October 8, 2001
It's time to bag the half-day program
Thank you for your coverage of the WASL test scores for Northshore School District. It was interesting to note that once again Canyon Creek Elementary's test scores were in the lowest end of the district spectrum. This is particularly noteworthy because of the experiment that has been going on for the last four years at that school.
For those unfamiliar with Canyon Creek Elementary's early dismissal program, the students at Canyon Creek have been getting out at noon each Friday since 1997. Instead of attending school five days per week, our students attend school 4 1/2 days per week. The purpose of this is to allow the teachers at Canyon Creek Elementary that extra half day on Fridays to improve their lesson plans and strengthen their curriculum. We were assured that our students would all benefit immensely from the added planning time the teachers gained.
Well, guess what? Canyon Creek Elementary is second to last in their WASL test scores for 4th graders in the district, and we don't have to look much further than that half day per week experiment for the reason why.
Instead of increasing the students' performance, that 4 1/2 day school week experiment has actually reduced their performance. The students were supposed to get the same hours of class time per week by increasing the length of time by one hour that students attend school Monday through Thursday. But anyone whose child has had half a day of school at a regular school understands that half-day Fridays are actually minimum production days in terms of what the child learns those days. Teachers and students just aren't in the same frame of mind to learn if they know that they only have half a day to be there. Regardless of how the theory was supposed to work, it's clear that 4 1/2 days aren't as good for our students as five days are. It's as simple as that.
Lest you think that this year's WASL scores are an aberration, I urge you to take a look at past year's results and at other performance-based test standards. Canyon Creek's ITBS test scores last year were no stellar performance either. Cold, hard evidence in the form of performance-based standards test results, has been rolling in for several years showing that the half day Friday experiment is bad for students. This is just one more nail in the coffin.
I think that four years is long enough to prove that the half day Friday experiment wasn't a good idea. It's time to acknowledge failure and bag this program.
Kathy Chiles, Bothell