The state of Ohio has been hit hard this winter, resulting in schools having to cancel a higher-than-usual number of days of instruction.  Many districts (about a third according to the Toledo Blade) have already used up the state-allowed number of snow (or calamity) days and have reached the point where they will be required to make up those days at the end of the year.

To that end, Governor Kasich announced yesterday that he was going to instruct the General Assembly to enact a one-time exemption for this school year that would provide schools an extra four calamity days.

Big whoop.  Those extra days at the end of the year are, quite frankly, irrelevant anyway.

Said Kasich in his media event, “Giving schools a few extra snow days this year will be helpful and let everyone stay focused on the top priority when weather hits: keeping kids safe.”

Really, John Kasich?  He’s doing this so that schools can focus on keeping kids safe?  What the heck did he think schools were doing?  It is flat-out insulting that Kasich added this little byline to his statement and it completely reveals how his mind works and what he thinks about public education in our state.  It is appalling that Kasich expressly believes that schools aren’t already focusing on the safety of students when deciding whether to close schools.

Beyond that insult, Kasich’s impulsive request further solidifies how clueless he is about the impact of snow days on schools. Snow days represent a loss of instruction to students leading up to the almighty standardized tests — the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) and the Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA).  Student performance on these tests are the key measure of school performance on state reports cards and hold dire consequences for high school students who need to pass the tests to graduate.  And this year for the first time, third graders must also attain a high enough score on the reading test in order to avoid be retained in third grade next year.

If the Governor was truly interested in helping schools and students avoid the harmful effects of snow days this year, he would instead be shouting from the mountaintops for a way to restore these lost days of instruction before the tests!

Days tacked on at the end of the year?  Meaningless.  Get rid of them or not, it won’t make a difference to the students.

What would make a difference is to find a way to give schools back those lost days of instruction from December and January.  This could be just as easily accomplished by the General Assembly by moving back the testing windows for the OGT and the OAA.  Instead of sticking by the current March and April testing windows as mandated by the state, push those tests back by two weeks to allow students more time with their teachers — time to make up for the lost instructional time.

Through such a change, districts, schools, and, most importantly, students would be given a fairer shot to demonstrate their proficiency on these standardized assessments that are used to judge their knowledge and skills.

Since Kasich and the current GOP-dominated General Assembly made these tests the most crucial component in judging students, teachers, schools, and districts, shouldn’t those being judged be allowed to make up the instructional time lost in order to perform at their best?

Instead of pandering to teachers and the public by expanding the number of snow days, Kasich should be pushing for a change to delay this year’s standardized tests.  

Of course, that would require him to actually understand or care about how schools work.