Atascadero and Shandon shorten school year

September 9, 2010

At the same time educational experts are touting the benefits of more time in the classroom, including higher test scores and improved performance, some San Luis Obispo County school districts are lowering their instructional days to help deal with budget deficits.

In San Luis Obispo County, Atascadero and Shandon schools lowered the number of instructional days this school year.

Statewide, of the 30 largest school districts, the majority have shortened the amount of time students are spending in the classroom, according to a survey by California Watch. The shortened school year impacts approximately 1.4 million California students.

During the summer of 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office lowered the minimum number of instructional days from 180 to 175.

Locally, most are slightly above the minimum:

Atascadero Unified School District – 175 instructional days

Cayucos Elementary School District – 180 instructional days

Lucia Mar Unified School District – 180 instructional days

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District – 180 instructional days

Pleasant Valley Joint Union School District – 181 instructional days

San Luis Coastal Unified School District – 180 instructional days

San Miguel Joint Union School District – Under negotiation at this time

Shandon Unified School District – 175 instructional days

Templeton Unified School District – 181 instructional days

California falls short of most of the United States and the rest of the world when it comes to the number of educational days. All but 13 states have a minimum school year of 180 days, according to a survey by California Watch.

“If it was up to me, I would run the number of school days to 220,” said Greig Welch, assistant superintendent of personnel for Paso Robles Joint Unified School District. “We created a minimum school year back in the late 1800s when children had to go home and help out. Fast forward to 2010, very few of our students are rushing home to help out at the farm or the ranch.

“To maintain our credibility in the world educationally, we are on the other side of the spectrum with only 180 days,” Welch added.

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I don’t think the real problem here is schools. I think the majority of problems actually lie with parenting. How is it that these schools can produce kids that go on to college and at the same time have kids that drop out at 16. The only variable here is parenting/upbringing. Would I like for our schools to be better with better teachers and less administrative staff, new buses, championship football teams? You bet! But when my kid gets bad grades, it’s nobodies fault by mine. With that said, I really do believe that we are doing our kids an injustice by shortening the school year.

pasowine, your fault or any parents fault might be weighed to the extent that your children floundered despite having actually received the education. The problem is more severe than you realize in my estimation. Today it is not uncommon for students to graduate from high school with their highest math achievement being algebra 2. Maybe some have completed trig but certainly no one has studied calculus or even began to embrace physics, unlike other competing countries such as India, Korea, Japan. Likewise the US students are lacking in the sciences and graduate with the highest achievement being Chem I maybe Chem II. They are by no means prepared to move on to the sciences that combine Chem Physics like competing countries, the US education system lag’s in both math and science when entering the extended education curriculum ie: college. Our test scores are lower today than in “yester years” because we are not challenged with all of the math’s that were required achievements 30 years ago. Today teachers scale grades and the lessons are not as comprehensive because our schools are required to accommodate those who would do well in special ed programs rather than participating in a standard grade or high school curriculum. The standard curriculum 30 years ago would be considered excellerated today in many inner city schools.

I have read this story and all of the replys with interest. Education is very important in our family and I would like to share with you all our public school experience. I have one son who is atteninding Templeton High School. Last year was his first year of public school, we enrolled him in Templeton Middle School. My husband and I both grew up in public schools and I had always found them lacking. However, our son had the desire to attend school, we were at an alternative privte school before. I have to say that from the time he started at the middle school we were impressed with the program and the level of commitment from the teachers. During this time of budget cuts we have seen techers go above and beyond what I experienced when in school. He has had teachers that were available for help before school, after school, and at luch periods. Weare continually impressed at how the high school is set up to give the kids every opportunity to succeed. Their classes are on a schedule of 8 classes per student, they attend 4 classes per day, the schedule alternates days. One of these classes is called a tutorial, basically study hall, with a teacher there to help with work, allow them to make-up tests missed by abscences and help them come up with solutions if they are struggling with classes. What a concept! Each class is 88 minutes long, this gives the instructors time to actually teach something. And like the middle school teachers are available for kids who are struggling or just need some extra help. I am so impressed with this school district. I can see why they have the highest test scores from Los Gatos to Ventura. This is how a school should operate. Giving every opportunity available for kids to succeed.

