Editor's note: Since the Auburn School Committee has resurrected a plan to institute late start Wednesdays for grades seven through twelve, we have resurrected the editorial we ran July 1 opposing the idea.
Our opinion — that reducing instructional time for students is contrary to educational trends and a bad idea in a district with declining SAT scores — remains unchanged.
The School Committee has scheduled a final vote for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Council Chambers at Auburn Hall, and parents are urged to attend.
The proposal, pitched by Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin, means students would come to school at 9:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. each Wednesday.
Since we’re talking about school, do you feel like doing a word problem?
There are 175 days in the school year and, if students go to school two hours later one day each week, how many hours of school will be subtracted from the total school year?
The correct answer is 70 hours.
Or, if you prefer to think of time in days, that’s 10 days.
Or, perhaps more specifically, that’s two weeks.
Maine already has one of the shortest school calendars in the country, and Auburn is discussing shortening it by two weeks for middle and high school students?
To provide teachers time for professional development.
This is not, as some districts in the country have done, a move to start late to accommodate teens’ maturing endocrine systems that create a natural late-to-bed, late-to-rise sleep cycle.
This is to give teachers an extra two hours of professional development each week so they can update personal teaching methods.
This time would be in addition to the 3.3 in-school hours high school teachers already have to themselves each week for individual preparation, and 5.6 in-school hours middle school teachers have, three of which are for individual prep time and 2.6 hours to meet with fellow team members.
If you're doing the math, that would mean high school teachers would be given 5.3 hours in the 35-hour school week and middle school teachers could be given more than one school day each week for individual planning and teacher training.
Auburn schools are moving toward a technique called Mass Customized Learning, in which teachers become facilitators for technology-focused, individualized, student-led instruction.
And, Auburn educators say, they must develop new techniques to make this transition.
But they don’t have to sacrifice student learning time to do it.
And, what would happen next year when these new methods had been learned? Would late-start go away or remain?
Professional development is common — and necessary — among licensed professionals, including lawyers, electricians, doctors, dental hygienists, engineers, counselors ... the list goes on.
That means extra hours at work. Except, it seems, for teachers.
As Auburn — and other school districts know — teachers as an occupational group are reluctant to add hours to the work day without additional pay.
That means additional cost to school districts, and additional financial burden on taxpayers.
Grondin put it more succinctly for the committee: professional development for teachers means extra cost for time worked.
Teachers are not hourly workers; they are salaried. And salaried workers, in most other professions, work extra hours to keep up with upgraded technologies, methods and techniques as a personal responsibility to remain current.
In Auburn, teachers instead want two fewer weeks in the classroom each year.
Not only is that contrary to professional development pursuits in many other licensed professions, it’s going to be a real burden for parents, and committee members know that.
But, as Grondin told them, if families are given enough notice, they can work together to figure out how to get their children to school, or figure out who might be available to supervise teens if parents have to get to work.
“If” they have to get to work?
That’s a pretty big assumption that the city’s parents have flexible work schedules. Most do not.
So, could the School Committee really be saying that teachers’ personal schedules are so inflexible that hundreds of parents are going to have to change their own schedules? Too bad for them?
We hope not. Many of these parents add on personal hours for their own professional development, so it would be galling to think they have to accommodate teachers’ reluctance to do the same.
It’s interesting to note that, across the river in Lewiston, administrators and teachers are working together to lengthen the school year, getting students in classrooms during the summer to prevent that traditional and damaging summer vacation learning loss.
In Auburn, work is going on to shorten the school year.
That’s just backward.
These teachers are salaried professionals. They can figure out how to pursue job development in their existing schedules.
Just like the rest of the teachers in Maine.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.