The state-appointed special master of New London Public Schools wants to restore three specialist positions to the district to help bridge an achievement gap that he said was caused in part by the lack of full 5-day weeks in the school calendar.
Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master appointed to the district by the Connecticut Department of Education, said at Thursday's Board of Education meeting that he was taken aback when he saw how many half-days the district calendar has, noting that only 15 out of the 36 weeks of school are full weeks.
“I was shocked because I had never seen a calendar in our state before that has so many incomplete days and incomplete weeks,” Adamowski told the board.
“Not only do we have a calendar where the minimum requirement of 180 days has been reduced to about 168 days of actual instruction, but we have a calendar that does not have continuity in terms of the kind of routine and security that a student needs to be able to repeat the same thing every day," he said. "There are just too many breaks and too many half-days.”
Adamowski said there has been a tremendous amount of research done in the last five years dealing with the amount of instructional time a student needs. One of the things learned from this research is “that children respond and do better with the more instructional time they have.”
The students who need the most instructional time are the “low-income students” compared to higher-income students so they can “close the achievement gap,” Adamowski said.
He mentioned that the other big part in time research is regression, which means “we can’t pick up exactly where we left off.”
“In all of us, there seems to be if we learn or are learning something and we stop learning it, in most cases for three to four weeks, we experience what psychologists call regression, which means we can’t pick up exactly where we left off.”
He has asked Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Fischer to look at the second half of the current school year plus the 2013-2014 school year to develop a calendar that “maximizes the minimum requirement of 180 days of instruction as more complete days of school and fewer half days.”
Adamowski said the district successfully applied for and was awarded a "time learning" grant, which will bring people to New London later in the year to work with the district to add approximately 300 hours of instructional time. By adding these hours, it can cause “a significant jump in student achievement,” he said.
Adamowski also wants to restore at least three specialist positions, which he said will be “a good thing for the children” and will help with the 300 hours of instructional time. These positions would be restored by a reallocation of the current budget. There were three areas in the budget where this reallocation could be done, he said, but didn’t mention the areas.
“I think it is incumbent upon the district to do this first before spending money on a longer day, a longer year, or a combination of the two.