Here at TSC, we talk a lot about successful schools with expanded-time. And one of those that comes up frequently is the UCSD Preuss School in San Diego. With more time 191 school days, this charter high school is seeing remarkable results for their high school students – both in terms of achievement and in opportunities.
That’s why I was left scratching my head when I heard that the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board had recently voted to shorten their school year to 161 days – if California’s Proposition 30 ballot initiative fails on this November’s ballot. Proposition 30 would allot more money to public schools through an increase in income taxes to the higher-income bracket and an a quarter-cent increase to the sales tax. With a school as successful as the Preuss just down the street, how can a district begin moving in the opposite direction?
Now, I understand that the fiscal situation is very difficult in California, and that the school board felt that it needed to be prepared for the real possibility that that Proposition 30 may not pass.
However, the gamble that the SDUSD Board is taking – cutting valuable and necessary time from an already-too short school calendar – may prove to be shortsighted. We know that children, particularly those living in areas of concentrated poverty, need more and better learning time to succeed in today’s world. We know that students need more time for individualized instruction and project-based learning in core subjects, and that students need time for opportunities in classes that engage them in learning, such as arts, music, and physical education and sports.
It’s true that we all live with budgets and have to make our worlds work within financial realities. I’m a realist and I know that expanding learning time may not be in the cards right now for San Diego Unified schools. But cutting learning time shouldn’t even be on the table. That’s truly something no student can afford.