July 25, 2007
Reformers face a Catch-22: they want to try new approaches, which by definition haven't yet been proven. But a skeptical public wants assurances that doing something differently will yield better results. Thus we empathize with Superintendent Larry Lewis of Lancaster, Texas, a suburb south of Dallas, who wants to move his schools from a typical five-day schedule to one with four extra-long days. But whatever the merits of the plan (he says it will save money and improve instruction; detractors worry about additional childcare costs and the risk of teenagers having "unprotected sex" on Fridays), Dr. Lewis certainly could have done a better sales job. Rather than admitting to a skeptical forum of parents that the approach was new and thus unproven, he pointed to a 1992 research article he found on...Google. Then he pulled out this choice bit of tortured logic: "If we shot down every idea in the Lancaster district and the city because we don't believe it will work, what will we have?" Gadfly will go out on a limb and predict that the children of Lancaster will be in school five days a week this fall, as normal.
"Lancaster parents blast 4-day school week plan," by Kathy A. Goolsby and Karen Ayres, Dallas Morning News, July 20, 2007