“Yes, to Year Around School” Podcast Transcript (Not in the Madison School District)

Scoot Milfred and Phil Hands:

Usual mumbo-jumbo, we do on this podcast. Why don’t we invite in today some experts to talk about our topic which is around school. Which Madison is finally going to give a try this fall to experts. I know very well we have all hands on deck here. We have Owen hands. Oh and how old are you? Oh, nine years old.

All right and Claire. How old are you? Wow, let’s Round Up will see your six. So what if I were to tell you that instead of having school from September until June? What if we had school year round? What do you think of that idea? Yeah. Yeah, it’s exciting. Yeah, I’m Clare alway knows because um, she has school year round.
She doesn’t see only doesn’t have school on weekends and Thursdays. What if you had a long break you don’t like a long break from school you’d rather be. School, I will never break off my tablet all day. What if instead of a big summer break we had just smaller breaks throughout the year. So you’d get.

More breaks, but you wouldn’t get one Brig big long break like you might get a two-week break in the fall, and maybe I got there you have it and then you wouldn’t get bored in the summer time. You guys get bored this summer at all. No, I well today on Center Stage the Wisconsin State journals political podcast from the sensible Center of Wisconsin politics. We’re going to talk about year-round school. Madison diving into it sort of and the benefits concerns and myths surrounding this sometimes controversial idea.

I’m Scott Milford the editorial page editor for the Wisconsin State Journal and I’m Phil Hands. I’m the editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal and we are half of the State Journal editorial board.
Well, there’s the Bell, uh, even at around school fill the kids get to go out for recess. So we’ll bring back our experts later for now. Let’s talk about Madison and it’s uh dabble into your around school. So it’s the dog days of summer right now. The kids have been out of school for almost six weeks nowadays and my kids my kids did some summer camps and now that summer camps of run their course, uh, we’re going on vacation soon.
Guess but uh, but yeah, I mean the summer vacation it’s a long slog and it’s a time when kids are not necessarily. I mean, they’re looking at their devices and I guess they’re reading some uh information on their devices but it’s there’s not a lot of learning going on. We make our kids read during the summertime, but that’s only because we make them read.

Oh and go to your room and read. Well one thing we’ve been advocating on The State Journal editorial board for a long time is year-round school because yeah kids usually, um, And they they will lose some of the knowledge they’ve gained over the previous school year during that exceptionally long summer vacation.

Yeah, and lo and behold Madison is finally moving towards trying out around school this starting this next month for Madison. Yeah, except it’s not the Madison School District that’s doing it. It’s not no they’ve uh, it’s actually the to charter schools that the state has authorized to start in Madison.

Outside the scope of the school district and it’s going to be under the control of the University of Wisconsin system. So I’m confused here Scott. So I always thought that year. I mean I’ve heard that you’re around school is good for kids. It helps them learn more. It keeps them from falling behind.

But I thought Charter Schools were always evil. Well, that’s according to the uh, Progressive talking points, but I think what they so you’re saying that charter schools are doing something that’s going to help kids learn better. I’m afraid I am. Oh my goodness. You shared my world of you this podcast tale begins, six or seven years ago.

When kaleem caire then the head of the Urban League of Greater Madison proposed a charter school that would cater to. Struggling mostly black and Latino high school students boys with a charter school that would run year round and have lots of other features like longer classes, uh longer school day required extracurricular activities report cards for parents on how well they’re doing and getting involved with their children’s education.

It was called Madison prep, right right and after a long and loud, Uh debate over that the Madison School Board voted it down, uh one important note I would make on that. Is that the only African American member of the school board James Howard did vote for it. So I will say that it’s always frustrating.

I’ll go back to Summer frustrate. That’s because Madison we have some of the worst racial disparities. Uh for for African-Americans and Latinos in our in this in the state, I mean, so if you’re a black kid in the Madison Public Schools your chances of graduating our worst and they are in Milwaukee, which is not great and here was a school that was supposed to focus on this problem specifically and the high-minded Liberals whites on the school board Madison decided that no, this school wasn’t a good idea.

