If schools were closed, would children still learn?
The topic of the month has been centered on, should students make up snow days. Get Schooled of the AJC recently featured an article by Maureen Downey addressing recent school closings because of snow/ice. This past week, school districts across Metro Atlanta faced tough decisions regarding school closures due to inclement weather. The article highlights a tweet from Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen informing stakeholders that schools would be unfortunately closed because of the weather conditions. Having worked under Dr. Carstarphen’s administration, I believe she has done a good job in turning around how the District engages stakeholders. Social media combined with traditional communication protocols effectively gets information out to everyone regarding school closings.
This is most evident in the social media presence APS has established and their partnership with stakeholders. In a tweet sent by several NPU (Neighborhood Planning Units), community leaders asked residents to complete a survey regarding feedback on make up days. I think this is innovative and a great way to engage stakeholders and get feedback. It also shows how impactful partnership by community leaders sharing the information. School districts in Metro Atlanta were faced with beating the time clock watching the weather on Tuesday evening. As a Charter leader, we watched and waited to see what our local public school Districts decided regarding inclement weather. School leaders don’t just make these decisions in haste. There are so many moving parts how these decisions are made including safety of children and families, building conditions, road conditions, children waiting at bus stops, ability for workforce to report and many other factors. I believe that students and teachers should not be required to make up recent snow days.
Here’s why snow days shouldn’t be made up!
We cannot control the weather but we can control how we prepare for it. School districts can set up District Wide teams that consist of stakeholders (school board, city, county, parents, community leaders and school district leaders) to work together on areas related to schools having to possibly close i.e.:
- Family Engagement – to ensure education is effectively happening at home
- ESOL – that information and resources are translated and made understandable for all families
- Safety & Transportation – to ensure that there are safe routes to school in the case severe weather happens
- Communication & Technology – to ensure stakeholders can resource academic resources and ways to connect with school staff virtually
It’s also imperative for school leaders to look at resources that will help continue learning at home, innovative ways for families to do 30 minute educational activities and the importance of regular school attendance. These things are far more critical in helping schools reclaim the time by providing effective resources and support for families to continue education at home.
Many school districts are already using Google Hangout and other technology means to connect with families virtually. I believe that it’s most effective for school districts to have videos, virtual tutorials and class lessons already prepared and ready for days when schools must be closed due to inclement weather.
Why does regular attendance matter?
It’s understandable that severe weather conditions may prevent schools from opening. In cities like Atlanta, schools may be closed 2-5 days throughout the school year for inclement weather. However, the real issue that many traditional public and public Charter schools face is with regular school attendance. On average, I see between 15-30 scholars daily that come to schools late. Schools that open their doors as early as 7 a.m. have scholars being dropped off by PARENTS well after 8:30 a.m. for school. Parents and adults (bus drivers, etc.) play a huge role getting children to school. This is becoming a trend that is greatly affects instructional learning and students ability to grow. If students are missing the start of the school day, they are missing a lot! If a 1st period class begins at 7:50 or 8:00 a.m. and scholars arrive to school after 8:30 a.m., they’ve missed 1/2 a class. This is setting children up to be in a place of constant remediation. School leaders are constantly put in a position to have to “reclaim the time” because students are missing instructional time on regular school days. In my opinion, it is not the days missed due to school closings for inclement weather that have such a huge impact on declining student achievement. It’s the lost instructional time on a regular school day that has the most impact on loss due to student absences. Here are some additional things that attribute to attendance issues in schools:
- chronic tardiness
- family matters ( i.e. vacation, parent illness, divorce, etc)
- student illnesses
- transient students (due to homelessness, constantly moving for school to school, parent guardianship, etc)
- student discipline
- student injuries (due to lack of supervision, horse playing, accident, athletics, etc)
- skipping classes