Friday, December 30, 2005

The School Start-Date Wars

In the struggle to halt the inexorable trend toward earlier and earlier school-year starting dates, here's the latest dispatch from the Florida front:
A state legislator wants to require public schools to wait until the week before Labor Day to open their classrooms.

State Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, has filed a bill to prohibit public schools from starting earlier in August.

This year, more than one-third of Florida's public school districts started classes in the first week of August.

Gelber said he thinks schools are starting classes too early to have more time to prepare students for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Gelber said it doesn't make sense to start classes in the middle of hurricane season, when there's a chance that storms will shut down schools.

He said the early start also is out of synch with many summer-enrichment programs and family vacations.

Gelber said his plan would not change the number of days children go to school.
Even though Gelber's bill may have some merit, it might have been much more effective if it had also pushed back the FCAT's test date. It has been noted that once this annual test is administered, some classrooms don't seem to put forth the same levels of academic effort and focus as they did before the examiniations were administered.

A later testing-date may help some classes to maintain a more academically-focused atmosphere for a longer period of time in the school year. In fact, I see no reason why the exams should not be given during the last two weeks of school.

A more standardized starting date has one other possible benefit: If all schools start at about the same time, it helps level the playing field when comparing one district's test scores with another's.
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