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Chatham Board of Education sabotages students

By William "Chip" Pate
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - It’s hard to believe that community leaders elected and appointed to promote educational excellence would sabotage the students they’re supposed to serve, but that’s precisely what Chatham County school officials and the Board of Education have done.

And apparently they don't care one bit.

Despite knowing about the potential conflict, these "leaders" scheduled next year’s spring break immediately before Advanced Placement exams. That means high school sophomores, juniors and seniors will return after 10 days away from the classroom and walk straight into college-level finals. Students will have no chance to get back into their academic routines, attend review sessions or get last-minute advice from teachers.

The AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science exams are that Monday morning at 8 a.m. AP Psychology begins at noon. Good luck, folks.

Our 'leaders" have failed. It could cost some of our students college credit, much-needed flexibility later in their education and a lot of money, since credit from AP exams allows many families to avoid paying for courses later.

All they needed to do was schedule the break the week before Easter, as many area school systems already have done (see below for a list) — a very minor change to accommodate next year’s later holiday.

It’s not acceptable to use the excuse that "we've always done it like that" or "most people wanted it that way." That may be fine when there’s no educational interest in play, but never when there’s a compelling instructional reason to choose one option over another. You can imagine the board's response if "most people" wanted to be out of school the week before End of Grade tests!

Decisions like these reverberate far beyond the many students now facing important exams without the opportunity to prepare adequately. How do you possibly convince relocating families and businesses that Chatham County has a quality school system when student achievement clearly doesn’t matter?

What's worse, these leaders don't care. After making this argument to board members and asking for a change in the calendar — in postal mail and e-mail, with copies to the superintendent — not one board member or school official responded in any way whatsoever. Silence. I guess when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, there's simply nothing to say.

For the record, based on research provided to me, only four school systems in the area sabotaged their students with a spring break running from April 25 to 29 (through May 1 counting the weekend): Randolph County, Harnett County, Asheboro City and Chatham County.

And, it probably isn't too shocking that these districts also posted the lowest average SAT scores in the area. (This might suggest something about whether academic achievement is valued.)

Here are some schools or districts that looked out for their students (and have higher average SAT scores than Chatham):

* April 18-25: Lee County, Guilford County, Alamance-Burlington and Raleigh Charter (Wake)

* April 18-22: Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg

* March 28-April 1: Orange County, Moore County, Chapel Hill- Carrboro and Winston-Salem/Forsyth

* March 21-25: Woods Charter (Chatham)

It's something worth remembering when we hear about Chatham County Schools "collectively creating success," as its website boasts — and when it's time again to visit the polls.

 
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