Time on Task

01/03/17, 9:17 PM

Being an ardent Flipboard and News360 reader makes it always interesting to find little nuggets that lead to further research.  I was interested to read a short article on News360 lately posted from Schools Improvement Net, and written by Tony Harbron.  The reference link is the following – http://news360.com/article/279945152#


The headline for the article reads “Just one week off will set a child back in school.”  Mr. Harbron goes on to report on findings in the British system which compare students who have up to seven days off are more likely to do poorly on British tests, GCSE, or the General Certificate of Secondary Education.  See Wikipedia – [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Certificate_of_Secondary_Education ]General Certificate of Secondary Education

Mr. Harbron reports, “Officials compared the performance of children over the two-year GCSE course to the number of days taken off, and were taken aback by how great a difference short periods of absence appeared to make. They found that just 31 per cent of children who missed more than 14 days of lessons over two years got the “gold standard” of good grades in English, Maths, Science, a humanity and a language.”  While this is interesting because it deals with British education, and it is always rewarding to compare different educational systems, the statement begs two additional questions.

1. What is the nature of the “days off,” criterion?  The article lacks crystal clarity regarding whether the days off are due to illness or due to vacation time.  He does report, “The average child misses three days’ schooling a year due to ill health – meaning just an extra week off a year for a family holiday could make the critical difference.”  This implies that the three days due to illness in combination to the family holiday are making a difference in performance. The degree of difference is profound. What he seems to be indicating is that there is a rather finite limit to the number of days any child can miss and find success in school.

2. What then is the impact of repeated snow days in Maine?  We can all apply the lessons learned from the article.  With so many missed days in Maine this year due to a long and hard winter season, what are the plans to fairly replace the days into the calendar? Furthermore, we need to ask what is the quality of those days – will it be longer school days to make up the time, will it be “Saturday sessions,” will it be canceled vacation time, or will it be a longer school year?

There is a central concern here about being present – both in the physical sense of being present and in the academic sense of being present – being ready to learn.

And at some point, I have to ask, “What is the impact of summer breaks on learning?”  If a week can put a child behind, what is the impact of 8-10 weeks of vacation?  Is there a better schedule, a better calendar?

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