It’s too easy to criticize public education — its shortage of certified teachers, its rising administrative expenses, the administrators and lawmakers who are unable or unwilling to make substantial improvements.
The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, along with four other news organizations in the state, recently released a series of stories that focused primarily on education funding — or more aptly the lack of it — and the resulting impact on the classroom. The Commonwealth published most the series.
It was well done, but also largely grim. Some of its better news was bound to get lost in the mix, such as an interesting deviation from the normal school year schedule.
The Corinth School District is in its third year of a noticeably modified school schedule, with a shorter summer vacation and longer breaks in the fall and spring.
At Corinth, the school year begins in the last week of July and continues through the last Friday of September, when there is a three-week break. Students return to class about Oct. 20 and get traditional holidays for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Classes resume in early January and run through mid-March, when there is a two-week spring break. After returning from that, the school year finishes around June 7.
Corinth’s schedule really only changes about three weeks during the year, adding them to fall and spring breaks and taking them away from summer vacation. The district still provides the required 180 days of instruction per year.
The experiment is worthwhile because the school year that everyone knows, featuring a summer vacation of nearly three months, dates back more than a century, when many families farmed and needed their children at home for the harvest.
Those days are long gone, and there are two important benefits to Corinth’s schedule.
One is that the longer fall and spring breaks give students who have fallen behind a chance to catch up with remedial work.
The other, perhaps more important benefit is that teachers don’t have to spend as much time at the beginning of the year helping kids relearn everything they forgot from the prior grade during a long summer vacation.
So far, Corinth’s results are mixed but seem to be trending in the right direction.
The graduation rate for the Class of 2018 was 94.8 percent, good enough to rank fourth best in the state. In ratings from the Department of Education, Corinth received a C last year, but school officials say that’s unfair because the district uses a different curriculum than the one used in almost all other Mississippi public schools.
The state needs far more experimentation along these lines. Good for the educators and parents who were willing to give this a chance.