Thursday, September 1, 2016

Make Maryland Great Again?

Executive Orders are very handy things. However, they are no good when it comes to time travel or the erasure of reality. I refer, of course, to Governor Hogan's Executive order to begin school after Labor Day and end it by June 15th. While I don't believe that the Governor or the Comptroller Peter Franchot are inherently bad people, I do believe that this is a bad decision based on faulty reasoning.

I, too, have reached a time in my life where nostalgia for the world of my youth is sweet, and sad, and full of longing. Unlike Mssrs Hogan and Franchot, I don't believe I can bring it back. A nostalgic push for a later start to the school year can not and will not bring back the summers of Mr. Franchot's youth.

I saw this post yesterday on Facebook, expressing some frustration with the "Let summer be summer" nostalgia line of thinking:

Yes, when I went to school we started after Labor Day got out by Memorial Day, walked 2 miles in the snow uphill both ways. We did not have 4 weeks of high stakes tests in April and May. We did not walk across 4 lanes of traffic to get there. We did not take 4 years of math or computer science in high school. Get over it people!

I responded:

My mother stayed home while my dad worked. We always had enough to eat. My mom was always there to read to us. We went to museums, the library, and had piano lessons. That world is gone, gone, gone for most people. And we forget that a great many people never had access to that world in the first place.

I was very impressed by this statement last night from Adam Mendelson, Communications Director for MSEA:

Some last thoughts on the governor’s extend summer executive order today: His action shows divide between two Marylands. One that has extra money to spend on vacations, enrichment programs, camp, etc. And another MD that is now staring at extra weeks to pay for child care w/o time or resources for more vacation or enrichment programs. And for our poorest students, extending summer means more weeks without enough meals and worse: brain drain over the summer. It's an important decision with trade-offs, and is best decided by a community rather than an executive order. School calendar decisions should be driven by what’s best for students and community not what sells most ice cream cones & hotel rooms. But most critically – there are so many more important education issues that we should be working together on in MD than the length of summer.

Nearly 40% of MD students are low income – extending summer doesn’t help them be more successful, it makes it harder. There are thousands of homeless students in MD – extending summer doesn’t help them find meals, support, or safety. There is a 47% teacher turnover rate in 1st three years – extending summer & limiting PD, planning time and more doesn’t help. There are way too many standardized tests – extending summer limits instruction before many and makes them more stressful, not less. Extending summer distracts from the big issues that affect students and schools that deserve to be addressed, not avoided.

Educators and their unions will keep pushing for action and leading on these issues. Our students need us to do more and we answer their call.

Despite what may be completely good intentions to help families and Eastern shore tourism, this comes off as a very white, very middle-to-upper-middle class decision. And you can't make Maryland Great Again while, at the same time, excluding so many Marylanders.

A suggestion for a truly useful Executive Order: Dear Governor Hogan, please sign an executive order to abolish high-stakes standardized testing, so teachers and students will have enough time to teach and learn and do the things they really need to do. Let Kindergarten Be Kindergarten Again. Let Recess Be Recess Again. That kind of an Executive Order would help everyone.



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