Education Opinion


By Susan Graham — February 08, 2010 2 min read
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That’s what the Weather People are calling it. We were out of school because of snow Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. We went in two hours late on Thursday. We were out again on Friday, and again today. Tomorrow we are expectiing another 8 to 10 inches and there is already snow in the forecast for next week.

Okay, when the Chicago crowd first got to D.C. last year they laughed because we’d call a snow day for a couple of inches. Well, last year a couple of inches were all we got. But about every eight years the El Nino sends us a snowy winter, and this one is a real doozy. We’re not a bunch of sissies, but this isn’t Michigan or Maine and we simply don’t have the resources to deal with heavy snow. And you Yankees and Midwesterners can go ahead and snicker, but hey, even ya’ll have to admit that two feet in two days is a heck of a lot of snow!

The airports canceled all flights. The trains shut down. Interstate 95 was an ice slick. Trees are down. There are thousands in the area without power. Because the streets in the D.C. are almost impassable and above ground commuter rail can’t run, the President announced that Federal Government offices are closed for business today. Some school systems have already announced they will be closed all week. D.C. Chancellor Rhee caused her ruckus of the week by first announcing District schools would be open today and then back tracking and closing them. It seems that the most controversial flash point relating to weather is school closings. It won’t be the first time things have gotten nasty. It seems schools are damned if they close and damned if the don’t because

The snow days have a cascade of repercussions. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria can’t get those meals if they’re not at school. Parents have to scramble for sitters. Summer plans might have to be modified. And in a high-stakes testing culture where every hour of preparation for state assessments can have deep consequences, days tacked onto the end of the school year don’t pack the same payoff.

School Lunch
Day Care
Summer Vacation
Test Preparation
State Assessments

I notice that quality instruction and student learning did not make the list.

I don’t know when when we’ll be back in school, but I do know a few things.

When children are going hungry because they aren’t being fed at school, that’s not an education issue; that’s a judgment on our society. Day care and summer vacation arrangements are personal decisions not school policy decisions. If there are “deep consequences” for every missed hour of high-stakes test preparation, then the stakes are too high because the test should be a tool to measure student progress not calculate program payoff.


Not so much. Children are curious and resilient creatures and they will be busy learning something during the days they are out of school. It just may not be on our curriculum map. But, hey! History has proven that snow will eventually melt even if it takes an Ice Age; Science says that 36 inches of snow is really just 3.5 inches of beautifully crystallized rain, which is a Mathematical ratio of 10:1. And every Language Arts student is likely to be asked what Robert Frost was thinking when he wrote

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

I wonder if those of us who are adults are keeping our promises to the next generation. As for the children, it’s okay if they take time to watch the woods fill up with snow.

The opinions expressed in A Place at the Table 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.