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9 Feb 2017

3 Point Hitch and School Calendars

3 Point Hitch and School Calendars

So what does a 3 point hitch and school calendars have in common?  In the year 2017, almost nothing.  A 3 point hitch is a connection between a farming tractor and an implement.  A school calendar is what should be designed around this simple principle:  if time is a constant, how we use it is the variable.  Most school calendars are set up around archaic social factors that do not currently add value to student learning today.

I would imagine the vast majority of students in schools all across this country do not live or work on farms and likely never will.  The number of farmers are shrinking with the extinction of family farms as they are overtaken by large corporate farms with massive acreages.   Incorporating farms with large acreage holdings is shrinking the number of kids who have to work on the farm.  I will also venture a guess that every student in schools across this country attends schools with a rural agrarian Judeo-Christian calendar that has been in place for quite a long time.  Why?

Time is an asset a school district has just like personnel and money.  It is also a largely ignored asset.  School Boards typically do not want to politically tackle this asset reallocation with the staff, students and parents but they must.  Superintendents with the courage to broach this topic do so with great political risk.  Time must be looked at from two equal perspectives:  are we maximizing the time we currently have and how much more time is necessary to meet the future learning needs of our students?  A school who adds 10 school days to their academic calendar, but ineffectively uses the time they already have is not gaining anything and arguably, may be causing more harm.  Every school should conduct a time asset allocation map of an average instructional day.  Take an average day and break down every minute between instruction and non-instructional time.  Compile the time and look at the percentage of the day that is spent on instruction and non instruction THEN being the process with your staff to determine if those time allocation ratios are acceptable.  This would be a great exercise for a principal to lead in response to staff saying “we do not have enough time”.  Maybe they don’t have enough time or just maybe their time allocation is not prioritized properly.

School districts need to begin the discussion with their staff, parents and community about how the resource of time is currently being used and how it should be used.  Be prepared for  personal motives for justification by staff and parents for the 2 weeks off for Christmas, one week for spring break, starting as close to Labor Day as possible and ending as close to Memorial day.  Be prepared for teachers saying “what would I do for a summer job if the school year was extended”, parents saying that would interfere with my son’s competitive sports team schedule, etc…  Our archaic calendar has made these personally justifiable questions but may not be justifiable educational reasons to keep the status quo calendar.

3 point hitch and school calendars do not have linkages anymore.  It is time to move out of the 19th century school calendar and develop one that maximizes the precious recourse of time for the learner in the 21st century.  http://scottspringston.com/

1 Response

  1. Stacy Graff

    As a proponent of utilizing every opportunity to maximize student learning, this is spot on as a practice that needs reformed. I would love to see us take a look at each year as a separate entity that doesn’t require us to mirror the previous year calendar for the sake of meeting ‘outside obligations’ and ‘traditions.’ You understand this takes some major fortitude and a commitment to the school mission and vision…problem is, can the Superintendent alone be this change factor, or does it take a strong comitment from the BOE leadership to stray from the norm and be a pioneer?

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