February 4, 2017 10:53:55 PM
Among the most important challenges facing Mississippi's future is improving the state's educational level.
Regardless of which measurement is used, the state consistently ranks at or near the bottom in various educational rankings. There are many reasons -- including a history of generational poverty that means many students have more to overcome in order to be successful in school.
Educators are working hard to improve the state's trajectory, and the state has recently made some of the largest gains in the country on the nation's report card.
There are many tools they are using, and one that is gaining traction is the thought of having students -- especially struggling ones -- spend more time in school.
Yet as their efforts continue, some state lawmakers are considering doing the opposite.
The House Education Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would shorten the school year by 10 days, as reported by Daily Journal Capitol Bureau chief Bobby Harrison.
The legislation, which now will go to the full House for consideration, reduces the school year to 170 days. If the House agrees, the bill would still need approval of the Senate.
Supporters of the bill said students would get a longer summer break and avoid having school during the hottest period of the year.
That goes directly against growing education research that calls for a shorter summer break. School leaders worry about the so-called "summer slide," in which students lose some knowledge during the extended break. It requires teachers to spend extra time at the beginning of a new year reviewing skills that had been previously taught.
The problem particularly impacts low-income students -- often those who already face the biggest challenges -- because they do not have as much access to educational resources during the summer as do their more affluent peers.
Extending summer break exacerbates that problem.
In fact, some of the state's most cutting-edge school districts are moving in the opposite direction. Mississippi recently passed a Districts of Innovation law that allows schools to try new approaches.
One district in that program -- Corinth -- is using a modified school calendar that divides the year into four quarters. Instead of one long summer break, students have shorter breaks at the end of each quarter, as previously reported by Daily Journal education reporter Emma Crawford Kent.
Teachers and volunteers can use those breaks to work with struggling students and give them extra help at various periods throughout the year.
Other reforms are looking at ways to increase the length of the school year and of the school day to give students more assistance. These are the approaches we should be studying.
Reducing the amount of time students spend in the classroom would instead be moving backward.
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