So, after being discussed in terrified whispers for several weeks, the thing teachers and students most feared has finally happened: The NYCDOE has decided to take back three days from our beloved “mid-winter recess,” a February vacation we get every year when the presidents’ birthdays are collapsed into one celebratory week off. Now, instead of lasting from the night of Friday, February 15th through the morning of Monday, February 25th, we have to “give back” the 18th, 19th, and 20th for classroom instruction--effectively turning a 9-day break into a 4-day weekend. The horrors!
(My students: “WHAT? How can they cancel our break? Can we sue them?” Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott are now officially in the same league as the Grinch who stole Christmas.)
OK. Having suspected this would happen (and admittedly, being a bit freaked about the prospect of students who have to take the Regents in June losing so much class-time), I’m not that upset. Also, my workaholic tendencies are such that I tend to really enjoy 4-5 days of vacation, and then think, “OK, now I need to find more things to do to feel productive.” Nevertheless, I am concerned about one thing: Attendance. My concern is not for the ostensible reasons, like the fact that kids need to be in class in order to learn. Rather, it’s because in NYC--like many other school districts in the country--school funding is determined based on student attendance as opposed to enrollment. And I can tell you from eight years of experience that days right before or after a holiday are always poor attendance days, let alone ones that formerly were vacation days and have now been turned into school days (thus incurring the ire of thousands of students who really like their breaks.)
My main concern is that this be taken into account by the state when evaluating our attendance report card to see if we met the target average of 85% attendance daily. Truancy and absenteeism are endemic problems to inner-city schools; even the best teachers in the most thrilling classes have certain students on their rosters who have never shown their faces, and host classes that are veritable ghost-towns on days before vacations. But to penalize inner city schools further by cutting funding due to attendance would be to exacerbate all kinds of existing problems. So, to the mayor and whichever other higher-ups make this decision: Yes, by all means, add school days--but please keep in mind that there are cosmic forces even teachers can’t reckon with, like long-standing plans for family reunions in the Dominican Republic in February (which honestly seems like a great time, if you ask me.) And don’t penalize the schools...or the teachers. Thank you. That is all.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The opinions expressed in View From the Bronx: An Urban Teacher’s Perspective are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.