CONTRIBUTORS

Longer school year a good start

Posted April 24, 2011, at 8:33 p.m.

I recently heard former Washington D.C.’s school Chancellor Michelle Rhee say that the children in our schools today will be the first generation of Americans who will be less well educated than the previous generation. I am concerned at the thought that my daughter and her peers will fall behind once they start school rather than to be propelled ahead toward their great potential.

It is disturbing to think that we are depriving the next generation of children the standard of education that we received.

Even more concerning is the idea that with all the technological advances and increased understanding of human development, these children should not only be getting equal quality education as ours, they should be getting a far better one.

I urge Maine to support An Act to Extend the School Year from 180 days to 185 days. I recognize it is only a small step, but it’s a first step.

In no way is this five-day increase a final solution to our state’s educational problems. We have a lot of work to do on the quality of education that our students receive.

In reading a recent column on this bill, a critic, David O. Solmitz, a teacher at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, reports that our local towns and cities will have a hard time coming up with the money to fund these additional five days. I was appalled at this lack of prioritization! This is yet another example of how our innocent children are at the mercy of adult policies and money. These children put their trust in their parents, their teachers and all adults in general and we are failing them miserably.

A July 2004 report from the Education Commission of the States lists each state’s school-year requirements. Thirty states have 180-day school years, two have school years longer than 180 days, and 11 have school years shorter than 180 days. According to a UNESCO study of 43 countries, 33 of them have school years longer than 180 days. Some go as many as 220 days per year.

I would like to encourage support of LD 18 An Act to Extend the School Year. Maine is clearly behind other states and countries as far as the length of time we educate our children for.

For the past five years I have been working as a social worker with children with special needs and children who are impacted by abuse and neglect. It is clear that throughout the summer months when school is not in session that many of these children lose a large percentage of their structure, stability and stimulation. Some even regress over summer vacation.

By lengthening the school year, no matter how insignificant five days may seem, it is a start. If two extra days of instruction and three extra days of in-service education to our teachers can positively impact even one child in Maine, we have done our jobs as advocates, parents and community leaders.

Elissa Rowe is a graduate student at the University of Maine and a social worker.

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