Crossposted at RethinkLearningNow
Snow days are pretty common where I live. Last year, between ice and snow, I think we had two weeks of them plus about a dozen delayed starts. This year, in some bizarre natural phenomenon, we’ve had none. Until today. Today, the 16th of February, we have our first snow day of the year (based more on the anticipated intensity of the storm at the end of the day than the actual amount of snow on the ground this morning). Sitting with my kids this morning watching the first flakes fall, I’m struck by how different today feels than the snow days last February. Last year, snow days resulted in groans and frustration and a growing awareness that we’d be in school until July if it kept up. By the end of winter, we were looking at a June 26th or 27th Last Day of School and, even though every teacher, paraprofessional and administrator I know did their best during those late June days, I can’t say that the kids were focused on learning anything past the end of the second week. Those last days were about time, not about learning- in spite of New Hampshire’s movement towards the awarding of credit by demonstration of competency rather than seat time. We may believe that seat time doesn’t ensure learning, but our policies and our systems haven’t caught up.
This year, other parts of the country are dealing with the snow day issue. States more used to heat closing than snow are going to find themselves in the shoes we wore last year. Maybe once the rest of country experiences what those of us in the North have lived with for years, we’ll see a shift in perspective away from measuring educational effort in terms of numbers of days, minutes or hours in school each year and towards an real assessment of the quality of the educational experiences offered and the demonstration of what has actually been learned.