The Washington Times-Herald

February 22, 2014

ISTEP only reason for extended school days

The Washington Times-Herald

---- — The recent decisions by the North Daviess and Washington school boards to extend the school day by one hour are, as expected, difficult.

This terrible winter has caused local schools to gauge their communities and ask difficult questions on what to do with the remaining days our children were home because of the snow and ice.

Needless to say, opinions on the matter to either go to school an extra hour, go to school on Saturdays or extend school to possibly June are emotional and across the board. What did we expect? Decisions are emotional when our children are involved.

The comments we have seen on our Facebook page, following Washington’s announcement that hours would be extended come Monday, proves that point. There is no clear answer on what is the right thing to do for local students because it depends on the age, and ability, of the students.

It will be hard to say whether the direction Washington and North Daviess is the right one, but there is only one plausible reason to extend the school day — the ISTEP.

Due to the winter delays and cancellations, teachers have felt they do not have enough time to prepare their students for these high-stakes tests.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, given the importance of these tests. Due to state mandates, these tests are the benchmarks for teacher evaluations and school grades, items that affect funding and teacher pay. There is nothing wrong with admitting this was the best, and really only, reason this decision was made.

Any other reason to extend the day is pure window dressing. The other reasons we have heard, like graduation on time and not going to school in June, are nice to hear for but are not the real reasons why students in Washington and communities in Daviess County are going to school earlier and getting out later.

We’ve had bad winters before, and we’ve extended school days, even into June. We’ve even heard, in rare instances, seniors coming back to school days after graduating to make up lost time.

But we’ve never had an instance with a winter this bad and a test this important.

Disagree? Ask yourself this question: Would we be even talking about extending school days if the ISTEP and other tests were not deemed so important?

The importance of standardized testing is the issue to be considered, and that’s a question for state legislators, state education Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence to answer.