… make that already here at a school near you.
This is an important story because I think the people in Duluth will be looking at a 4 day week soon too. Its not a horror story by any means. The Survey probably does reflect the views of Two Harbors. A majority of folks approve of the change.
In no particular order here are my observations.
1. Its a terrible thing that a gamble like this had to take place because of the School District’s fiscal disaster.
2. A change like this could only have taken place because of a fiscal disaster. Call this change as a reaction to necessity or “necessity is the Mother of invention.”
3. Having school five days a week is in large part a result of our society’s need for child management five days a week. In some ways its glorified babysitting. Most people work five days a week both Mothers and Fathers now days. Unsupervised kids get hurt, killed and pregnant. Because the school day has proven to be too short for the parents’ work day American schools have added a special after school daycare system called school sports to its portfolio.
4. Two Harbors discovery that a long school day can sharpen a lot of kids is not that big a surprise. Real learning requires some intellectual engagement by the student. The system in most schools like Duluth, at least in the secondary grades, is a series of 50 minute classes by subject of which 20% of the time is wasted on getting organized. If you are studying the Civil War or calculus or French that’s barely enough time to get your engines revving and then you have to put your books away. Two Harbors from necessity is altering this pattern probably for the better.
5. How about that three day weekend? By the time I was a junior in college I got to put my school week together at class registration. I can’t tell you how much I and many of my classmates enjoyed creating a four-day week with Friday (usually) off. A five day week can be a grind, a mind numbing grind. Ask anyone who works five days a week at a job! With their four day school week Two Harbors’ kids get to turn off that grind and for many, I suspect, that results in better focus during the official learning portion of the week.
6. Two Harbors went to a 4 day week to save money. They have saved it but not quite as much as they had hoped. They’ve saved $216,000 annually not $250,000. Most of the savings was expected to come from buying less fuel to bus children. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, diesel prices went up more than expected.
7. As with the Duluth district’s poorly thought out Red Plan transition the four day week at Two Harbors has forced everyone to experiment to make it work. For Two Harbors that has resulted in a burst of creativity and even enthusiasm. Although that does not yet seem to be a major factor in Duluth’s Red Plan there is hope for us in the Two Harbors’ example. I’d say that such hope should be tempered with the recognition that school leaders in denial or wearing blinders about or making excuses for past blunders are the wrong people to be making such a change or taking such a calculated risk.