By Alexandria Osborne
WNPA News Service
OLYMPIA – Students should spend more time in school and less time on break so they retain the learning they acquire during the school year.
That’s the opinion of Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, who has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that adds five days to the school calendar.
“SB 5505 takes swift and decisive action to support learning recovery with a simple solution — providing our students with additional access to their teachers, their peers, and to dedicated support staff,” Hawkins said.
Under current law, schools are required to offer a minimum of 180 school days. Hawkins’ bill bumps that minimum to 185 days for K-12 students. And, Hawkins said, he would like to see additional reform in the future.
“If we adopted a more balanced school calendar, spreading those 180 days or even 185 days over 10 months, the students that come in as kindergarteners, by the time they leave as high school graduates, would be much better prepared for success in our global economy,” he said.
The much-loved summer break for students and teachers was first implemented more than a century ago so children could work on the family farm in summer months. But that agrarian calendar causes children to experience a summer slide and an annual learning loss, even before the pandemic, Hawkins said.
“I would love to see, ultimately, a model where we have approximately 200 state funded days in the school year,” Hawkins said. “I think we have massive learning loss that justifies something along those lines to catch these students up.”
Learning loss increased during the pandemic because students spent less time in class, said Tyler Muench, Director of Advocacy and Student Affairs for the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office.
Student achievement dropped in math and English during the pandemic, but test scores rose from the fall of 2021 to the spring of 2022, he said.
Jeannie Magdua, a founding member of Conservative Ladies of Washington, said she does not think adding additional days onto the school year will help with learning loss children experienced after having their lives disrupted by the pandemic.
“It’s too general and doesn’t seek to find out exactly what each student needs to regain the learning that was lost,” she said. “It would be better, I think, to create a fund that parents could access to hire private tutors to help their children catch up with the learning that was denied them during the shutdown.”
Hawkins said he has two children in the K-12 system, and teachers in his district said there are students who are up to four years behind grade level, he said.
“They are middle school, junior high teachers, and they really need a curriculum for elementary math. That’s how significant of a problem we have,” he said.
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