As Alamosa Schools continue to struggle with lagging performance, parents again ask questions as to why certain policies are enacted in the system. Most recently, parents have asked about the proposed calendar for the 2013-2014 school year.
For the past few years, Alamosa School District has implemented early release days. According to a Valley Courier article, in the 2011-2012 school year, students were released early 14 days out of the calendar school year. This year students will be released early 32 days out of the calendar school year.
Some parents have argued this “is too much.” Yet, after 14 early release days in 2011-2012, Alamosa Schools doubled that number.
Early release days are scheduled to allow for the scheduling of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) — or teacher enrichment sessions. Because teachers are required to attend the enrichment sessions, students must be released from school, losing contact time and learning.
To be fair, PLC meetings operate fairly under the Colorado Compulsory School Attendance Law that minimally requires elementary students to attend school for 968 hours and secondary students for 1,056 hours. Rough data shows that with the PLC and early release days Alamosa Schools are still within the law. But, should we aim for the bare minimum?
Although well intentioned, this model still focuses on the wrong issues. For one reason or another, Alamosa continues to ignore the real issues with performance.
It seems now that Alamosa School District has focused their solutions towards creating better teachers through PLC-type programs and other models that have been tried and failed. Teachers have taken the bulk of criticism for the lack of progress Alamosa students have made over the years.
The facts remain true, however. As long as there is standardized testing, Alamosa Schools will continue to look like they are failing. Is it truly fair to compare TCAP and CSAP scores to schools like Cherry Creek and Adams 12 in the Denver Metro area? Is it truly the teachers’ fault that Alamosa cannot afford more adequate books, supplies, and technology? Is it the teachers’ fault that Alamosa is a lower income area?
Instead, Alamosa continues to take students out of the classroom in order to enrich the teachers. If progress continues to lag from Alamosa students, shouldn’t the answer be more time in the classroom and more time with the teachers, not less? Shouldn’t we focus more on the areas where our students struggle? Shouldn’t we focus more on how to work around the demographics that hinder education — lower income, school funding, and ESL?
It’s baffling that Alamosa Schools continue to separate the teachers from the students. Instead of letting teachers teach, Alamosa enriches them. Instead of letting students learn, Alamosa sends them to the streets early.
It’s time to focus less on teacher education and more on student education.