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Brian Richards: Softball or science?

Posted: June 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.

I am told that my kids go to a good elementary school, Stevenson Ranch Elementary. Not only have I been told that, but from the various awards located in the front of the building, I must assume that this school is a good one.

However, many parents and people in general wonder how other countries are doing so much better often with so much less. Some might say it’s a lack of funding. Others might say it’s because of teacher tenure and the fact that the teachers with the most tenure occasionally are the worst at teaching. Some might also say it’s because our children are only in school approximately 180 days a year, (I’m guessing), and that they should be in school a lot more days.

I have my own opinions on which of those things are important or not, but may I suggest another factor? This week, the last week of school, my sixth grader will be playing softball on Monday, a field trip to the park on Tuesday, and attend graduation on Thursday. Naturally there will be little, if any, schooling done on Friday, the last day of the year, as has been the case since the beginning of time. Thus, this week is essentially a lost one, where there will be very little time spent educating and a lot more time spent doing what I would call fun stuff. I have a fourth grader in the same school and my experience with her is similar. In fact, she is even allowed to attend her brother’s graduation on

Thursday, probably at the expense of something fun the other children will be doing in her class.

People need to understand how much time is spent in schools not doing what they are chartered to do, which is to educate our children. In our school, Thursdays are minimum days. They get three weeks for the winter break, dare I say Christmas anymore? They get another two weeks a couple months later for spring break. They get every holiday known to mankind off, as well as time off for parent/teacher conferences ­— and we wonder why we are falling behind other countries?

From my perspective, the teachers I’ve known at Stevenson Ranch Elementary are doing a good job, but I question the administration of those schools, which allows so much off time and so much time devoted to things that will have little, if any, bearing on if they’re successful or not. I realize teachers would never agree to work anywhere near the amount of hours most people have to work throughout a year, but I wonder why schools spend so much time playing softball and having graduation ceremonies, despite the fact that nobody doesn’t graduate, instead of teaching more science.

I’m left to wonder about all the kids and families who don’t go to a school with a bunch of awards on the front of their building. Leave the fun stuff to parents and their friends. Your job is to teach, not to sponsor softball games and field trips to the park next door that they’ve been to a thousand times.

Brian Richards is a Stevenson Ranch resident.



ricketzz: Posted: June 16, 2014 6:25 a.m.

School should be year round. Kid's forget half of what they learned during summer.

philellis: Posted: June 16, 2014 8:16 a.m.

What do they learn in summer that they forget?

projalice11: Posted: June 16, 2014 8:55 a.m.

Mr. Richards BINGO ..

17trillion: Posted: June 16, 2014 9:32 a.m.

User Removed Comment.

AlwaysRight: Posted: June 16, 2014 4:47 p.m.

Phil- I forgot...

AlwaysRight: Posted: June 16, 2014 4:47 p.m.

17t- Phil is a school board member.....

FinntheHuman: Posted: June 16, 2014 5:20 p.m.

Stevenson Ranch Elementary is a great school. America falls behind other countries in education, but if you are looking at Stevenson Ranch Elementary and trying to find fault you are looking in the wrong place. If you look up Stevenson Ranch Elementary’s API and State Rank they come in at 10 out of 10 with an API of 981. Test scores and API aren’t a complete picture of a school’s performance, but it does give you a general idea of student performance in relation to other schools in the state.

So you bring up the point of academic time and student achievement. It’s hard to argue that the United States falls behind other countries in terms of academic achievement but that isn’t necessarily a result of the amount of time spent in school. If you take a minute to read this study you will see that time in school doesn’t correlate to instructional time. You stated that during the last week of school your children will play softball, take a field trip to the park, and attend a sibling’s graduation. You use these examples to question what goes on during the school year and how much time is being spent educating your children. While activities such as softball and a field trip to the park aren’t spent in the classroom it doesn’t mean your children aren’t learning. A teacher or any educator’s job is far greater than just teaching your child how to read or add numbers – school is an institution that is meant to also teach your students how to interact with their peers and work as a team. I’ve met plenty of intelligent people who can’t hold a job or pass an interview because they don’t know how to work with others or be a good co-worker. Using the last week of school as an indication of what goes on during the other 175 days of the school year is just as silly as basing someone’s work day on the 10 minute conversation they have with a co-worker during their work day.

Everyone has their ideas of why education in the United States is failing but I can assure you that you are looking in the wrong area if you are stressing about a few fun activities spent during the school year at one of the best schools in the state.

I thank you for your article as any article on education is a good one – it opens up discussion and keeps people thinking about how to improve schools for future generations.

Noonce7: Posted: June 17, 2014 12:50 a.m.

This is THE most ridiculous article I have ever read!!! Are you even serious?? You are speaking of ONE week of fun activities while the rest of the valley is DONE with school!!! Get real! We have the top test scores in our valley let alone the state and you are going to deny our kids 5 partial days of fun activities!!! That is sick! If you are so disturbed by this "atrocity" I urge you to pay the money for a so called "better" private school or better yet work with your kids if you feel they are lacking. One week of fun is not affecting our country's well being I assure you.

ricketzz: Posted: June 17, 2014 6:23 a.m.

philellis; Context.

17trillion: Posted: June 17, 2014 7:52 a.m.

User Removed Comment.

