Auburn News* THE
NEWSPAPER OF EAST ALABAMA*10/27/98
Commentary: 1992 committee
member has more of the scoop on YRS
Lauren Lancaster Pugh, Guest columnist
Auburn City School's (ACS) Strategic
Planning Committee of 1992 studied ramifications of year-round schooling (YRS)
in Auburn and determined we did not need it. The Auburn School Board agreed,
and it was rejected.
Why is year-round school being
considered again? What in our community/schools has changed in six years to
warrant even exploiting the possibility of adopting a year-round school plan?
The Auburn City School System already made this journey in 1992 and decided it
was a dead end for the community.
Has the new 1998 committee currently
looking at YRS even received the 1992 study? Where are the 1992 data, research,
findings, reports and documentation of the School Board's rejection of ~S? As a
member of the 1992 committee, I would like these questions answered.
The current committee needs to do a
detailed, point-by-point follow-up comparison of current data and conclusions
with was what compiled in the 1992 study. If findings are the same, then we
should have another rejection of YRS in 1998.
The composition of Auburn citizens
sitting on the 1992 and 1998 committees appears to be the same. Methods and
types of data collected and studied also seems the same, although pro posed
1998 surveys of Auburn's general public have yet to be done. The 1998 committee
has hired an outside firm to analyze their survey. The 1992 committee's survey
was analyzed by Auburn University.
Without change from 1992-98, where is
the need to re-explore YRS? The most significant change between 1992 and 1998
is the make-up of Auburn's administration. We have new people at the helm.
Perhaps they never heard of or didn't regard the 1992 study as important. When
I inquired at the School Board office, nobody seemed to know much about the
1992 study, and they couldn't produce the actual papers, bound reports and
The 1992 study determined that the only
viable benefit of YRS was the possibility students might experience less
learning retention loss due to shorter break periods. However, numerous
drawbacks to traditional community culture and family lifestyles resulting from
YRS would far outweigh the one possible benefit. It was determined in 1992 that
YRS would upset so many aspects of Auburn's culture that most people having
knowledgeable input into the study rejected the idea vehemently.
One significant point we discovered in
1992 was that teachers in the Auburn City School System, when surveyed about
YRS, were reluctant to voice a negative opinion unless the survey was
anonymous. Several said it was the consensus of many of their colleagues that
they were afraid to voice any negative opinions for fear of retribution from
Auburn's school administration. Teachers felt the administration was pushing
for experimenting with YRS, and the administration wanted teacher support.
Teachers questioned openly, with their
names attached to their opinions, said it would be nice for them not to have to
re-teach every fall. But these same teachers expressed a different view when
they knew their administrative superiors were not going to know that they
absolutely didn't want YRS because it would upset so many aspects of school
functions as well as their own personal lives.
Teachers are especially worried how
they would secure advanced degrees without the long summer break. This was in
1992. Has the 1998 committee questioned Auburn's teachers both on and off the
It was suggested in 1992 that the
reason Auburn was considering YRS at all was just because California had
switched to YRS, and the country always follows California's lead. It was
expressed by some that the education academics in Auburn (a forceful minority
in our town) wanted to implement and explore "new visions" in
education so they could all write papers on the experience and share their
results with the country.
In 1992, it was largely felt that
Auburn was being set up as a "guinea pig" for the newest
"fad" in education. The townspeople and majority of educators in
Auburn, once informed about YRS and surveyed for their opinions, expressed to
the 1992 committee that they did not want or need YRS. The proposed change was
totally rejected-- nixed!
The 1992 rejection of YRS was not based
on stubborn resistance to change but due to a demonstrated lack of need in
Auburn for YRS.
The 1992 committee gathered data from
many school systems nationwide which had YRS already in place for several
years. In almost every case, those systems had adopted YRS because they needed
it to solve problems other than learning retention loss during school breaks.
For example, California needed YRS to
reduce overcrowding of students in their existing facilities. Due to influx of
Hispanics and Asians to the California population without an associated
increase in the tax base, there were way too many new children attending school
and no new funds with which to build additional facilities. California invented
YRS to systematically rotate kids through their existing facilities.
Buildings were in use 12 months but
kids shuttled though in nine-month shifts. Some children were even divided
between early morning and late afternoon/evening classes--just to accommodate
the sheer numbers of children using a limited number of buildings.
Academics were not the predominant
factor for California implementing YRS. In fact, this "multi-track"
type of YRS resulted in reduced overall academic performance. The above
scenario was studied by Auburn in 1992 and has again been documented by the
current committee's findings.
The 1998 committee so far has out lined
three predominant reasons for schools nationwide needing YRS:
retention loss during long summer breaks for "at-risk"
children.3. Trying out new
management and teaching methods.
Auburn clearly doesn't qualify for
needs one and three.
Need No. 2 could be resolved in Auburn
1. Teachers doing some re-teaching each
fall. Most (if properly surveyed) will admit they'd rather re-teach than give
up their long summer break.
2. Implementing good old-fashioned
summer school for "at-risk" kids. Auburn has already identified their
27% "at-risk" pupils as those with low test scores or those from low
This would leave the rest of Auburn's
students to enjoy the traditional nine month school year and all aspects of our
culture that always have and always will be affected by our school calendar.
It was suggested in the 1992 study
that, instead of YRS to prevent learning retention loss during the long sum mer
break, Auburn could identify "at-risk" students and either offer to
them or require that they attend remedial training during the summer. In 1992,
Auburn University was interested in assisting this purpose by providing: some
staff and facilities. Also, Auburn City School teachers who wanted extra income
for summer months could sign up to work the summer remedial term.
