Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In the News - Christie Bridge Scandal and Longer School Days

Unless you're living under a bridge, you've probably heard about Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge scandal. Christie, the current governor of New Jersey and a GOP front-runner for the White House in 2016, has apologized for the closure of some lanes on the GWB last September after the release of internal emails and text messages implicated that the governor's aides engineered the plan possibly to punish a Democratic mayor who do not endorse Christie's reelection nomination. Christie not only apologized and accepted responsibility for the mischievous deeds of his underlings, he dismissed two top advisers. Christie also plans to address this most recent scandal during his State of the State address today.

In that same address, Christie plans to propose longer school days and lengthening the school calendar as a way to improve student outcomes and boost competitiveness. Honestly, I don't think that's the answer.

Until this year, I spent a fair amount of time in our schools (I still go in when I can) and I get to hear the regular goings on of school days from my children. I'm thinking shortening the school week would help them much more. I'm not a fan of Responsive Classroom and I'm not thrilled with the idea of Common Core Standards either. And if our financial situation were different, the husband I agree we would pull them out of public schools and place them in private schools immediately.

I don't believe the blame--if there is a need to assign blame--falls squarely on any group's shoulders. While too much emphasis is placed on morning meetings and character values, not enough emphasis is placed on academic excellence. One of my children has been bored with school since she started and the only enrichment they could offer her was more time in the Art classroom. The other, struggles with a slow processing speed, but was taken off her Individualized Education Plan because standardized testing showed her disability disappeared after three years--I didn't even know that was possible. And at the middle school level, one daughter complains that the core subjects are taught amongst such chaos and disruption that she can barely focus on her work; this is backed up by the fact that her homework grades remain excellent, but her classwork and test grades are much lower.

The above picture only addresses part of the issue. Teaching has morphed into something much more than it was when I was in school. Teachers are expected to be negotiators, nurses,and psychologists while maintaining order in a classroom of unruly students who lack self-control and respect for authority. On another side, we have parents who hold the teachers more accountable for their children's performance than the children themselves. And another piece of the pie is reserved for all those do-gooders who think more money, smaller class sizes, and teaching kids to respect and compliment each other will fix everything.

If our school district went to longer school days or lengthened the school calendar, I feel our family would have to bite the monetary bullet and send the girls to private school regardless of the other cutbacks that would become necessary. More public school time is not the answer.

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