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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|The Cost Of Getting To School
Today's Rocky Mountain News contains this in-depth article titled "School Transit Crunch." The main intent of the article seems to be to point out the increasing costs school districts are facing in relation to transportation, and how that's having a bad effect on school budgets.
Some nuggets from within the article:
"With CSAPs, there's been such a focus on the academic side of education," Wilcox [Adams 12 Transportation Director] said of the state's standardized testing program. "As legislators focus on that side, they've got the same choices we have.
Um. . .er. . .yes. Not sure where to go with this quote. Would he be saying that maybe transportation should get a highr priority than adcademics? Or that it should somehow factor into to major program decisions? Of course, that's absurd, and I don't think that's what he's saying. Nonetheless, those of us in the schools are constantly amused/amazed/bewildered by how the bussing schedule seems to dictate huge parts of our lives. More on this below.
Charter schools spur worries
Little's main safety concerns involve charter schools, which are independently operated public schools.
Although he inspects school district buses every five years, he says he's had time to inspect buses of only two of more than 90 Colorado charter schools, and both had major problems, such as incomplete driver, repair and maintenance records.
This was a whole sub-heading in the article, clearly put there to give the idea that charter schools are, in some way, "unsafe", continuing the meme that charter schools are actually bad for education.
Of course, it's only a couple paragraphs later that it is revealed that
Jim Griffin, executive director of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, says transportation is not a major problem for charters because only Pinnacle and maybe one other school run their own transportation.
A bit misleading, don't you think? By the way, having been very closely associated to a charter school and familiar with its budgeting process a few years back, it's the very fact that many services the public has latched on to as entitlements form the schools are, in fact, quite expensive and quite optional. Imagine a school where no money was going into buses, and every child had a parent on school grounds at least once a day. . . Could be a formula for success.
But the real kicker is in the last few paragraphs.
Each morning, buses pull up to Lakewood's Bear Creek High School and three other high schools by 7:05 a.m. - 10 minutes before the bell rings. The early start times allow buses to make two more runs to pick up younger students who attend other schools. But the start times are not educationally ideal. Some research shows teenagers learn better later in the day.
"Usually during second period, I'm fine," said Bear Creek freshman Alex Fouts, who wakes at 5:30 a.m. to catch the school bus a few minutes before 7. "But at the beginning of first period, you want to fall asleep. You're really tired."
Bear Creek Principal Phyllis Emrich agrees. "Seven-fifteen is too early for high school kids," she said.
First, be clear: the research is inconclusive on this count. While it is a widely held belief that older students do better later in the day, there is some research to the contrary. Nonetheless, it is ABSURD and shameful that the reason high schools start classes at 7:15 is because of the BUS SCHEDULE, while many younger students don't start until 9 am. This sort of odd scheduling is one of the many follies of public education.
And it's not for lack of effort. I've sat in on meetings where bell/bus schedules were discussed, and it's very clear that every person in the room was trying to arrive at a solution that was best for kids while being dealt an untenable set of circumstances.
I don't know what the solution to this particular problem is. But I do know two things: one, this is certainly one more area where we should be re-thinking our approach to public education; and two, as long as the decision-making process in a school is being driven by external factors which have no relation to--or concern for--the students' education, we cannot deliver a product we can be proud of.