Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Longer School Day / Year

For the last several years there has been talk about expanding the school day or converting to year-round school. Several schools in different parts of the country have experimented with these ideas in different ways. In fact some schools have even tried 4 day weeks instead of the typical 5 day. And the results? They are mixed.

This article shares some positive results including a school in Minneapolis that benefited from longer school days. However, a recent experiment in Miami showed no change in student performance. But our new Education Secretary, Arne Duncan thinks that longer school day/year is the way for us to stay competitive in the world. But if you read the reaction of the parents who have read the article, you may find they do not agree. "While the NEA has no official stance on this issue, they would likely support it."

From what I have read, most people can't spend more than 45 minutes focusing on any one thing without a break. I have also read some studies that were conducted in lecture halls on college campuses that found this number can be as short at 15 minutes. And we want to lengthen the school day for younger students with even shorter attention spans than adults?

So often we hear the old cliche phrase that Quality is more important than Quantity. I wonder when someone will apply that to our educational system? Now they want longer school days which will give them extra time in the classroom with the kids. Do you think a longer school day will really afford these opportunities for our kids? I don't. I want to know where is the Quality in our education system? Where are the needed paras to support the students who have learning differences? Where are the one-on-one and small group opportunities to help kids who are struggling in reading, writing or math? I not only think longer school days won't help the majority of our students, I think it could do more harm for some students who are already struggling in the public school system.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a great education opportunity for families to learn about our great country how the men and women who keep it safe have sacrificed so much. Education World has put together some great information and internet sources that you can use. So remember our armed forces today and honor those around you that have served in the military. It is a great honor and they deserve our respect.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer School Cuts

NPR has this report about why summer schools are being cut. I propose another reason for why summer school is losing money.

Summer School has always been a time for catch up. Students come into a classroom during the summer to make up for what they missed during the regular school year. The idea is that a student can make up a whole semester of work in 70 hours of Summer School. He or she receives the 5 credit hours by attending and they can graduate or move on to their next grade level. But it comes with a fee; ranging from $160 to $195 per session in the St. Vrain and Boulder Valley School Districts.

While NPR contends that Summer School has smaller class sizes, the information I have found leads me to believe at least locally that these classes top out at 25 students. 25 students is not a small classroom size that easily allows for "more one-on-one time, more opportunity to ask questions and be involved in the class" as the teacher NPR interviewed claims. Locally there is a minimum number of students needed to run each classroom, although I was unable to find that minimum number anywhere on the district websites. Therefore classes may be canceled or consolidated with other Summer School campuses if need be to reach those minimums. Also, students with an IEP or 504 are responsible to bring that information with them to Summer School to inform teachers of their special needs or modifications.

If summer school works, as so many claim, then why the need for minimum numbers? Wouldn't every family be lined up to put their child in Summer School? Considering that for small group tutoring the cost ranges from $20 to $40 a session in the Boulder County area and for private individual tutoring it ranges from $50 to $100 per session, I would think Summer School would be the cheap solution to fixing the problem. But to quote a client of mine from an email earlier this week, "(as if) I'm gonna pay 200.00 for (their) failings in the same system." This makes me wonder how many families say the same thing when they see the letter recommending summer school. Perhaps some families don't feel they have a choice, but for those with kids who have an IEP, the school saying the student has to take summer school in order to go on to the next grade opens up the chance for potential lawsuits.

With the same class size packed full of students who didn't get the information the first time, I wonder what makes school officials think that these kids will get it the second time? If they had smaller class sizes, perhaps no more than 10 students, I could see the value of this program. It truly would give the student more opportunity to speak out and have questions answered. They would be able to get to know their teacher and the teacher the student perhaps in the short 3 weeks of class. But the class sizes are not smaller and they are trying to cram information into such a short time as students sit in class for 5 hours a day. Did you know that research has shown that most humans need a break for every 45-60 minutes of brain work? So I wonder how 5 hours of intense learning of 1 subject with 20-24 other peers benefits the student in the summer school classroom?

My contention, summer school is losing popularity as the schools continue to fail to meet our kids needs. With lower enrollment sizes, the cost goes up for families who want to take advantage of it. As costs go up, parents evaluate the cost effectiveness of the program. In the end, less enrollment equals less money which ends up costing the school more and then yes, perhaps the funding and the economy does take its toll. But this is more about the schools failing to meet the students needs than it is about a failing economy, in my opinion.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Bolder Tutor has several students they have worked with over the last several years who are graduating today. We wish you the best of luck in all you do! Congratulations to all graduates as you embark on the next stage in life!