Why does the performance of 16- and 17-year olds stagnate in both reading and mathematics, amid a 40-year trend of rising academic achievement for all ethnicities? (See Vincent Carroll's column in the 5/3 Denver Post.) Tom Boasberg, Denver’s new superintendent, is convinced we need to move away from the status quo, top-down, one-size-fits-all monopoly to a more flexible approach. I whole-heartedly agree.
The same day's Denver Post also published an editorial by Van Schoales from the Piton Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, editor of Education News Colorado. They truly hit the nail on the head as a way of stopping this stagnation: year-round schools.
The year-round school model has been used in Cherry Creek Public Schools and Douglas County Public Schools, but the reason had less to do with academic achievement and more to do with overcrowding. I see so many students that move three steps forward during the school year, but when summer ends, they moved two steps backward. No wonder high school students’ reading and mathematics skills do not improve.
Schoales and Gottlieb stated that Denver schools hold class 172 days, many countries top 200 days and some Asian nations like South Korea hold classes 240 days! Colorado requires charter schools to hold classes more days than district schools.
As a special educator, I tried to sign up special education students with generalized learning disabilities reading below grade level for summer school, but soon learned that the only special education students who take an extended year are cognitively disabled. I was advised that I not extend my students’ school year because the esteem issues associated with students of average cognitive ability attending summer school with students with cognitive disabilities is too severe. Then why not offer different classes for the learning disabled student?
If year round classes are good for cognitively disabled students, it seems to me that year round classes would give regular education students that needed boost of continuity, and aid in their achieving academic success. It just makes sense.
Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator at Colorado High School Charter with an MA in educational leadership and is a former candidate to the Colorado State Board of Education.