Publisher’s Position: The Next Big Thing: The Balanced School Calendar

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By Steve Hunley

One of the hallmarks of Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre’s regime is there’s always the “next big thing” right around the corner.  Unfortunately, the panacea never really seems to deliver the promised results.

McIntyre’s current “next big thing” is the implementation of the “Balanced Calendar”.  In the charts accompanying this week’s editorial, you can see the difference in the traditional school schedule versus that of the balanced calendar.

McIntyre argues by going to the balanced calendar, students will retain more of what they are taught.  The balanced calendar is supposed to stop the “summer slide” of knowledge draining out of kids’ heads.

There is no hard proof the balanced calendar is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  In fact, in many instances it’s proven to be something of a very mixed bag.  Some school systems that adopted the balanced calendar like Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and many parts of California have already gone back to the traditional calendar.  Research on exactly whether or not student retention is improved is equally mixed.

Professor Esther Fusco, a professor of education at New York’s Hofstra University concluded, “But the results are not very significant” when referring to the improvement by students in “high-needs districts” as well as those students who have disabilities.  For other students, Professor Fusco said, “I have not seen any study that shows students greatly improve.”

Students will be in school roughly the same amount of time; the only thing different is the breaks are divided differently, but for working families the proposed changes could be devastating.  It is a fact of life many teachers work second jobs during the summer; many students work hard during the summer months to earn money to help pay their expenses, buy a car and pay for insurance, as well as save for furthering their educations.  For the parents of younger children, it will make getting child care a positive nightmare.

While McIntyre claims a balanced calendar won’t cost taxpayers more, that’s just not true.  There will at least be running the air conditioning nonstop during the summer months, extra transportation costs, and it will be difficult to make repairs on school buildings when classrooms remain full.

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City school district admitted they ended the balanced calendar experiment when a 2011 analysis that similar school systems operating on a traditional schedule had better test scores.  That same spokesman also said Salt Lake City saved money by returning to the traditional schedule.

McIntyre has been spending taxpayer money at an alarming rate.  Of course he is masterful in sidestepping real questions and McIntyre’s circus poodles on the Board of Education are quietly pondering the notion of suing or threatening to sue the State of Tennessee in a bid to squeeze more money out of Nashville.  When Mike McMillan pointed out the only way Nashville can come up with more money is by raising taxes, a few Board members squalled that oh heavens no!  They weren’t wanting to raise taxes, yet all they could do was murmur vaguely that the legislature could “find” the money.  People, make no mistake about it, the ONLY place government can “find” money is in your pocketbook.

McIntyre sought the largest tax increase in Knox County history and was rebuffed by Mayor Tim Burchett and the Knox County Commission.  He has been spectacularly unsuccessful in prying money from the Commission and yet has continued hiring and spending.  In essence, what McIntyre and his minions are planning is to use your tax dollars to sue to have the legislature tax you more.

If you have an opinion on this, I would suggest that you pick up the phone to call your Board of Education member. Otherwise, McIntyre and his rubber stamp board members will make the decision for you.

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