This is called "summer
school" as we have all known it for years and years. Auburn would not have
to do studies to investigate the practicality or success of summer school. It
has always worked nationwide. To emphasize the importance and impact we seek
from a remedial summer term, we might dub it "serious summer school"
and back the name with enforcement so attending kids won't come just for
supervised goofing off. This would leave the rest of Auburn's students and the
general public to enjoy the traditional nine month school calendar and
activities so associated.
Auburn does not have an overcrowding
problem. When we need more and better facilities, we fund and build them. We
are lucky to have the tax base and community support to provide for these types
of needs without having to resort to YRS. Part of the reason we have a generous
tax base is because Auburn has always had a reputation for having great public
schools --people move here to take advantage of the school system. Generally,
they pay taxes to attend our schools.
If the system is changed to YRS, people
(including teachers) will move away to find a traditional system and the
school's tax base might be in jeopardy. This would be crucial since Auburn has
indicated a need for a second high school some time within the next ten years.
Where would the funding come from? If the funding is not there, would we be
forced to multi track YRS like California? Auburn might not recover from
mandating radical negative changes to our community, like implementing
The 1992 and the current committee both
found that many schools nation wide which adopted YRS later switched back
because of lack of community support and negated improvements in the
educational system itself. Auburn should learn from these examples and not put
the city through the trials of trying out a new system just to say we
"tried it" when there is clearly no demonstrated need or desire by
the Auburn public to engage in such a conversion.
Few meetings of the current commit tee
have been open for public questions/input. October PTA meetings will provide
forums where the public can explore YRS. The 1998 committee is to make a
recommendation to the Auburn School Board with a board decision to be rendered
by December. The board's decision will be mandated after considering the
committee's report alone.
As it now stands, there is no formal
avenue for the general public to make their "vote" known in this
matter. We are allowed the privilege of voting on tax increases to fund our
city schools. We should be afforded the same crucial "vote" regarding
year-round schooling, since it will affect much more than our finances -- it
will be our lifestyles.
The 1998 committee has mailed out to
some Auburn citizens (parents of students?) a lengthy recap of the 1998 study
and findings. What the commit tee has not done yet, but proposes to do soon, is
to study need to take time to review it and be prepared for the survey as this
might be Auburn's only (closed) referendum.
Now, before the December board
decision, concerned citizens need to attend their October PTA meeting, draw up
and sign petitions outlining and recognizing "votes" for or against
YRS. The board should be presented with these petitions and use them as a guide
for what the public wants.
If the board does not fully explore and
use the consensus of Auburn's general public, and YRS is implemented and the
public didn't want it, then the board will have failed Auburn's citizens and
YRS will surely fail in Auburn since studies nationwide have shown that YRS
fails in systems without community support.
Auburn is not used to failure. Auburn's
school board should not fail to secure and use vast, informed public input in
its decision making.
On a personal note, I'd like to further
identify myself, besides having served on the 1992 committee, as someone who
knows more than just a little about Auburn schools.
I grew up attending Auburn City Schools
(AHS Class of 1970) as did my father (Class of 1945). My grandfather was a 1922
AU graduate and was dean of Auburn University's Architecture School during the
1940's. My family has put a lot of years into community service, including
support of the education system offered in our community. We care.
My dad and granddad were architects for
most city schools in this town. I can tell you that if it were not for the long
summer school breaks (the best weather/building months) allowing for new
construction and renovation dead lines to be met, there would have been havoc
on many school opening days. Auburn needs long summer breaks to get
construction work done on facilities.
For years, I was married to a high
school teacher and coach. He also graduated from AHS and now teaches and is
athletic director at an Alabama junior college. So, I have an inside scoop on
how school calendars affect teachers' lives and athletic and recreational
programs. My ex has always worked a second job during summers to supplement his
teaching salary. Summers were also when he was able to earn his masters degree.
My ex and I both worked feverishly at
summer jobs in 1972, earning and saving enough money so we could get married
that fall and pay his tuition for college. Without the long summer break and
job earnings we could never have been able to afford getting married. Those
three months' earnings carried us through a year's expenses.
My sister (AHS class of 1972) was in
the band and was a cheerleader. She attended either band camp or cheer leading
clinic each summer.
My two daughters have attended Auburn
schools since Kindergarten and are now at Auburn High School. I've served on
PTA committees, been room mother and worked with church groups which plan
activities around school terms. I also work for a living, accounting for head
start, which pro vides early education for younger children in lower income
families and provides literacy training for families.
While my daughters were in elementary
school, we moved away from Auburn with my new husband. I refused to move to
California, with their year-round schools, because my girls could not have
spent any long breaks with their dad back in Alabama. I felt long stretches of
time (summer) were necessary for my girls to maintain a secure bond with their
father. Shorter trips would not have nurtured that important relationship.
Also, in our situation, both families
could only afford one set of expensive plane tickets per year (summer) for a
trip back to Alabama. In California, there would have been four short trips,
costing three times as much plane fare. Thus, we moved to Texas and Oregon
where traditional school calendars were still in force. So, you see, we have
experienced other school systems. Auburn schools are so great. They are always
wonderful to come home to.
Both of my daughters had jobs this past
summer. They continue to work weekends and days after school, but they are
looking forward to next sum mer, earning lots of money for clothes (and maybe
to help mom pay car insurance for two teen-age drivers and our two extra cars).
Summer income helps!
Everybody in Auburn has some tie to the
schools in Auburn. Our town was founded on education and what it offers the
community academically, socially, culturally, economically, etc. Everyone has
their own story and opinion about how schools here affect their lives. Mine is
We all care, we all need to speak out
and we all need to he heard. Our Auburn School Board needs to listen.