That’s right. And uh what’s happened now, is that the Republicans who control the legislature have. Opened up a new valve. I guess you could call it where people who want to do Charter Schools outside of the school districts control can go to the University of Wisconsin system and they will oversee the charter rather than the local school district.
So alas that’s what column has done. I’ll be kind of upside in an upside-down way. So originally what his proposal was was to start a high school. Uh here in Madison for struggling mostly minority kids. Now what he’s doing is he’s starting a preschool and kindergarten. Yes. It’s a fork and a kindergarten charter school and he’s hoping to build from the bottom up now, which I think is awesome.

Because you know getting the kids early is the best way to achieve success later in life. I mean, sometimes people argue that you know, getting people in high school is even too late to really effect change in a kid. Uh moving forward but you know, you can um give these kids a really good start early in their lives and for preschool and kindergarten.

I think it’s awesome and just to be clear. This is a free public school. It’s not a private school and it’s not a voucher school. So let’s just talk for a minute then about what year-round school means. I mean when people hear that they immediately recoil but I but I hear when I think that is you’re gonna have kids in school.

365 days a year for 27 hours a day and kids will have no time off they will we will stifle all creativity and make them, uh study for mandatory tests on regular basis. Yeah, and you actually get pushback from both the left and the right on this on the left what you tend to get is teacher unions who think wait a minute.
I’m not going to get my. Some are break anymore, which is one of the best benefits of being a teacher and then from the right when we’ve talked to the governor Walker about this editorial board meetings. His response is always sort of a flip. Uh, he says, well, I don’t think having kids butts in the seats.

More days is the answer to our problems. Yeah with a public education and generally neither of those criticisms is accurate for most your own schools because what we’d like to see in the editorial board is we wouldn’t we don’t necessarily want more days of instruction. We would like to seek it. We just think that long break the starts three months beginning of June that goes the end of August is too long.

Let’s shorten that break and add in some other breaks throughout the course of the school year in the case of the charter schools opening. For example, I think closest to what we’re talkin about is the Isthmus Montessori Academy. This is another charter school that charter school that the Madison School Board rejected and now the the organizers of.

School went to the state via the University of Wisconsin system and got approved for the charter and their schedule is going to be they’re going to take two weeks off in the fall two weeks off in the winter. And then they’re only going to have a six-week summer break. So they’re essentially going to cut the uh summer break in half.

There’s enough time for a camp or two. There’s enough time for summer activities like swim team or something like that, but it does but the summer doesn’t go on and on and on on and actually their school year is going to start. His 15th. They’re going to start a little bit earlier now in the case of clean cares new school, which is the one city is the name of it.

He’s going to actually add a lot more days to the school schedule, which is what he was originally wanted to do with the Madison prep. So he’s going to be up over 200 days of classes. So there are going to be more days in class. Yeah for his students that just shows you that this varies to some degree and actually when you.
Cat a lot of the foreign countries who students are testing better than American students on most testing those schools do have more days of classes than we do. Yeah, and they don’t have this gigantic, uh summer break. So I’m not so sure that we want to say we don’t want more days of classes, but I think to answer the governor’s point, you don’t you don’t have to have more days of classes just don’t have the giant break and then B if you do have.

Or days and classes who says the kids have to be sitting their butts in the seats. Absolutely not no, I mean so so my daughter is in is in a preschool right now and she’s been going through school most of the summer and their school during the summer time. They do a lot of field trips to get Outdoors.

They play a lot outside, you know, they’re they’re experiencing nature. They go on nature hikes that garden and they have a community garden that they work in so there’s lots of things you can do in a school environment that aren’t that isn’t, you know, doing rote memorization and with butts.

Cher’s I was just looking at a Brookings report on the summer break and this pretty much follows a lot of the research that you see it’s very well-defined that there is a slip in we call it the summer slide or the summer slip where students test better at the. Of Summer then they do at the end of summer.

