It sneaks up on you, just when you think your kids are back on a predictable schedule:
High school exam week.
Unlike the old days, when exams preceded a leisurely winter break, the Hillsborough County School District now holds midterm exams the second week in January; in other words, this coming week, with kids barely back from vacation.
The stakes are not inconsequential. If you're a freshman, these are the first grades on your permanent transcript. For seniors, it's your last chance to look credible for those college applications.
Reporters Sarah Whitman and Shelley Rossetter found students and teachers wondering if anyone will remember the material in time for the exams (see cover story).
The change in schedule followed other revisions to the calendar, some more logical than others.
First the Florida Legislature put an end to school years that began as early as Aug. 1. Then there was a cost-saving move to close a full week for Thanksgiving.
Then you have to throw in all those days they send kids home two hours early just because it was Wednesday. They say they do plenty of teaching on the shorter days. To which I say: The boys in my carpool used to bring skateboards on those days.
When you add it all up, there
was not enough time to get half a year of learning in by Christmas.
We should thank the district for giving kids plenty of work so they'll stay off the streets and out of trouble.
Or should we?
Out of curiosity, I e-mail-blasted high school parents last week and asked if their kids were a) working hard b) hardly working or c) too busy making merry to give schoolwork a thought.
"C" was the most popular response by far.
"This is the time I plan family time," said my friend Jodi DeSciscio. "I even took off a week from work after Christmas to see my kids." The last thing she wants to do is remind her daughter to study something, anything, just to be told, "I will get to it!"
It was much the opposite in our house, as my husband and I worked every day of the break.
Sensing an opportunity, I wrote out lists of household chores every day on my way out the door.
To which they responded: "But we're studying!"
• • •
I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself to new readers, and reacquaint myself to those who have read my columns before. With a new governor and the prospect of changes affecting the state's public schools, the newspaper has asked me to join its education team. In addition to this column, I'll be writing stories about what goes on in your children's schools.
A brief bio: I'm a product of the Philadelphia public schools, which were truly deplorable, so nothing surprises me. With two kids in school, I practically live in my car. I served for seven years on a PTA board, purely for the favoritism. I cry at Christmas pageants and can't stand science fairs. I love to hear from readers, even when they call me bitter and insult my grammar.
So bring it. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.