Since We’ve No Place to Go
As I look at the snow coming down, settling softly into the trees, I think of all the superintendents in the state with a decision to make. Do I cancel school tomorrow or not? First and foremost, this needs to be a safety consideration. For every district, this decision is different. Does the district have a lot of students on rural roads? What percentage of children would have to wait for the bus in freezing cold?
The decision to call a snow day or not has always been a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. When you cancel school, there is always a group who remembers the good old days, walking to school uphill, yada yada yada. Then when you don’t cancel school because there is only a light dusting of snow, you have a group that thinks you’re inconsistent.
In short, you can’t win. Complicating this dilemma now is the reality that comes with A-F Report Cards. This comes with two separate issues.
First is attendance. Elementary schools get 10 bonus points for an average attendance rate of 94%. Middle schools get six. (High schools don’t get bonus points for attendance; I guess arbitrary levels of seat time don’t matter once you get to ninth grade). In 2013, Oklahoma had 120 elementary schools and 38 middle or junior high schools that earned a C on their school report card. I don’t know how many of those earned bonus points for attendance, but it’s important to consider what would happen if they didn’t.
Getting a C is a good way to get your community asking questions. You can explain the flaws in the report card system until your face turns blue, but you will always have a few patrons who don’t get it. Earn a D, however, and you’re now facing Targeted Intervention. This means a lot of hassle and disruption from the state, and if you’re a Title I school, a lot more restriction on how you use your funds.
Second is that between the end of Christmas Break and testing (remember – the Writing Test is scheduled for February 26), schools only have a limited number of instructional days. Every minute counts. That was one of the most frustrating things about the stress test last week. Loss of instructional time impacts test scores.
Obviously, superintendents will still consider safety above all else before declaring one or more snow days this week. We would be wrong to think, however, that other thoughts won’t cross their minds.