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Bad Timing?

Sixteen Arizona school districts are encouraging parents and businesses to delay participation in an annual career-awareness program because they claim it disrupts the academic year.

The "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day, sponsored by the New York City- based Ms. Foundation, gives students a glimpse of the working world. The foundation coordinates with parents and businesses to set up activities for students that demonstrate how their classroom studies are used in the workplace.

But many school administrators in Arizona argue that the event is more disruptive than educational because the annual date—the fourth Thursday in April—occurs during testing season.

"It’s always been problematic for kids to be taken out on an instructional day," said Judi Willis, a public information officer with the Paradise Valley district. "Now that we have mandated testing, it’s even more critical because there are consequences for schools."

In a March letter, Superintendent John Kriekard informed Paradise Valley parents that the event falls "in the heart of the state standardized-testing season" and encouraged them to take their children to work over the summer instead.

As many as 50 percent of the district’s 35,000 students have been absent for the event in past years, according to Ms. Willis, making it hard for teachers to provide meaningful activities on that day.

The absences also lower the district’s daily attendance and participation rates for testing, which can adversely affect a school’s performance and make it harder to meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, she added.

But Holly Houston, the Ms. Foundation’s director of communications, said the event’s April 22 date this year isn’t the problem. "We appreciate that testing is necessary, but schools do have a choice" when it comes to selecting testing dates, she said.

The foundation holds the event during the school year so that students can share and discuss their experiences at school.

In addition, she said, students whose parents don’t work or whose companies can’t allow students at their facilities have the option of visiting other offices, which would be more difficult over the summer.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Vol. 23, Issue 32, Page 3

Published in Print: April 21, 2004, as Take Note

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