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Friday, September 2, 2016

In Response to Hogan, Senator Ferguson Gets it Right

In response to Governor Hogan's executive order mandating a post Labor Day start for the school year, state Senator Bill Ferguson penned a must read response for MarylandReporter

Ferguson writes "if we are to have a conversation about adjusting our calendar, let it not be about starting the school year later, let it be about making the year longer, richer, and more purposeful... In an era of global competitiveness we need to be talking about a longer school year, not a shorter one." 

He is absolutely correct. In fact, the legislative task force that in 2014 endorsed a post Labor Day start noted that many of those who attended the various task force meetings expressed support for year round schooling - and for good reason. But unlike other calls for a year round school year that simply takes the same 180 day count and just spreads it more evenly across 365 days, Ferguson calls for more days of schooling. And for good reason. Research has shown that a simple year-round approach, that relies on the same number of days, doesn't improve the education outcomes for anyone. What's need are more days of instruction. At present, the American education calendar imposes a tremendous burden on low income and working class families and especially on minority communities. Imagine the benefits of a 240 day school year - children with access to nutritious meals, no retention gap from the long summer, more time for personalized instruction, less stress on families as parents commit less of their limited disposable income on childcare. These are but a few of the benefits of a longer school year. 

I've longed believed that such a policy would go nowhere in Maryland - perhaps I was wrong (perhaps not). It would be wonderful if Governor Hogan's executive order spurs a real conversation about meaningful education reform, instead of just hand wringing and attempts at recrimination.