As any parent can tell you, the start of the school year seems to creep earlier and earlier every year. Not long ago, Labor Day was the starting line; now it’s more like mid-August. Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal examined the pros and cons of the lengthening school year. The cons are clear: less family time, less vacation time, and less money for summer tourism. The pros are less clear, but the schools see one big one: early starts give them more time to prepare students for standardized tests.
In the past decade, testing has become more important, thanks in part to requirements in the 2002 No Child Left Behind Law—used to evaluate students, close low-achieving schools and fire underperforming teachers. Many schools have pushed up the start date to provide more instructional time in hopes it will improve test performance.Miya Clay, a 6th grader at low-income Dulles School of Excellence in Chicago, started school Monday—the earliest she has even been in class—but she was happy to be there. “It gives me a chance to read lots of books and more time to learn” before taking the state math and reading exams in the spring, she said.
With all due deference to Miss Clay, Via Meadia has another perspective on this practice: It’s nothing but a piece of educational fraud.It is a way to game the system of measuring student achievement through standardized tests. Deceptive educators and sleazy school boards want to make their students look better on tests without actually teaching them better. They figure that by moving the school year up, their students can benefit from more classroom instruction before taking the tests, thereby giving them slightly higher grades compared to students who start school at the normal time.This is a cheap, disgusting trick, unworthy of serious professionals.Via Meadia suggestion: standardized test scores should be normalized to reflect the number of days a student has spent in the classroom to discourage nasty, cheap system-gaming. Playing fast and loose with students’ and parents’ lives in order to pretend to achieve targets shows just how out of touch and arrogant school bureaucracies are.People who do things like this are not fit to be trusted with the education of the young.