Snow Days

How Should We Make Up Lost Time On Learning?

The headline reads: Boston in midst of snowiest 30 days on record!

Schools in eastern Massachusetts have experienced an inordinate number of snow days-- ten in my school by mid-February-- and students have been losing valuable learning time. Students not only lose time but they lose the momentum of learning; interruptions in schedule means that the instructor must review and repeat before continuing with the lesson.
If schools take the traditional route of tacking days onto the end of the school year, children will be in school until the last day of June. For some this may not be a problem, but there are many reasons for not taking this standard approach.
  • High school seniors have a graduation date that allows them to get out earlier and do not make up missed days, thus they lose those education hours. Ten snow days results in a 27% loss of learning time for seniors taking a semester course.
  • Other high-schoolers “check out” and lose focus during June and after the seniors graduate. One student phrases this as "At my school, we stop learning new material for the most part around midway through May", and while I disagree about his statement it has been my experience that the students lose focus at the end of May.
  • Many families have pre-set plans for their summer and will take their children out of school to keep their schedule.
  • There are many scheduled exams that students must take and lost snow day hours are added AFTER the exam date will not help them at all. AP exams are the first two weeks in May.  The ELA MCAS exam is March 25th and 26th, the math MCAS is May 12th and 13th, and the science MCAS exam is June 2nd, all of which a student must pass to obtain a high school diploma.
  • Teachers must take summer courses to maintain their certifications and many courses begin at the end of June.
  • Many teachers work a summer job to help support the family.
21st Century education moves beyond standard practices and asks students to be creative, innovative, collaborative, and think outside the box. We should too. Instead of tacking school days onto the end of the year, which will not help students with their state and national exams, or asking students to make up the days on Saturdays or April vacation, which would result in a very low attendance particularly at the high school level, schools should incorporate creative and flexible methods for retrieving the learning time for students. Here are some off-the-top-of-the-head ideas and I'm sure there are many others:
  • ELearning! Children are already consuming information through their smartphones, iPads, and laptops, let's take advantage of that. Online supplemental work could be either independent and on the student’s schedule or it could be scheduled with the teacher present on the other end. Seat time is recorded by the log-in and actions of the student. The examples are endless.  Delphi school in Indiana requires students to log on during snow days. Farmington district in Minnesota uses their "Schoolology" digital platform, and Pentucket Regional School District could use their "Schoolloop" digital platform.
  • Relevant work packets sent home with students that they can do on their own schedule and will count as a given set of hours when turned in. Other states, like New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Ohio have "blizzard bags", which Burlington and Wayland schools have taken up.  This link goes to Contoocook Valley regional schools as an example of one way a blizzard bag could work.
  • Extend the school day one day per week by two hours, adding time to all subjects.
  • Move teacher professional development out of the student’s education time to Saturdays or the end of the year.
Teachers, administrators, and unions need to work cooperatively together to make this school year meaningful and authentic. To get to the job of educating children, let'st stop making excuses for why something CAN'T be done and look at how it CAN be done.

2 comments:

Sarah Benton Feitlinger said...

Great thoughts on this. I like the idea of the blizzard bag. So many concepts need a little work each day, as you say, the kids lose momentum. Thanks for the post!

Denise Krebs said...

Sandra,

It has been a few years since a really severe winter brought an exorbitant amount of snow days in Iowa. We definitely had the means to make up the work on some of those days through eLearning. I know it will happen eventually, but I wondered why my little school district didn't try to make it happen sooner. We were all using Google apps and other platforms that made it seem we could have done it.

You have some excellent ideas for thinking outside of the old paradigm for making up days, not just eLearning, (That was my only idea.) Hopefully, your ideas will get some in your school district working together to solve the problem. This year, however, I guess you'll be going later than usual. Or has there been other arrangements made already?

Either way, I hope your end of the year goes well! Thanks for sharing.

Regards,
Denise