More quality time, not just more time
OKC-The Oklahoma Education Association believes House Bill 3122 passed by the House to reduce teacher training days in order to extend the school year is detrimental to the future of Oklahoma’s children.
The single best determinant of a student’s success is the quality of the teacher, said OEA President Roy Bishop.
“It is essential that we have quality teachers in the classroom, but the bill takes away the professional development that helps provide teacher quality,” Bishop said.
The legislation eliminates three of the five state-authorized professional development days and converts the days to instructional time.
OEA President Roy Bishop said research consistently reaffirms how essential professional development is to success in the classroom.
“In a time of more accountability and high-stakes testing, we cannot afford to cut professional development. Oklahoma’s students deserve better and OEA is committed to ensuring great public schools for every child.”
The bill authored by Rep. Tad Jones (R-Claremore) would also convert the 180-day school year to 1,080 hours.
“We support the flexibility the bill gives local school districts, but not at the expense of professional development,” said Bishop.
Calendar swap: School days proposal raises questions
Lawmakers wasted no time in giving the initial go-ahead to a bill that would keep Oklahoma students in the classroom for the equivalent of three more days. It may not be the victory proponents of a longer school year had hoped for.
State law authorizes a 180-day school year, including five days for teacher professional development. The bill that passed a House subcommittee would convert three of the professional days to instructional days for students. It also changes the way schools count school days, requiring 1,080 hours of instruction — the equivalent of 180 six-hour school days — so schools with longer school days would have more flexibility in meeting the mandate.
Students undoubtedly need more time in school. It's been pointed out many times that Oklahoma has one of the nation's shortest school years. Students also are expected to know more than ever before, beginning in elementary school.
State Superintendent Sandy Garrett's time reform task force recommended the school year eventually be extended to 197 days but wanted just five new days for the coming school year. The $90 million cost estimated for a five-day addition to the school calendar is certainly part of the problem, especially now that the state faces a standstill budget.
Adding days to the school year makes sense as long as schools use the days wisely. It makes less sense, though, to do so at the expense of mandated teacher training. Evolving technology, ever-increasing academic standards and scientific research make it critical that teachers continue to explore new and better ways to improve education for all students.
The swap approach means the state wouldn't face the sticker shock of truly lengthening the school year. But if it means teachers are less prepared while having students longer, will Oklahoma really be any closer to the goal of better-prepared students?