Updated 3 p.m. –Urban readers might have raised an eyebrow about gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper’s recent assertion that “one-third of Colorado’s school districts have gone to four-day weeks to save money,” but rural educators certainly weren’t surprised.
According to Colorado Department of Education data, 65 of the state’s 178 districts are on four-day weeks this year. But, it’s almost entirely a tactic used by small, rural districts. Of those 65 districts, only half a dozen enroll more than a thousand students each, and most are much smaller. The two largest districts on four-day weeks are Pueblo County (about 9,000 students) and Montezuma-Cortez (about 3,000 students).
Many rural districts have lots of square miles but few kids, so four-day weeks can provide some savings on things like busing and custodial costs. The state sets a minimum number of student hours in school per year for a district to collect full per-pupil state aid, so districts watch that carefully whether they’re open four days or five.
Hickenlooper’s comment was contained in a Sunday op-ed he (or an aide) wrote for The Denver Post. Gubernatorial rivals Don Maes and Tom Tancredo also gave their views on education. The pieces are predictable and short on details, but you can read them here.
A report issued last week by the Century Foundation has people buzzing in national policy circles. The report, “Housing Policy is School Policy” examines the progress made by low-income students in Montgomery County, Md.’s largely affluent public schools. The foundation, long a champion of socio-economic school integration, presents Montgomery County as a model of school reform because of its strong inclusionary zoning law. That law sets aside 12 to 15 percent of units in large developments for low-income and working-class families.
While there are no schools in Montgomery County with poverty levels approaching those in Denver, Aurora or other urban districts, there are low-income families, and, according to the study, their children performed significantly better on standardized tests, especially in math, in schools with the lowest poverty rates than in schools with more low-income students.