Is that surprising surprising and on average student achievement scores decline over the summer vacation by about one month’s worth of school year learning and the decline is sharper in math than it is in Reading. And the loss is larger at the higher grade levels. That’s not so surprising that you don’t forget your uh algebra more than maybe your ABCs and then finally, this is much bigger issue for lower-income kids.

Are you saying this is a social justice issue Sky. I mean it is it is because middle class upper middle class families that have lots of resources. They put their kids in Camp All Summer Long my son. Well we. Afford it all summer. I mean my son. He did a computer camp this year. He did. Yeah a couple of different, uh, you know swim team camps and stuff like that lots of different activities keep them occupied but a lot of kids don’t have those opportunities and they spend the summer watching TV or hanging around the block.

That’s right. I got a high school kid at a cross-country camp this week 500 bucks. Really? I had a I had my younger daughter went to a horse camp and that was about 400. So those things are. Can’t do that. So I mean even my kids I wish they were I wish they were busier and I wish I could put him in more camps and if there was a year-round schedule, I’ll guarantee you they uh, they would be in it the white upper-middle-class school board can say well we don’t want we don’t want we don’t want year-round school, but it’s hurting the kids that are hurting already in our achievement Gap issues.

It’s that’s who is hurting the most. Yeah, and and a lot of the pushback is okay parents like us we don’t. To give up the summer break. We don’t want to give up our vacation. I’ve been working all summer. I know I have a job. I know but I’m just saying in terms of taking a vacation. They think oh, well, I’m not gonna be able to take a vacation with my kids.

I don’t like that. Well, I’ll tell you what, so what if I had two weeks in the fall when nobody else is going on vacation to go on vacation. That sounds awesome to me. I tried to go down to Florida a couple years ago for spring break and the airfare was through the roof because everybody in America had the same week for spring break.

What if I had two other week some other time? It’d be great for us. The other thing you often hear is hey, let’s let kids be kids. Summer vacation is important. They’re not just supposed to sit in front of a book called A. They’re supposed to get out and use their imagination and play and they’re putting on too much weight.

Obesity is a problem. Why are you taking away summer vacation from Phil? Well, I mean, you know, a lot of kids just sitting there iPads the whole time or their devices or whatever. They have during the summertime, you know, you know, I think every every parent has that issue it like it’s some point in summer vacation my kids say.

I’m bored. There’s nothing to do. Yeah, usually about the second week. But the point is you’d still get even if you went to this Montessori charter school, you’re still getting six weeks in the summer still getting six weeks in place. You’re getting some additional instead of a spring break. It’s a fall break and a winter break plus the spring break.

Yeah. So you’re breaking it up a little bit what some other districts have found is that you can save money. So this is the little this is a little bright, uh, Underlying point for taxpayers out there so I don’t have kids in school and work them hard. What’s the matter with you? Well grumpy, mr. Taxpayer. Guess what? You can save some money on this deal because if you what a lot of schools do is they’ll psycho kids through so that when some some kids are on break, uh, the other kids are in the school. Okay. So what you wind up with is the schools are used throughout the year rather than just sitting vacant for three months.

Yeah. Now that might. Work in Madison because what we always hear well, we don’t have air conditioning in most of the school buildings. Well, hey, we got summer school. Yeah without air conditioning. So maybe we can do it. I actually gave I gave a talk in the summer school class. It was hot. Yeah.

It was too fun. Now now let’s give the Madison School District some credit here for the summer school program which appears to be improving. I mean Madison does offer a six-week summer school program and they’ve been trying to incorporate. It’s an effort that we’ve supported here at the newspaper is uh and is they have their morning classes and these tend to be classes that are a little more fun you do you don’t just sit in a seat all the time.

You have more activities and then in the afternoon, there’s recreational activities outside and they try to incorporate reading into the recreational like yeah, so maybe there’s a scavenger hunt where you reading and then through the read up program kids get five free books that they get to pick.

