Academic rigor: a top American priority...just a little behind tourism
There is nothing about the criticism of public education that makes me angrier than the hypocrisy inherent in some of it. Public education is often treated, especially by politicians, as if it is completely divorced from the rest of the public. The public is demanding high standards, but because of laziness or incompetence, those of us in the schools fail to deliver what the public wants. Baloney! I have argued that the major reason public education isn't better, especially when it comes to test scores, is because we try so hard to give our various publics what they really want.
No word is more in vogue these days when it comes to public education than "rigor." Everybody wants more academic rigor. In fact, they don't just want it, they demand it. Politicians demand it, American business demands it, colleges demand it, and if you ask Joe Blow on the street, he'll probably say he's for it, too. Everybody wants more academic rigor from our public schools...unless, as this USA Today article shows, it means that someone might be inconvenienced.
After a swing toward starting the school year earlier, sometimes as early as the first week of August, momentum has grown in several states to begin school later in August or after Labor Day.
Pressure from parents and the tourism industry has pushed 11 states to limit how early school may begin, rankling school boards that want local control and more time to prepare students for state-mandated tests.
This year, new laws took effect in Florida, where the 67 public school districts may not begin classes earlier than 14 days before Labor Day, and Texas, where the 1,033 public school districts may not begin until the fourth week in August.
In Michigan, a law enacted last year said the 838 school districts must begin classes after Labor Day.
Other states, including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, are debating the start date.
Before I go on, I should say that I've read that concern about August heat is a factor is some places, and that is a legitimate concern. But Minnesota passed one of these laws, and August heat is not a major factor here. I think the USA Today article has it right. The major reason for these laws is pressure from parents and the tourism industry.
This is typical of the hypocritical demands that those of us in public schools face. Yeah, everybody wants academic rigor, alright. Some people want academic rigor, but not if it interferes with the amount of money their kids can make by cutting their summer jobs short. Some people want more rigor, but only if it doesn't interfere with their kids' "part-time" jobs during the school year. Some people want more rigor, but only if it doesn't interfere with the amount of time and effort they want their kids to put into their sports or other activities. Some people want more rigor, but not if it's going to mean they can't take their two-week vacation in the middle of the school year. Some people want more rigor, but not if it means they can no longer take their vacations in late August. And finally, some people want more rigor, but not if it's going to mean the tourist industry might take a slight hit.
Does the American public, as a whole, really want more academic rigor in our public schools? Give me a break!