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Topic: NCLB -TX: New law gives top students days off
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
NCLB -TX: New law gives top students days off
Posted: Jan 23, 2005 6:36 PM
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From the Dallas Morning News, Tuesday, January 4, 2005. See
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New law gives top students days off

Giving them 10 days off could free teachers to help struggling students

By Tawnell D. Hobbs

Doing well on a test could mean fewer days in school for some Texas students.

A recently revised state bill allows school districts to reduce the
number of school days for students who have performed well or are
likely to perform well on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and

Students who qualify could have their school year cut by 10 days.

"Part of the push for this was to give teachers more one-on-one with
the students who are not passing," said Suzanne Marchman, a Texas
Education Agency spokeswoman.

But some parents say the new initiative could result in costly
child-care bills.

"That would be a big issue with parents that work and can't have
their children home during the day," said Constance Muhammad, whose
son attends H.S. Thompson Learning Center in Dallas. "A lot of
parents use school as a baby sitter."

Mixed reactions

Camile White, who has three children at Harry Stone Montessori School
in Dallas, said the program sounds like a Band-Aid for dealing with
overcrowded classrooms.

"They need to be out finding more money so we can build more school
buildings to thin out these classes," Ms. White said. "What good is
10 days going to do for those kids that are struggling already?"

Some teacher representatives think it's a good idea to give teachers
more time with students who need it.

"It's almost too simple of a solution to a problem that we've been
grappling with," said Aimee Bolender, president of Alliance AFT,
which represents teachers in Dallas. She added that schools could
provide group activities for students who qualify for reduced school
days instead of sending them home.

"Overall, it's not a bad idea," said Dale Kaiser, president of the
teacher group NEA Dallas. "It allows the teachers to concentrate on
those students who need the extra help."

Some teachers, however, are less enthusiastic.

Dallas teacher Mary Strickland acknowledges that instructors do need
more time with struggling students, but she doesn't like the thought
of any student being out of class.

"No matter how much they know, you can teach them more," said Ms.
Strickland, who teaches math at Kimball High School.

DISD's stand

Whether the program will be embraced by the Dallas Independent School
District remains to be seen. District officials said Tuesday that the
issue needs more study and that they may form a committee.

"You have to consider the parents of a youngster who is doing well,"
said Jim Scales, DISD's deputy superintendent for administrative
services. "How will they feel about shortening that student's school
year? That could be a political nightmare."

Revisions to law

The program was included in a bill authored by state Sen. Steve
Ogden, R-Bryan, that became law in 2003.

However, a very restrictive interpretation of how the program could
be implemented may have discouraged districts from using it. The
Texas Education Agency initially required districts to allow students
performing at acceptable levels time off only if students in need of
more instruction attended classes beyond the 180-day standard school

This week, however, the TEA sent out a new interpretation, which
allows districts to reduce instructional days for some students
without increasing the school days for struggling students. Students
who qualify cannot have their school year reduced to fewer than 170

TEA officials said Tuesday that two small school districts - Carlisle
and Prairie Valley school districts in East and north central Texas,
respectively - have been approved for the program for this year.

Districts can select which days students can take off during the
school year. School districts, which receive state funding based on
the weighted average daily attendance, will not lose funding under
the program, Ms. Marchman said.

Guidelines to come

School districts have to apply in writing for permission to reduce
instructional days, although there is no specific application form,
according to the TEA. It's up to the district to determine which
students qualify. The education agency plans to provide districts
with more structure and guidance on the program, Ms. Marchman said.

Mike Payne, superintendent of the Carlisle school district, said the
program rewards good performance. Students in his district who do
well on the TAKS and have good attendance, he said, will attend
school for 171 days this school year.

"It gives the kids an incentive to continue to do well," Mr. Payne said.

If parents don't have child care available, Mr. Payne said, they can
send their students to school.

"We're not saying they can't come, we're saying they don't have to
come," he said.
Jerry P. Becker
Curriculum &amp; Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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