Sunday, April 5, 2009

Playing Games with Scholastic Numbers

Schools Matter is running this little blurb ...
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer Alfred Lubrano
Students in Pennsylvania schools can eat breakfast in their first class of the day with a teacher present and it will be counted as instructional time, the Department of Education has announced.
Wow. I'm fine with the idea of giving them something to eat. I think the cafeteria should be open before school and kids with free-and-reduced lunch should be given a chance to eat. (Actually, any kid should get a chance to eat something.)

But to call it instructional time if the kid's in a classroom? Seems a bit funny to me. I allow my students to have coffee or closed drinks in the classroom and occasionally one will ask to eat lunch there, but it definitely gets in the way. Students cannot multitask even at this level.

If you insist on counting instructional minutes, and that's of debatable utility, it's a joke to count this time as instructional. By the same logic, I would think you could count the bus ride, too, if there were a teacher or aide chaperoning the special needs kid in the front seat.
The new ruling is important because many principals typically have resisted in-class breakfast service, saying it detracted from instructional time. Numerous studies show that breakfast is vital to learning and that in-class service has proved the most effective means of getting children to eat the meal, said Leah Harris, a department spokeswoman. Seizing on the change, Philadelphia advocates for the hungry say the city school district should mandate breakfast service during the first class every day.

It does detract from instructional time.
It is vital to learning.
You just can't count eating as instruction. Mandating that it happen every day during first period is tantamount to accepting that first period is not an instructional time and that you've essentially created a homeroom with food.

I love this part: evaluation based on providing food.
"It should be required throughout the system," said Jonathan Stein, a lawyer with Community Legal Services long involved in school-meal programs. "And principals should be evaluated on whether they ensure children eat breakfast."

And then the real kicker ...
The Inquirer reported last week that principals typically push in-class food service during testing periods, when their performance is being judged. But during the rest of the year, they don't seem to make the same effort to ensure that children eat morning meals. . . .

"Teach and the test will take care of itself."

Anything done ONLY before testing is not going to help the kids. If you do it every day, then you can help long-term learning and that's what testing really measures. Testing does not measure anything crammed at the last minute. Practicing the released questions incessantly doesn't help. Performance is not effected by giving the kid a donut on test day. You can prepare them by showing them the type of question, but those who just drill the questions without teaching the material risk looking like Mrs. Crabapple.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the bus ride may be more valid as instructional time. A lot of my students read on the bus, and that's homework. It's a lot harder to explain what they learn from eating breakfast.