I have to agree that our kids lost a lot when ‘somebody’ decided to incorporate 50% of class time to be taught in Spanish. My kids were frustrated and they weren’t learning as fast as they had in prior years. They (all the students) did not complete all the lessons in their text books and the teachers were scaling the grades. The final straw was when I met with a teacher who told me that she didn’t want the children to see her speaking English to me, she didn’t want them to know that she could speak English! My wife and I pulled our 2 girls out of public school and placed them in private school. This all occurred in Healdsburg CA. I can tell you that we have never regretted opting for a private school. Years later my girls surpassed every student that graduated from the Healdsdburg school system by a mile stone on their SAT scores.

I hear our high school test scores are dropping. Would somebody please explain what the schools used to teach that they don’t teach today, or teach insufficiently? I can see no difference between what the schools have today and what the schools had 40 years ago, at least no difference that is negative. Teachers, classrooms, books, lab equipment, etc. What I do see today is an amazing number of elective courses that were not available 40 years ago and of course things like computers.

Is it the public schools or the Universities that are falling down on the job? If our engineers are not as good as they used to be is that really the engineering universities’ fault?

Since math is math, and math has not changed one iota in 40 years, please explain what is responsible for the drop in math scores? It seems to me it has to be the teaching method that has changed since the subject matter is the same. Math has always been about the student, the math book and the teacher (teaching method). The idea it takes more money to bring up the math scores is ludicrous. What would you spend the money on?

Has there ever been an apple to apples comparison of today’s math test scores and the math test scores of 40 years ago? The only way to do this would be to have today’s high school students take the exact same test (SAT for example) word for word, question for question, that was given forty years ago. My guess is the scores would be similar today as forty years ago. If they are lower today than the modern teaching method is inferior. Nothing to do with money.

I’ll tell you exactly what I think the problem is. It’s all these bleeding hearts that think we have to allow mentally challenged children along with others who display serious behavioral problems to attend the same classes as everyone else. As a consequence the class rooms are continuously disrupted. We also had to (in some cases we still do) put up with this ridiculous idea of complete language infusion for many years where our kids were taught classes in Spanish 50% of the time. We also have a big problem with discipline in the school systems. It used to be that if a teacher or principal contacted your parents about a behavioral problem, you were in a whole lot of TROUBLE. Today the parents threaten to sue to school if their little darling gets suspended and we need metal detectors to assure that guns and knives aren’t being carried into classrooms.

Let’s get this straight. There are 365 days in the year with 52 weeekends consisting of 104 days. There are 12 national holidays. That’s a total of 116 days off from the 365 days that leaves a balance of 249 “working” days excluding and average of 21 days vacation time for a remainder of 228 days.

Out of those 228 days the Atascadero School District is only going to utilize their facilities for 175 days which is an efficiency rate of around 77%. So the answer to that is to have the citizens cough up another $130,000,000 dollars so that additional facilities can be built that will not be adequately used.

I wonder why it’s not working?

cindy, mr holly and whatisup, nailed it.

I too grew up going to public schools, in a classroom of 30-35 students, one teacher no aide or assistant,no computers or calculators, a lot less holidays per year and we went from sept 7th to aug 14th…

Yea, let’s vote those bonds in.

175 days x 6 hours/day = 1050 hours a year (there are 8760 hours in a year….)

This is not just sad but scary. We are competing in a global economy. US jobs are being filled by other countries like India who has surpassed the US in the field of technology and it doesn’t stop there. We no longer produce some of the best educated minds on this planet. What will the future hold for our children and the generations to come without the best that an education can offer?

In the mean time , every illegal that wants to drop in on us and take advantage of our school systems is free to do so, free of charge while we struggle to educate our own. Disgusting.

P.S. To Greig Welch, 220 day’s is admirable but I remember looking forward to summer vacation when I was in school. Summertime and “free time” is an “exciting time” for kids and marks the completion of a job well done while moving on to the next challenge. Let’s cut it down the middle and go for 200 days of education. Kids need to be kids and need that reward at the end of the year.