As the balanced school calendar ended this year, several Cobb parents decided to collect some data to determine how successful or unsuccessful this year was. The evidence is clear - the balanced calendar is not the “vacation” calendar that some people in the county want to believe it is.
- Test Scores: Test scores are up this past year. In fact, the ITBS scores, which have declijned since 2007, went up again.
- Student Absenteeism: Student were absense less last year - approximately 7.5 percent district wide. In the first semester alone, about 75 percent of the school reported a decrease in student absenteeism.
- Teacher Absenteeism: Teachers were absent less as well. Not only does this favorably effect the kids - who don’t need to adjust to substitute teachers, but it saves the county money in substitute costs. The Cobb County School District saved over one million dollars in these fees, and that after lowering the payout for substitutes from $79/day to $69/day.
- Student Morale: This is less concrete, but from experiences with my own kids, and their friends, last school year I witnessed significantly less burn out, and a better attitude towards school the entire year.
- Teacher Morale: Again, this is a less concrete measure. But I know several teachers, and every one of them enjoyed the breaks as much as the kids.
So, with what appears to be overwhelming data, why is there such a controversy? Where is the data for the traditional calendar?
Supposedly, Kathleen Angelucci and Scott Sweeney have data to show the benefit of the traditional calendar, but as far as I know no one has seen this data. Do you know what I think? I think that they simply want the traditional calendar, so they have lied to us about their data. Because every time anyone requests this data, Angelucci and Sweeney give that person either the silent treatment or the run around.
I think lots of people out there want the traditional calendar, not based on facts or logic, but because it’s close to the calendar that they remember as kids. It is easy to get nostalgic about school, and believe that things were “better” when we were kids. But honestly, we’d still be living in grass huts, wearing leaves, walking around barefoot, and eating bugs if we never changed.
One argument for the traditional calendar is that the kids need a long enough summer, with the mistaken assumption that the balanced calendar shortchanges kids. But let’s be honest here, the balanced calendar left a ten week summer! Typically, an American school district has 2-3 months, which translates into 8 to 12 weeks. So our 10-week summer break falls smack dab in the middle. Why, then, do people think our break is substantially shorter? My guess is the timing of the summer break - from late May until early August, instead of mid-June to late August. In summary, it’s not as though the kids aren’t getting a summer. They are simply getting a summer with different start and ending dates.
The other argument for the traditional calendar would be potential tourism dollars lost for local businesses. First, my child’s education is more important that tourism. Period. Second, we Georgians don’t typically use our own tourist locations in August - we can go there during the cooler times of year. Third, the week long breaks in September and February actually open up more possibilities for tourism in a time other than summer. And finally, our children’s education is more important than tourism. (This needs to be restated; it is that important.)
The traditional calendar also has a large negative. There have been several studies that show children who receive free or reduced lunch actually lose significant ground academically during the summer break, but children who do not receive a free or reduced lunch either lose a little ground or gain ground academically during the summer break. This means that the 46 percent of children in Cobb county lose ground all summer. Why would we want to increase the time in summers? So that the “haves” can outperform the “have-nots” even more?
In conclusion, I ask everyone out that who supports the traditional calendar to ask yourself why. If you have some actual reason, with data to back it up, please post your reasoning here in the comments. We supporters of the balanced calendar would love to learn why you believe that way. But if you simply like the traditional calendar for the sake of tradition, don’t bother. You’ll never convince us, and we’ll never convince you.