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Seven pupil-free days is ridiculous

June 28, 2011

As a teacher in San Marino and a parent in La Cañada, I am concerned about LCUSD’s proposed seven staff development days for 2011-12. Having taught in two neighboring districts over the past 18 years, I have seen my fair share of staff development days, some useful and some not so useful. I have simply never heard of seven in one year — it is excessive. Currently, in San Marino Unified, we are slated for four days at the high school level next year. Neither the teachers nor the parents in the community I serve desire any more. While it is appropriate to have a few staff development days each year, seven is ridiculous because any benefit to the staff would be completely offset by the loss of so much student instruction time

LCUSD proposes making up for the lost days by lengthening the remaining school days by 9-12 minutes. At the 7-12th grade level, this would apply to the two-hour block classes, already a long stretch for the attention span of adolescents. Research demonstrates that students pay attention in 20-minute increments, with a peak focus about halfway through the traditional one-hour class period. Our kids find their weekday lives intense and compacted as it is — they run out of steam and begin to check out toward the end of the day. Sixth-period teachers witness this phenomenon in our classrooms. Clearly, we will not get the same learning bang for our buck that we would get from four full instructional days with well-rested students ready to learn the day’s content. If LCUSD desires to remain a top-performing district, it is heading down the wrong path with this decision.

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Finally, as a parent, I cringe at the thought of hiring babysitting for two of my children while tracking my third with a cell phone call on my lunch break. How is school-age children “hanging out” on traditional school days while their parents are at work a good thing for the community, exactly?

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