“The opportunity for us to make up seven days, in our judgement, is not there ... What we have considered is making up three days because of the difficulty some of our students are having [academically],” Superintendent Howard Hinesley said.
Hinesley elaborated by saying Criterion Referenced Competency Tests and End of Course Tests were a determining factor in his proposal to the school board to make up the days on two Saturdays. He said extending individual school days to make up the time would not be as adequate as providing two additional days of instruction and that the days eyed for make up were based on previously scheduled or board-approved student activities.
“We are a school system, not a system of schools, and each one of these discussions we had for each of these options. It impacted the primary [school] differently than the high school, the middle school differently from the elementary [school] ...,” Hinesley said. “The good news is I wrote a letter to the state and they did move, at our request, the CRCT test and they moved it, basically, because we are going to have a large number of middle school students that will not be at school, some for as long as a full week or portions of a week, going on a tour of Georgia, a Cincinnati, Ohio, choir trip, and [a band performance], so we’ll have a fairly large number of students who will be out the last week of April.
“We cannot move the End of Course Test for high school; it will be given on schedule and it begins right around the first week of May. Having said that, we got the principals together and started looking at what our options are.”
He said employee days cannot be waived.
“Even if you forgive these days, we have to figure out a way to give these employees work or they won’t get paid,” Hinesley said. “Part of our discussion was instruction — and that was the most important thing — and part of our discussion was being good custodians of the taxpayers money because most people expect when they pay taxes to get a full share of what they pay for,” Hinesley said. “... There’s absolutely no question that we realize none of these options are good. We realize that they do cause hardships for lots of activities that are planned on weekends — if you took Spring Break you’d have the same thing — but what drove this decision more than anything was the need for quality instructional time.”
Cartersville Middle School Assistant Principal Deborah Malone spoke on behalf of CMS in regard to needing full instructional days to help more than 300 students better prepare for the CRCT.
“Specifically, our CMS data shows that schoolwide we have approximately 150 students who have failed at least one portion of the CRCT in the 2013 school year and approximately 60 students per grade level who have been identified at risk. This equates to approximately 330 students who CMS has designed an educational plan of action [for] to support the individual needs of our students this school year,” Malone said. “The make-up instructional days, coupled with the changes in the testing window for the CRCT, will allow our teachers and administrators to support these endeavors and meet the educational needs of our students.”
After presenting the superintendent’s plan and hearing from educators, the board opened the floor to public comment. Many parents said they already had paid for their children to participate in activities on the scheduled Saturdays and questioned why events such as prom or school trips could not be rescheduled and received preferential treatment, to which Hinesley replied the reason being his proposal was based on school activities.
Parents expressed the schedule does conflict with personal and community events, for example, Cartersville Little League’s opening day. Those in attendance asked if a student in high school has perfect attendance why they cannot miss the school day and be granted amnesty, referencing students being able to miss final exams based on performance and attendance. Hinesley said students being allowed to miss their final exams based on performance and attendance is a school policy and not a board policy.
Beyond concern that their children will have to miss school based on previously planned activities, other parents were concerned that their young children are having increased anxiety due to the pressures of the CRCT and need time to decompress over two days before returning to school.
One of several in attendance, junior Nicholas Wade, said he supported an extended day.
“I know for me personally and for many of my fellow classmates [sitting] behind me that, if you extended the time, we would learn a lot more, but I’m not sure how much we would learn on weekends,” Wade said. “Truthfully, on Friday my brain is checked out most of the time ..., but I do like to think we would try really hard if we went on Saturdays — we would give it our all, but I don’t see how we could fully focus if all we were thinking of is, ‘Why are we here? I don’t want to be here; this is terrible.’”
He said extending the time would be a better option because students would have more time to work through advanced level classes and have more time with instructors.
Hinesley said students who miss the scheduled Saturdays will not receive zeros, that tests will not be given, but absences that are not accompanied by a doctor’s excuse or another acceptable excuse per board and school policy will count as unexcused absences.