Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Last week’s blizzard was just the latest in a string of missed school days for area students. With the Missouri Assessment Program tests drawing near, school officials throughout Callaway commented on the impact of that lost instruction time.
“It is a concern. Lost time during the course of a quarter cannot efficiently be made up by tacking time on at the end of the year,” South Callaway Superintendent Mary Lynn Battles said, pointing out that of nine snow days so far this year, eight have come since the start of the third quarter in January. “I can’t make up for the four days lost last week.”
“I think a fundamental concern is quality instruction time,” Fulton Superintendent Jacque Cowherd agreed, noting his district is in the same situation. “We had one day in December and then the first three weeks of January we had a couple days out each week, plus the Martin Luther King holiday.
“The time we had out in January pushed us to say let’s not do early release days in February.”
North Callaway Superintendent Bryan Thomsen said his district already has lost 10 days after dismissing too early on Jan. 31 for it to count as a full day, but pointed out the bulk of his district’s make-up days come before the MAP tests — which must be administered between March 28 and April 21.
“For us, spring break is pretty much gone. It had been scheduled for March 14th through the 18th, now we have just the 18th,” Thomsen said. “For us it’s only really going to be two days less instruction time before the test.
“We of course will try to adjust as needed, but I don’t think it will significantly impact our curriculum. If it gets to be too much more, then I can see where there’s going to be more of an impact.”
Battles said her district also will earn back some of the missed instruction time before administration of the tests on which the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education judges the effectiveness of its schools.
“We have built in a number of make-up days, one being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the next one on President’s Day,” Battles said. “Then we had four-day weekends for spring break and for Easter, but we’ll be coming to school on those Mondays now.”
She said South Callaway administrators already have met to discuss the importance of making the instruction time teachers and students do have as meaningful as possible.
“We really want to utilize every minute,” Battles said. “Our staff is going to be much more cognizant of really engaging students.”
Battles said her district has decided not to eliminate the early release days it has scheduled once or twice each month — this Friday is one such day — for professional development because they consider that time to be valuable also.
“This professional development is essential too,” Battles said. “It makes a big difference in what we do with our kids.”
Like South Callaway, Cowherd said the focus in Fulton during upcoming weeks will be on making sure every minute of class time has as big an impact on students as possible.
“We’re very concerned about the instruction component and keeping students engaged,” Cowherd said. “The elementary principals are focused on communication arts and math and then working on other skills, and then focusing on those (other skills) more after the MAP test.”
He said Fulton will be making up its snow days at the end of the year — with days already built into the calendar. In the meantime, he said he is hopeful his students won’t miss any more time due to weather.
“I’m really optimistic we can get through the rest of the year without any more snow days,” Cowherd said.
It was a wish echoed by Thomsen.
“Let’s just hope we don’t see any more snow,” Thomsen said. “We’re ready for spring.”