November 12, 2001
Half-day program is a bonus for everyone
I am compelled to respond to a letter you published on Oct. 8 regarding the Canyon Creek Elementary half-day Friday weekly schedule. The writer stated that the "experiment" at Canyon Creek was not working and that it's time to "bag this program." The 4 1/2 days of instruction was not enough to raise the WASL test scores and the program is a "failure." I wish it were that simple!
If I thought that the alternate schedule was responsible for the test score results, I would be the first one at the principal's door requesting that the schedule be revised back to the traditional five days of instruction.
WASL test scores are one measure of a school's success. It is important to use the data responsibly in assessing the merits of programs within the district. The writer remarked that the experiment had actually reduced performance. My calculations using aggregate scores in all categories shows an increase of 5.1 points over 1999-2000 scores with increases in three of four categories.
The alternate schedule at Canyon Creek is an overwhelming success in the eyes of the parent community who completed a survey last spring. My experience with the program is just the opposite of the writer. The coordination and lesson-planning time on Friday has resulted in a tailored reading and math program designed around my son's specific skill level. The three teachers are able to split the children into appropriate skill level groups to better address the needs of the greater amount of kids. I believe this will have a significant impact on the WASL score results. The teachers would never be able to coordinate this level of planning without the Friday afternoon block.
The Canyon Creek staff is serious about the WASL test scores. The implementation of new reading and math programs that have demonstrated success at other elementary schools is a step toward the lofty goal of a 25 percent increase across the board in all WASL categories. I am concerned that too much attention is placed on the test scores. The test scores are well above the state average. Northshore is one of the top five districts in the state. I know my child is getting a sound education. But I want my child to have a dynamic, diversified and enriched school experience. This does not always translate into test score results.
The letter referred to "cold, hard evidence in the form of performance-based standard test results" that the half-day Friday experiment is bad for students. On the contrary, the Friday half-day schedule is a bonus for students.
Teachers receive cherished planning time and the ability to share ideas and problem solve with their colleagues. Parents and families have more time together on Friday afternoons for shared activities and medical/dental appointments.
And finally, students are part of a program that believes in the collective worth of sharing ideas, information and communication. If there were one skill I could wish for my children, it would be the ability to communicate. We all know what a powerful skill that can be!
Paula Gatzemeier, Bothell