A startling waste of precious classroom time

Jay Matthews:

Lucia and Ignacia Barajas are sisters who attend Compton High School in southern Los Angeles County. They want an education, but their school seems unable to give them enough time to get one.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Lucia’s biology teacher went on maternity leave. For two months there were nothing but short-term substitutes in the class, most staying only a few days. In the fall 2013 semester, Ignacia’s American history class had more than 10 substitute teachers, and some days none at all. The restless students waited outside the door until they were sent to the library or another classroom.

Wasting time is common in the nation’s low-income schools. Class schedules can be a mess at the beginning of the year, forcing students to wait days in the library for their assignments. Lockdowns because of neighborhood violence detract from learning time. Teacher absence rates are high, and instructors will often quit mid-year with no good replacements available.