Saturday, October 24, 2009

parents in education? oh my!

I think I've decided that, at the very least, I'll be posting once a week on Saturdays.

I found an article this morning that relates to the last post about longer school years. Ultimately before we can truly talk school reform, we need to put our money where our mouth is and make education a budgetary priority. Everyone has an opinion about how schools should work but no one wants to give them the money apparently. Prime example: Hawaii schools are shortening the school week to save money because they suffered in a recent state budget cut.

There's a slew of issues here, but let me start by saying this ABCNews article made me want to throw a pineapple at Russ Whitehurst
" 'One could imagine letting teachers go, reducing staff, and increasing class size and retaining the best performing teachers,' said Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings."
Seriously?! So between these two options to save on budget:
A. Increasing class size and overworking what teachers are left (on a salary that already underappreciates them)
B. Reducing school days but maintaining current class sizes and teacher retention
he believes that option A is better? OK, so I've loaded it with contentious word choice. Still, the issue is there.

Part of the problem with American education is that there aren't enough teachers to go around as it is; if we could reduce class sizes all over the country, we would increase the quality of our education automatically. Research shows that class size makes a difference in learning - smaller classes have a more positive impact on learning. Doesn't it make sense then, Mr. Whitehurst, that teachers -- trained professionals -- could make better use of a four day week in the quality of student learning because class sizes would be smaller? By keeping the number of days but doubling class sizes, there is no guarantee - perhaps there is not even a chance - that the extra days would make up for the overcrowded classroom. I can also just about guarantee you would begin to lose more teachers, who would burnout at a faster rate from being severely overworked and underpaid. Both of those - overworked and underpaid - are already true, which is why the teaching profession has difficulty retaining and recruiting workers. But that's just a symptom of the larger problem. Good teachers - and really, why are you hiring & continuing to pay teachers who aren't? - can make use of a four day week and make it meaningful. It is much harder to do that with a doubled class size.

So that got me all riled up.

In my opinion, teachers can still make four-day weeks work. Is it tough? Do you have to give up some things you REALLY want to do? Of course. As I said before, I could probably teach 365 days a year and still come up with things I wish we could do. So, that's a given that there's never enough time. But could I make four days a week work? Yes. It would involve sending some work home on Friday - probably more than usual - but they have an extra day to do it.

Honestly, here's the silver lining I see: This is forcing parents to get involved in education. And in more than just "You didn't give my Johnny an A!" or "My Jane would NEVER do that!" This energy could be directed in a genuine way that can lead to healthy education reform. Furlough Fridays are a great example. My response as a teacher would be to send a letter home that said this: "If you are concerned about Your Child losing education time, here is a small review packet of work covering what we've done this week. You and Child can go over this at home this weekend. Child will be ready for Monday and on top of his game! Yes, I know you still have a job on Friday. But I know his education is important to you and you and Child will find time." (of course, I'd like to add "We're all making sacrifices during this difficult time, and I know you will do your part. At least your salary is still the same." But I think that would just be bitter)

Can you imagine?! Engaging parents to actually get involved in teaching their own children?! I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.


  1. Awesome article (and blog). Thanks for sharing!

  2. AMEN! (Although that wouldn't really work with Elementary-aged kids as there wouldn't be anywhere besides a daycare for them to go on Fridays if they have 2 working parents.)
    I was thinking more about what you wrote about in the last blog post about extending days and the more I thought about it, the more I realized what I believe are the 2 most important factors in student success. 1) Parent involvement/support of education & 2) Student motivation/work ethic... and there is almost nothing teachers can do to help with #1, and only so much they can do with #2. Of course I believe a teacher's job is one of the most important jobs in the world! Can you even imagine a world without teachers and learning?! But, a teacher can only work to his/her fullest potential in student lives if those other 2 parts of the equation are there.
    In summary, I agree with you! =)