Themes in the News for the week of June 27-July 1, 2011 by UCLA IDEA | http://bit.ly/iukFcY
07-01-2011 - Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget just in time for the new fiscal year. The new California budget bridges the deficit by relying on an additional $4 billion in revenue, which lawmakers expect from an improved economy. However, if the extra money doesn’t show up, there will be significant repercussions for the state’s classrooms.
If the state does not receive at least $2 billion of the $4 billion projected, officials could be forced to shorten the school year by up to seven instructional days (Los Angeles Times, Educated Guess, San Jose Mercury News).
Many districts have already cut days of school or reduced after-school programs and summer school. For the current school year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that more than half of school districts reduced the number of school days, and 30 percent cut a full week (California Budget Project pdf). IDEA’s latest Educational Opportunity Report Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011 also documented that 65 percent of state high schools reduced or eliminated summer school.
The risk of taking even more time away from classrooms is inconsistent with efforts to improve achievement and narrow achievement gaps. A recent report from the National Center on Time and Learning (see following) mounts research showing the importance of expanded learning time in bringing learning opportunities to children living in poverty. While some states are increasing learning time, California is moving backwards.
Summer school is a chance for students to make up failed classes so they can continue towards a timely graduation, or receive remediation. It is a chance to prevent the “summer slide” during which students lose learning gains made during the school year. Also, it is a time to take advanced or enrichment courses (Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News).
In Los Angeles Unified, the summer school budget has nearly disappeared over the past three years going from $54 million to $3 million. Now, the only classes available are for high school sophomores and juniors in danger of not graduating on time (Daily News). The lack of summer school opportunities had parents and students scrambling to find alternatives—from charters to private, parochial schools to community colleges. All but a select few charge students. An overwhelming crowd of students and parents showed up to a Los Angeles County charter on the first day of summer school registration, but police were forced to disperse them (Daily Breeze).
With already reduced options and the prospect of even further cuts to the school year and summer programs, a record number of students living in poverty will continue to struggle to keep up with their classmates. We would do well to reflect on this sobering reality as we enter a long weekend celebrating the principle that all men are created equal.
Time and Learning in Schools: A National Profile
Mounting concerns over persistently underperforming schools have sparked a renewed interested in increasing the amount of time that children spend in school. Time and Learning in Schools takes the first step towards filling the need for more information on time allocation practices in our nation’s schools. The authors use data from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) to measure variation in time practices across the nation’s traditional public, private and charter schools.