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Did she mean what she said? (03/06/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

I read with astonishment the following statement made by Winona Middle School principal Sharon Suchla concerning the choice of a calendar for the public schools for the upcoming year: “Suchla advocated for the mid-August start as well, saying students are anxious to come back to school by then. The time spent in school after testing, she said, is not especially useful. ‘Once tests are done kids are pretty much done,’ she said.”

The tests referred to in this instance are the state tests of students’ proficiency in reading and math, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments II (MCAII). Those tests are administered in the middle of April.

Is Suchla saying that kids are “pretty much done” in the middle of April, yet we keep them in school until the end of May, or if one calendar option is chosen, until June 7?

What do the kids do all day, if they are “pretty much done”?

Wouldn’t it be more logical, if this is true, for the Winona Area Public Schools — and all other schools — to be lobbying the Department of Education to change the timing of the tests until the end of the school year?

Instead, the school district is lobbying the state to be able to begin school in the middle of August, saying they need the extra instructional days so the kids will be prepared for the April tests.

Doesn’t it make more sense to start school after Labor Day and let the teachers take workshop days in the middle of August? As it is, there are seven days of recess and teacher workshop days scheduled in the same time period as the mid-April tests. Why not eliminate these? Wouldn’t children and families benefit more from that sort of a schedule rather than the disruption of the traditional summer recess that everyone is used to?

But no matter what, I don’t believe that kids should be “pretty much done” after they take the state tests. Perhaps a concerted effort is needed by teachers and parents to convey to students that the tests do not signal the end of the school year.

And we could all benefit from a concerted effort by the administrators — and those other district employees who are lobbying for a mid-August school start — to be more candid as to the real motives and rationale for such a move, and to deliver throughout the entire school year the education our kids need to do well on state tests.

Janet Burns on hiatus

Winona Post columnist Janet Burns is on a well-earned R&R (reflection & rejuvination). She will return in the near future, so keep watching these pages. Janet says, “I’ve made some dear friends through my column — the frosting on the cake. Writing will always be my passion!” Enjoy, Janet!



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