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Are half school days beneficial for students, teachers?
During these past two years, Northshore School District’s school board, under the leadership of board president Dawn McCravey, has done a great job of showing fiscal restraint and responsibility while also pushing forward programs that have a direct and positive effect on our students. These accomplishments have included a move to better math, science and literacy texts, reinstating a fifth-grade overnight camp and creating policy to support greater equity between schools. With all this progress in mind, I hope that the school board will carefully weigh the costs to the district, our students, families and communities a proposal to cut the school day by half a day every Wednesday for the entire school year.
Some nearby school districts, such as Lake Washington and Bellevue, have adopted these shortened school days. In contrast, the Seattle school district, which faced strong community opposition on this issue, decided to reject the schedule change. The purpose of these half days is to allow teachers to collaborate and gain additional tools for effective teaching — in theory. However, I’ve spoken to and heard from teachers who believe this change in schedule is neither effective nor desirable for them. The truth is, there is no credible research or quantifiable data to show any significant positive effect on students’ academic, social or psychological development when school districts adopt this program and move toward shortened school days.
Therefore, I hope the school board will continue its record of putting our students first by asking and demanding compelling evidence that supports this change in schedule before it considers any adoptions. There are many issues involved in this decision: will this collaboration period be driven by the principals or teachers; does the district have excess funds to implement this schedule change; is there strong data/research to support this schedule change; how will students be occupied when they are dismissed from the half day; and, will the children have access to steady and reliable adult supervision after these regularly scheduled half school days? We all know of compelling and credible studies that support the need for students to have long and regular uninterrupted work periods to learn, and that children who are not regularly supervised after school are at greater risk for academic and social problems. The district has already waivered the state to shorten our school year from 180 to 175 days. Do our children need even less instruction time? How would a regularly scheduled shortened school day have a positive effect on our students?
Our children’s education should not be manipulated and changed at a whimsy. I hope that the board will demand compelling evidence before it considers this proposal.
Lyng Wong, Bothell