And uh take home and start their library. And so the district has shown some statistics that suggest those kids that are in that program are not sliding over the summer that doesn’t quite sound like butts and shares to me. It’s not know but the problem with summer school in Madison, isn’t that we’re not doing a great job trying to teach kids in the summer and help them catch up.

Yeah. It’s that around half of the kids. Who are. Invited to summer school because the teachers say you really need to catch up their parents don’t send it. So then how you’re going to get to them? Yeah. Now if you certainly the kids fault that their parents aren’t with it together enough to to get them into school.
No now the district says they’re making strides on that and that they are getting more. The parents to put their kids in but that’s been a major problem. Now if you had a year-round school schedule, well, you can’t opt out of six weeks of school if you don’t want to do it. Yeah. So, um that, you know, a year-round schedule would solve that problem.

They be required to go. Yeah, it’s not just whether or not I want to do. I think it sounds good. And I think it’s I think it’s a basic simple. I mean, it’s not I guess it’s not a simple thing. It would take a lot of work and a lot it’s a big lift, but it’s one of those things there’s a few things the school all the science says you should do this for kids.

Well, I don’t know that all the science says that I mean, I think there is some you know, there are some researchers who you know who go out of their way to say this is not a Panacea. Well not exactly and there are programs for example racing had a uh, Your own school for more than a decade and it just stopped doing it.
Okay, and one of the reasons, why was that according to the school board is a lot of the parents that lived around the school. They didn’t want to send their kids there. But the school board was split on that on whether they wanted to continue it or not and depending on which school board members you listen to it.
Either was working or it wasn’t. Yeah, uh and the main argument was hey, let’s we have a more streamlined streamlined District if we were all in the same schedule, however, Toma is starting uh around School lacrosse has been doing it Milwaukee has been doing it. There are lots of examples of it happening and from the research.

I’ve looked at they say those kids tend to do at least as well if not better. Then kids who have longer breaks particularly the lower-income kids, but we should talk about why we don’t have year-round school. The reason we don’t have year-round school is because and if I maybe I’m wrong about this Gap, but I’ve always heard.
The reason we have a big summer vacation is so that kids can help out on the Family Farm or in Wisconsin at the resort. Okay, because we’re a tourist state so so I don’t have a family farm Family Farm. I have a garden. I mean, I don’t help my kids don’t do anything– but you’re right. It was it started as an agrarian society thing where the kids did actually have to work out in the field picking rocks and helping with chores.
They weren’t getting done on their iPads all summer long. No. No, I don’t know that they were necessarily getting smart by feeding the pigs either. But they were working and they were working in character and that was required. Uh, but we’ve moved past that now some people say well, but what about the Wisconsin Dells we need these workers.

Well gee whiz every time I go up to the sconce endell everybody I speak to at the retail store isn’t the Resort’s has an Eastern European accent. Yeah. They’re all spies. What’s more important here of filling some seasonal jobs or educating our children? Especially the kids that are of lower income.
And by the way, they’re hiring high school kids. Yeah, they’re not hiring. Uh, third graders. Yeah. I mean kaleem’s School is gonna be the youngest kids. So I think that argument tends to find another issue. What is it low income parents post do with their kid All Summer Long. Yeah, and we have.

These programs that do pop up. I mean the why does a lot of things there? You know, they are there are places to go. Um that are probably cost less I guess than uh than a formal school education. But what you find is that when these school districts that do the year-round schedules, so you say well wait a minute if there’s going to be a two-week break and the fall what am I going to do with my kids for those two?

That’s when the summer camp pops. Yeah, those things those things pop up where there’s. Is (that) what they find? Yeah. All right. Let’s go back to the experts here, which is better being in school or being out of school. Okay, but do you learn anything complete of China have poisoned my school? You learn about toys.

I do want a lot at school. But um last year in math. I won almost nothing I’d say math is probably my favorite subject. Awesome least favorite. So your dad’s a cartoonist, but art is your least favorite. Yes. Okay. Yeah, not exactly chip off the old block not exactly chip off the old block. You can’t go look at Nasa.
They’ll be just fine.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.