An open letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger regarding cutting five days from the school year to aid with the budget:
For a few days now, news sources and my colleagues at the middle school where I teach have been discussing the pros and cons of Schwarzenegger’s proposal to take five days from our school year (“Officials discuss the use of IOUs,” Jan. 3).
While this is not an ideal move, I understand that difficult decisions must be made in order to get our state’s finances where they should be.
I know that reducing our school year would be a big help to get us in the black without having to cut supplemental programs such as arts and after school one-on-one tutoring.
Please allow me to make a suggestion about which days specifically to cut from our calendar: those on which mandated standardized testing takes place.
The largest issue with cutting days is the loss of instructional time.
At every public school in our state, approximately five days of the school year are taken up with these standardized tests, which have very little direct effect on our students. It is a period of time wherein no learning is taking place and the benefit to students is minimal.
These tests take away from class time in order to give yet another form of assessment that does not provide a complete measure of the quality of our students and teachers.
Furthermore, by the time the results arrive many months later, the students and teachers have new classes, and these results are generally ignored or not understood by the students who took them.
Being given more time to assess my students’ learning and more time to address their needs personally would be a much more beneficial use of that time.
In the week before these tests are implemented, there is usually a period of three to five days in class taken up by “test prep,” during which tedious review is the focus of each class meeting.
By putting the standardized test mandate on hold, our students would be receiving time back from these preparation days in addition to those used for the actual testing.
The tests themselves, which are probably already printed for this year, will be just as valid a year or two from now, so that cost would not go to waste. More to the point, imagine how much money would be saved beyond simply the payroll reduction.
The cost of the shipping, collection and grading of the tests, along with the calculation and dissemination of their results, must be exorbitant.
Meanwhile, none of these expenses have a direct effect upon the students; losing five days of instructional time, however, would.
I understand that these tests are a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind program, but this program is about to be reworked under our next president.
As a result, this is an opportune time to hold these tests back and put our state’s fiscal well-being ahead of data collection.
Governor, if you are going to remove five days from our school calendar, please make sure that they are the five days of state mandated testing.
By removing those days, you will not only give our students the benefit of more time in class to learn, but no other five day span in the school year will provide such fiscal returns.
JUSTIN RINER is a Burbank resident and a teacher at John Muir Middle School in Burbank.