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A SWAT for needing extra time to do what we used to do in 6

Submitted by on Thursday, 30 June 2011 No Comment

There’s an impressive list of organizations backing the TIME Act – a bill pending before Congress that would provide grant money to schools that extend their schedules by at least 300 hours a year. There’s the NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers and education coalitions from a number of states.

And, of course, KIPP – the Knowledge is Power Program that runs charter schools across the country that might or might not cherry pick students with greater chances of success and weed out those who fall behind. KIPP is all about the longer school day – it lasts until 5, with Saturday work required, too. I think my kids’ heads would explode.

We need longer school days, in part because, according to the text of the bill, “students in the United States have maintained a status quo for nearly 1 decade, while the mathematics and reading ratings of students from other high-performing nations surpass the ratings of students in the United States.”

Here we go again. China and India succeed because their elite kids who are deemed worth spending the money on to educate spend more time in the classroom. My head might explode the next time I hear that.

Even if you buy into the theory that our slacker kids need to be in school longer, this is the worst kind of bill possible. It promises funding for only up to four years, with the possibility of another two for districts that “show progress” under the longer days. Anyone remember what happened when the Clinton-era community policing grants started to expire? Cities and counties started facing layoffs and went back to the feds, hat in hand.

Then there’s the built-in contradiction in the bill: “School leaders are empowered to use the additional time for their highest priorities, like instruction in core subjects or subjects that may have gotten “squeezed out” by pressure to perform better in other tested areas …” a fact sheet about the bill says.

And how would districts “show progress” and become eligible for the final two years of grant money? The criteria include “student academic achievement and growth, as measured by State academic assessments,” according to the bill.

Isn’t that beautiful? We need to provide federal funding because pressure to test well has “squeezed out” some subjects. But in order to keep that money, you’ll have to test well.

The bill suggests that the program also could fund “additional subjects and enrichment activities that contribute to a well-rounded education, which may include music and the arts, physical education.”

We had all of that when I was in school, and with a standard school day. But, then, we took standardized tests only every three years, and we didn’t have to spend time on practice tests and other “assessments” beforehand.

I must be the only crazy one who sees a link there. If not, backers of the TIME Act would Stop Wasting America’s Time with short-term funding for something that needs a long-term solution.

If you want to close the achievement gap, try taking a stab at it before it fully develops, before kids are going to kindergarten not even knowing how to write their names. Target the $500 million a year in grants to quality preschool in high-poverty areas. That would be TIME well spent.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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