A Washington Post columnist recently wrote a piece on absenteeism of Hispanic students. The focus was not on illness, poverty, or work, but on vacations.
With the summer approaching, it seems that the right to an education in America is frequently trumped by the privilege to have a vacation. In our legal system, a right is something that you have whether you want it or not, like taxes or compulsory attendance. A privilege is something that you choose, like owning property or voting.
While Superintendent, I had a request to look at the opening times at high schools. The concern was that students who had already switched their days and nights as a preparation for college were not alert in the early hours. To gauge community opinion I formed a large committee to study the issue and offer recommendations. Sixteen thousand surveys were completed and returned and numerous public sessions were convened; the result was "no change". I recall that the chair of the group reported to me that when given the opportunity people just didn't want to move any of the pieces in the puzzle.
I would love to tell you that I have spent most of my career with children and curriculum, but, in reality, I have spent most of it with control and credit. Who controls something, and who gets the credit. Before adding more days to a school year, we should first ask what we are doing with the time that we have. We should also ask, "are two weeks at Christmas (and three weekends) also sacred? Is a week of Spring break an entitlement? Is starting school after Labor Day, which most families support, a true educational priority. Perhaps the driving factor in education is not control, credit, curriculum or children, but convenience!