17trillion: Posted: June 17, 2014 8:05 a.m.

User Removed Comment.

MTBDMBr: Posted: June 17, 2014 9:44 a.m.

Just a few comments:

1) Part of the school experience is building character and culture in our kids. Having them play softball or attend a graduation is a benefit, not a drawback.

2) Most of the issue with the public education system is that teachers are now required to teach to Standards, which removes their creative/productive ability to teach a subject to the best of their ability. Teachers are now required, with their time limitations to teach to pass a test - not to use their teaching skills to make sure kids better understand a concept.

3) You cannot compare the US test scores to those of other countries. Many other countries do not include all kids in their education system. Rich or gifted kids may be the only ones getting an education, which skews the curve.

4) This article was written by someone with no apparent clue how many hours teachers work and how much passion they place in their careers. Yes, there are bad apples in every profession, but the statement, "I realize teachers would never agree to work anywhere near the amount of hours most people have to work throughout a year" is pretty ignorant.

5) A better topic would have questioned why our society places the monetary value of teachers less than say… bankers, pro athletes, or celebrities. We reap what we sow.

6) As far as an article for the Signal, a better rant would have questioned why it seems like 90% of the SCV parents feel the need to drive their kids the 2 blocks to school, which fills up our congested streets and air. Novel Idea: let's have all the kids walk to school to work off all the sugar that keeps them distracted in the classroom. For those too far to safely walk to/from school, let's have them all car pool in a big safe transportation vehicle… we could call it a school bus. ;)

An no, I am not a teacher.

17trillion: Posted: June 17, 2014 10:18 a.m.

User Removed Comment.

stevehw: Posted: June 17, 2014 1:02 p.m.

"According to the link provided above by Finn, which I read, the average amount of hours spent teaching in the US is between 900 and 1,000 hours per year. I acknowledge there are a significant amount of hours spent working where teachers are not teaching kids."

Here's data from BLS: Looks like they're not very different viz-a-viz work hours per week than other professionals. --edited.

FinntheHuman: Posted: June 17, 2014 2:58 p.m.

17Trillion - I just misinterpreted your article. I read the first paragraph of your article with a sense of disbelief in the integrity of the school. You say that you have been "told" and that you must "assume" that it is a good school - it reads a little like you don't feel like it is in fact a good school. And I came across as defensive of the school, to which I didn't mean to. I of course think Stevenson Ranch Elementary is a good school, but I brought up their test scores and school rank because they are an example of a school doing what is arguably the best in the state in terms of performance. Contrary to your belief that my comments don't think about the big picture - if every school in the state was doing as good or better than Stevenson Ranch, I would say that you were right in questioning the mix of academic time and fun activities. But the average student in California gets no where near the level of education that Stevenson Ranch and other schools at their level provide. That is a real problem, but it's not simply a matter of time in a classroom vs time spent doing fun activities. It is a question of how effective the education and level of teaching that goes on during that time is. If anything the amount of academic time in schools has increased over the years, they have for the most part removed PE, Music, and ART. I feel that those are just as important to children but the point is that these "fun time" activities that you think take up so much time during the school year take up less and less each year - and yet we as a nation we continue to fall behind.

Lotus8: Posted: June 17, 2014 3:28 p.m.

Look. When you compare America's top students to other countries' top students, we compare very favorably. A previous poster touched on the statistical game being played by education unions and their politician supporters that keep crying for more and more money. In America, we teach all children as a legal requirement. Many other countries don't. We also have a ton of immigrants (both legal and otherwise) who come to school with no English being spoken at home. These kids are plopped down in school and asked to take the same tests that other kids are taking who have two educated parents and a better command of learning due to being in American schools from day one and speaking more English.

Contrary to the widely held but misguided belief that America lags behind almost every other nation in educating its young people, it does not. It gets punished statistically for trying to educate everyone and for opening its arms to embrace all who come to our shores. The top half of our educational system stands up to almost any other nation.

I would also ask the author of this piece what he thinks of the school system in China, where children attend school from 5:30 in the morning until past 9 at night, pausing only briefly for bathroom and meal breaks. They don't really get weekends off either. They spend their first decade plus of schooling preparing for a test that will determine whether or not they attend college. Would you want this for your child? Doesn't this seem completely unbalanced? We can create ants/robots like they are doing, but is that what we see as "success" in terms of raising successful adults?

17trillion: Posted: June 17, 2014 4:03 p.m.

User Removed Comment.

philellis: Posted: June 18, 2014 1:12 p.m.

Who says we don't have art, music and PE?

ricketzz: Posted: June 19, 2014 7:31 a.m.

I've always tried to be more Chinese?

Lotus8: Posted: June 19, 2014 1:22 p.m.

Here you go 17. Please quit with all of the weak bs about not having sources and trusting one article put forth by another poster. Your weak sauce jedi mind tricks have no effect on me.

Chinese students attend classes five or six days a week from early morning (about 7am) to early evening (4pm or later). On Saturdays, many schools hold required morning classes in science and math. Many students also attend 補習班 (buxiban), or cram school, in the evening and on weekends. Much like tutoring in the West, these schools offer additional Chinese, English, science and math classes and one-on-one tutoring.

If you want pictures of this kind of thing, check out the following:

17trillion: Posted: June 19, 2014 2:27 p.m.

User Removed Comment.

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