System pleased with additional school days

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2006

An additional five days of school may not seem like much, but Superintendent Mike Looney feels the new calendar year will even the academic playing field between Alabama and its neighboring states.

&#8220Absolutely, it will make a difference,” said Looney. &#8220When you compare test scores in Alabama with those of the states around us, we're not where we need to be.”

Gov. Bob Riley signed the bill into law in April. Previously, Alabama was one of three states in the nation that had a school calendar of less than 180 days. Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi all have school years of 180 days or more.

Looney said the additional five days adds up to &#822035 more hours of instruction” for students, which is needed for some children who struggle to grasp crucial material.

But Looney said Butler County school administrators are trying to go beyond the school calendar and instill in students the desire to learn year-round.

&#8220We're trying to make learning constant,” said Looney. &#8220They way it's been in the past is you have to come to school X number of days for X number of hours. But learning has been negotiable. We want to make every second of the day count, so that our students are always learning.”

Looney said the school system is in the process of planning several county wide summer programs, focusing on art, music, drama and computer skills.

&#8220For a lot of kids nine months is not enough to get the job done,” he said. &#8220We're trying to blend fun activities with core learning.”

Looney said the intent is to get children excited about learning year-round.

&#8220There's so much of a drop off in the summer months,” he said. &#8220We have kids who walk into kindergarten two or three years behind in social skills and life skills. We have to teach them those skills along with the regular curriculum. We have to get these kids caught up where they need to be before entering kindergarten.”

The Butler County Board of Education adopted the 2006-07 system wide calendar on April 20, amending the previously adopted calendar to include the five additional days.

School starts on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006 and ends on Friday, May 25, 2007. Teachers begin work on Aug. 7 and work through May 30, 2007.

Gov. Bob Riley, when signing the bill into law, said the five additional school days would make Alabama students more competitive.

&#8220Our students and teachers are held to the same standards as those in all other states. Expecting them to accomplish the same amount of work and reach the same goals in fewer days never made sense and it wasn't fair to our students or their teachers,” Riley said.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D – Luverne) said he was pleased to support the legislation.

&#8220With important issues like these you have to rely on experts,” he said. &#8220All the superintendents, all of the principals and all of the boards were for this so when you have that many qualified people for something, you have to say this is a good thing.”

Dr. Joe Morton, State Superintendent, praised the law.

&#8220We've dreamed of a day when Alabama students would have the same number of days in school as other students in the nation. We've lagged behind for too long,” he said. &#8220We're expected to be competitive and this levels the playing field tremendously.”