Classroom Deadtime Is Real, But Fixable

Classroom Deadtime Is Real, But Fixable

Monday, March 20, 2017

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Classroom Deadtime Is Real, But Fixable
Treasure Coast Palm
By: Shawn R. Frost

I entered the teaching profession through a non-traditional route, hoping to make a difference in the lives of children after leading a successful career in business. The next two years as a classroom teacher opened my eyes to several barriers that limit the success of students and teachers.

Some barriers, like the poverty into which many of our students are born, can’t be fixed overnight. But I found that several classroom barriers are fixable. The biggest one: classroom deadtime.

Classroom deadtime is the time between when a student takes a statewide assessment and the last day of the school year. In some districts, this window can be two months long. That’s two months of learning lost and two months of knowledge not captured on annual assessments.

Why? Because Florida’s testing window starts far too early in the spring semester, Feb. 28 this year, to be exact.

During classroom deadtime, teachers fight an uphill battle to keep students on track after months of cramming to make sure all material is covered before the assessment. It’s difficult to hold the student’s focus when teachers can no longer answer the age-old question — i.e., “Will this be on the test?” — in the affirmative.

Thankfully, there is a solution, and it comes in the form of legislation to improve and focus assessments: Senate Bill 926 and House Bill 773. Both pieces of proposed legislation call for moving K-12 statewide assessments to the last three weeks of the school year.

Moving the assessment back will do at least three things to directly improve classroom instruction. First, it will eliminate deadtime, giving teachers more time to teach. Second, it will eliminate the need to cram material before the test, giving students more time to learn. Third, it will signal to students and their families that statewide assessments are in place to measure a year's worth of knowledge in a year’s worth of time.

I call on legislators to pass this commonsense legislation for fewer, better tests, and to give Florida’s educators the one thing that inspired them to join the teaching profession in the first place: more time to make a difference in the lives of their students.

As a school board member, I can tell you the testing issue is one of the foremost topics of concern for parents, teachers and students within the district. These bills will give teachers time to teach, students time to learn and parents feedback that will help them help their children achieve.

Shawn R. Frost is vice chairman of the Indian River County School Board and currently serves as president of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, which advocates for accountability with reason as one of its core values. 

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