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Dr. Eugene White
Superintendent Indianapolis Public Schools
2007 President American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
 

Fellow Educators, Officers, Leaders and friends, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today. The focus or theme of my presentation is:

Knowing the Way

And Trying to Get There

There are two reasons for my presence here today. One: I am the current President of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and it's nice to speak to other educators during my moment of importance or during my title period. However the second and most important reason is because Dr. Ann Grooms asked me to come and share some thoughts with you.    Dr. Grooms is one of my teachers and a trusted colleague. I am truly honored to be with you.

In the field of public education: Is knowing what to do enough? Is knowing how to do it enough? Can one operate on the theory of "Knowing better is to do better?" The answer to all these questions is "no." As I speak to you today I know that "Year Round Education" provides tremendous benefits for my school district, but the facts and knowledge aren't enough to implement the program in the manner needed for greatest success. Today I know how to create an educational program that will add learning time and reduce the loss of that which has been learned. I know how to create a program that will extend learning time for remediation and enrichment. I know how to implement a program that will give poorer students more hope for success and advanced students more opportunities for growth and greatness. You see, I am caught in a conundrum. I know better, but the politics and forces of the status quo are preventing me from doing better. I know the way and I am trying to get there. Leadership for change is the answer. Time is a very special commodity. It dictates our period or span of opportunity to work with children. We must use it wisely. As Dr. Benjamin E. Mays once said, "I have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it, forced upon me, can't refuse it, didn't seek it, didn't choose it. But, it is up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it, just a tiny little minute - but eternity is in it."

In the Indianapolis Public Schools we have three Year Round schools or schools on the single-track 45-15 calendar. We are currently looking at adding additional schools. I know the benefits of year round schools and our current three are operating very well. As I work to add other sites I am confronted with the task of changing attitudes, practices and culture. The data for year round education are positive and they illustrate the added benefits that the year round educational calendar can bring for students with needs. Those students with learning problems and gaps; those students learning English as a second language; those students learning English as a first language; those students who need more time for learning; those students who need enrichment and unique educational experiences; and those students who really want to retain what we taught them last June. Leading people to endorse and support change is essential for organizational progress. People want or need to see a reason or rationale for change. However, those toughest to change are the one heavily invested in the current system. Parents seem to know only one pattern for schools, the traditional calendar. Moving them past their memory of schools to a new hope for schools can be a challenging task. However, the toughest groups to move are the teachers and administrators.

To do this I have reviewed some of the research and spent time examining Dr. Grooms' study of nine Kentucky Year Round School districts. I spent time with Norman R. Brekke's year round education study on cost effectiveness. Read comments from principals, students, parents and others concerning the merits and benefits of year round education. I now know the way. My question is, "Why do so many people refuse to be convinced by the facts?"

There is a new report out from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation called "A New Day for Learning." The report calls for rethinking the school day so students have multiple ways of learning, new definitions of success, and access to educational resources throughout the community. The report says:

"We are not getting very far, very fast because we persist in placing all the responsibility for teaching on the schools and on a short school day ... Without a broader view of learning, all American school-age children will be denied access to experiences that will help them be successful lifelong learners."

This thought is important because it allows us to understand that how we see learning for our children or our educational view of our students' learning could be narrow or myopic. Year round education can facilitate that broader view. However we must never forget that a school year schedule, be it traditional, year round or otherwise will mean nothing without sound effective instruction. The simple concept of teaching and learning is still the two most important functions in the schooling process. The beauty of the year round education schedule is its flexibility and potential to extend and enhance the teaching and

learning process.

We should never confuse the schedule with the teaching. Without the effective teaching

the schedule is just an exercise in time spans. The teaching brings the schedule to life.

Time in school is the first step and the schedule provides it. However, effective teaching

gives meaning to the time. The sum of it all is the performance of the children. They

should be able to demonstrate that they have benefited from the teaching. Some may call

this "value added," but I still prefer to call it educational.

Knowing the way means awareness of the benefits of year round schools:

1.         Less time spent re-teaching concepts students forgot over the summer.

2.        Less time spent in re-orienting students after breaks.

3.         Vacation weeks used as extended learning time for students who needed extra time and support.

4.        Reduced discipline problems.

5.         Gains in addressing achievement gaps. ELL and LD students benefit from shorter breaks.

6.        Opportunities for professional development activities during the off weeks of the school year. This would reduce the cost of subs when teachers are normally taken out of the class for training.

7.        Unique learning experiences, field trips, enrichment programs and training for students and staff. Mini courses for students for credit or for teachers needing license requirements. A time for vocational counseling and career exploration.

However knowing the way also means knowing that effective supervision of instruction is an essential key in improving teaching and student learning. Year round education breaks or intersessions can allow teachers to shadow or visit other teachers. It allows teachers to explore and extend their knowledge of subject areas. The greater the knowledge base the more possible teaching options. You can't truly teach what you don't know.

Knowing the way and trying to get there: Getting there means using year round education as a tool to better prepare our children for success and for our democracy. Preparing our future through our students is the ultimate contribution a professional educator can make to our country. Freedom isn't free! President Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said, "that a country that expects to be ignorant and free in a democracy expects something that never was and never will be." We must utilize all means possible to provide for the effective education of our children. This means going beyond the status quo; this means breaking the chains of the agrarian calendar; this means changing the patterns and practices common with the traditional way of doing "school"; this means accountable, responsive and innovative leadership; this means knowledge of and dedication to providing quality instruction measured on the success of what students can demonstrate that they know; this means that you and I must not only "know the way", not only try to get there, but teach others the way and help them to get there. We are just as strong as our weakest disaggregated subgroup.

And so in closing, I ask each of you to consider the eagle. The proud symbol of freedom, strength, independence and majesty. The eagle is just as good as he thinks he is. He is just as great as his environment allows him to be. Do you think that we could make a chicken out of an eagle?