And this doesn't take into account whether they are completely "full" days...we have one day a week of "late start" to boot!)
Many states have a mandatory 180 day school year, so we now have about a month less of school than many districts. In November we had what the superintendent called our "forced fall spring break",--a full week off of school for Thanksgiving--followed by a 4-day week, a 5-day week, another 4-day week, then almost 3 weeks off for winter break.
Can you spell P-I-T-I-F-U-L????
At the same time, standards are going up and up and up. Teachers have more and more pressure. (I've seen the trenches and they're not pretty.) Kids are frequently tested. All while class sizes increase. In one school district in our state all the 4th grade teachers have more than 30 in the class and several have 37!
What do I feel?
When I hear all the bad news, on the one hand, I feel like patting myself on the back. I started my 8yo's school year in June. We're almost done with 18 weeks of school. We're even ahead in some subjects that we didn't start until September.
On the other hand, I feel SICK. I have children who are directly affected. And even if I didn't I should care. A LOT. These are the children who are going to grow up and run our world. Kids only have ONE opportunity to be first graders. Seventh graders. Seniors. To learn to read. To learn critical thinking. We are losing a generation to a failing system. And even if I didn't care about all those other kids? At any time, any of us might have to send our children to school--due to health reasons, special student needs, finances...the list goes on.
With all due respect to my superintendent...I don't think a large, local committee can solve the problem. We have a huge problem as a nation.* [*Please note, this is NOT a political statement. This is a "what do we want for our future" statement. I do not consider them the same thing.] I hope it doesn't take us several generations to figure it out.