New York parents facing unanticipated/more school hours for their children just as school ends for the year

Parents in ten New York school districts are facing more school hours or unanticipated schooling just as the school year is wrapping up for their students.

Some parents in the Middletown School District are upset at receiving notification during the last week of school that their children, including kindergartners, are expected to attend summer school starting on July 7.

Thursday was the last day of class for elementary school children in the Middletown School District, but some primary-grade parents are reeling from a last-minute surprise — their kids will have to attend a mandatory summer school intervention to go on to the next grade.

Many parents whose kids were identified for the summer intervention didn’t get notification until Wednesday.  – recordonlne.com

The Middletown superintendent apologized for the delay in notification but it still impacts vacation and other summer plans of the families who are now finding out that their students are expected to attend summer school.

The fact that kindergarten students are expected to attend summer school, especially at the rate indicated in the article (about 600 students in the K-2 program), is absolutely astounding!

The children in the summer program are identified based on local math and English language assessment tests administered three times a year, Eastwood said. He said the district is committed to addressing academic insufficiencies in grades K-2 to head off academic failure, and that’s where summer school money will be allocated.

What is happening to our educational system that kindergartners can not even spend time playing during the summer?  I know that there are many who advocate for some amount of schooling during the summer but please take a look at this article titled ‘Why Free Play is the Best Summer School’ for a different perspective.  Young children might not be learning reading, writing and arithmetic when they are engaged in ‘free play’ but the research cited indicates that they miss out on important skill developments when they do not have that unscheduled, unsupervised playtime.  Dr. Peter Gray even goes so far as associating the dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play with other children, without adult direction, with the dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. – video here

On a local note, Kingston Action For Education has just learned that the Extended Learning Time grant winners were announced on June 26 (the last day of school for Kingston other than the high school!) and the new schedules are expected to be implemented in the 9 school districts awarded the grants in September.  View the list of winners here .

All awardees are adding time to the traditional school day, the state department official said. In addition, the Auburn district will also extend the school year by a week in August and the Utica district will also add time during the summer; and Yonkers will also hold some Saturday classes and add time during winter and spring breaks.

You may recall that many concerns were raised by Kingston parents regarding this grant earlier this school year when parents discovered that the Kingston school district had submitted an application.  Kingston parents were told that there would be an opportunity for discussion of the implementation, should the grant be awarded, but enough concerns were raised that the school district decided to withdraw the grant application.

Thank you to all the Kingston parents who expressed concerns and planned to participate in the extended learning time grant rally scheduled for March 19 which precipitated withdrawal of the grant.  Now we do not have to spend our summer months figuring out how to deal with upcoming schedule changes of potential concern to parents and students.

I am curious to learn how the schedule changes for the nine districts receiving the grants will impact the families within those school districts so I picked the Utica school district at random (one of the winning districts) and did a quick search for news articles related to the extended learning time grant.  I only found one article regarding the extended learning time grant for Utica, dated October 24, 2013, and there were parents both opposed to and in favor of the grant according to the article.  There was talk of a possible public forum being held for parents if the district was awarded the grant but of course at the time of the article, the winners were expected to be announced by January 2014.  I am rather surprised that there are no news articles since the announcement of the winners on Wednesday but since everyone was focused on finishing school, perhaps there might not have been time for anyone to think about the grant yet.  I hope that the required changes will prove positive for the families of the affected school districts.