I’m not generally a fan of most educational mandates. They usually come from governing bodies made up of people who haven’t stepped foot in an actual school since they were actually students some 20-60 years ago. Even those who had some sort of educational background, gave it up years ago to pursue politics and as a result are fairly out of touch with what teachers face these days.
It seems our new superintendent of schools is going to be a by the books kinda guy. I get the impressions that the rules will be followed exactly. I may be wrong here, but he appears to be far more letter of the law instead of spirit of the law. I get that rules are needed and need to be enforced, but any good teacher knows you look at things on a case by case basis. There are times that breaking the rules is the only sane and compassionate thing to do. I’m not sure our new superintendent of schools will share my beliefs.
One of his first decisions, which is already sparking lots of conversation, is to enforce the 180 day rule for schools. This rule has been on the books for awhile and the DOE clearly outlines the current policy on their website. However, up until recently, schools have been able to apply for a waiver if an emergency situation caused for lengthy school closings (blizzards, floods, district wide power outages, etc). According to the official policy, as long as high school students are in school for at least 6 hours, the day counts as a full day. However, in practice, schools have been able to count in their 180 days any day students attend classes for at least three hours. Now, this couldn’t be done every day, but once every month or so and the DOE looked the other way.
The governor and the new superintendent aren’t having any more of it though. They are insisting schools meet all 180 days and have at least six hours of instructional time. Any days lost to bad weather or other disasters (natural or man made) must be made up, even if schools end up spending most of the summer in session. This year alone some schools in the state lost close to 20 instructional days due to flooding, so instead of wrapping things up at the start of May, their years would continue on until the end of June.
While I am not at all fond of the prospect of going to school in June and I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you take away nearly a month in the summer all you are going to get is resentful students who don’t want to learn and even more resentful teachers who don’t want to teach, I am thrilled with one aspect of the enforcement of this policy: no more parent-teacher conferences.
Sure, I can see the need for these when the kids are little, but once they hit high school, these conferences are a pointless, waist of time. At our last round of conferences, I left for work at 6:30 in the morning and did not get home until 8:45 that night. Granted, some of that was my commute, but I was at school and working for 12 hours and 45 minutes. I only taught for three of those hours. I had an hour long conference with one AP student who actually sacrificed his time to review for the test (in May) and the other 8 hours was divided between 8 conferences (10 minutes each), a little grading (I was pretty much all caught up) and a lot of cleaning (granted, my desk really needed it). My last conference ended at 6:50, yet I had to stay at school until 8. I had a stretch between 3:30 and 6:10 where not a single conference was scheduled, yet I had to be there.
What’s worse is that some teachers only had two conferences the entire evening, and yet spent 12 hours at the school–for twenty minutes. To add insult to injury, the only time I got to see my son was when I dropped him off at the sitters. He was in bed 15 minutes before I could even leave school.
I know I’ll be cursing the governor and all his toadies when the snow starts falling next winter, but for now, I’m just glad to see conferences go