INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An extra hour here, a few minutes there or even a full day during a holiday — that’s how Indiana schools are making up the time lost to snow days.
State law requires the schools to have 180 days of instruction. But do students get much benefit from the unusual schedules?
“I’m just really happy that the school districts have had the opportunity to pick how they want to do it,” says Kathryn Moran, dean of the School of Education at the University of Indianapolis.
She has watched as area schools struggle to meet the legal mandate of 180 days. MSD of Decatur Township needs to make up five days lost to weather.
“We would rather go ahead and (increase) the instructional time during the school year right now so that we could help better prepare our students for the statewide exam,” said Matt Prusiecki, superintendent of MSD of Decatur Township.
Along with canceling two holidays, Decatur Township is adding an extra hour once a week for the final 12 weeks of the year, which gives them credit for two more days. Other districts are doing it differently, sometimes adding as little as 20 minutes a day.
“To think about introducing a new topic and having them do something with that, apply it in a new situation. Maybe do some group work. Sure, you could do that in 20 minutes time, easily,” says Moran.
Moran says students have an attention span of about 20 minutes, so even a small amount of extra instruction time makes a difference. What matters most, she says, is what teachers do with that time.
“To say they need the time in the classroom doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a time when the teacher just sits there and lectures to them. It could be time for them to do more collaboration, to do work with their books,” she says.
But, she points out, teachers need to be given time to figure out how best to plan for the unusual schedule.
“I think there’s a variety of things that teachers could plan in order to take advantage of that time,” Moran says, adding it’s better to have the time than not.
Moran says one other important consideration for school districts is how the make-up time works with the school calendar and families’ lives. She said districts have to find a compromise that works for most parents. But she says, however they do it, the students will benefit from more time in class.