One of the most racist and classist things that Boston Public Schools does is infantilize parents and the push to make Extended Learning Time mandatory is an example. In Sunday’s Boston Globe, in a rebuttal to Joanna Weiss column “For a longer school day, who sacrifices?,” Melissa Partridge, Boston Public Schools Director of Extended Learning wrote, “Longer day, better offerings add up to sound strategy” in which she discussed “non-negotiables,” Mandatory Extended Learning Time, and extolled the legislation that Mayor Menino filed to turn Level 3 schools, statewide, into schools able to use Level 4 turnaround “strategies” (that continue to disrupt and add to the chaos of the Boston Public Schools.)
There is a marked trend in the Boston Public Schools to over regiment and script students learning and a belief that their parents and teachers are not capable of making reasonable and intellectual decisions on their own. Ms. Partridge alienated this BPS Teacher, and she alienated Boston parents that commented. “Allston Bob” noted, “Without a single reference to parents, schools, or communities, the BPS representative above declares in adversarial language that policy details are “not negotiable.”
It didn’t help that Ms. Partridge committed the “sin of omission” and has not included all the information. The traditional Boston Public School day for an elementary school is 6.5 hours. This is the Massachusetts state average. Middle and high schools have a 6 hour 40 minute day, this is above the national average. Secondary Teachers have a planning period and an administrative period during the day, where we meet with colleagues and are professionally developed. Teachers also have an additional 24-hours of school and district professional development. This does not include the classes, workshops and conferences that teachers take on their own time and at their own expense!
Mandatory ELT is not just about providing services to Boston’s children as Ms. Partridge would like you to believe. Large non-profits “partners” who are pushing Mandatory ELT are lining up to service the Boston Public Schools extended day. These ed vendors are there to make money. Commonwealth Magazine noted, “The District spent about $84 million—or about 10 percent of its entire general budget in the just-completed fiscal year—on unadvertised contracts worth $10,000 or more.”
If ELT is mandatory for all students, ed vendors will make even more money and institutionalize their programs within our schools and during our school day. This outsourcing is already happening in some turnaround schools. That appears to be the plan, already the ELT advocates are talking about art, music, and physical education as if these courses are add-on’s, something that must be “fit-into” a students day. These are academic subjects taught by Massachusetts certified teachers. You don’t hear of toney suburban schools replacing their art, music and physical education classes during the day with “enrichment experiences” facilitated by “partners!” Boston Parents want the same “quality” classes for their children as suburban children receive. It is time that the non-profit institutions, that own 50% of the land in the city, pony up their fair share for municipal services so Boston children can have them!
Of course Ms. Partridge wants an extended day, as the “Director of Extended Learning” her job depends on it. Many BPS schools already have after school options, and I am not opposed to a voluntary extended day for those families that want to avail themselves of it. That said, I have questions: how does the BPS plan on paying for mandatory ELT? Who is going to provide it? How will we be paying Administrators and School Police? Of course, the children will need a snack, so how will the Cafeteria Staff be compensated? How is transportation going to work out? Will our middle and high school students be battling with commuters for a seat on the MBTA? Are children and teachers going to leave school only to sit in rush hour for an hour or two in busses and cars? How are school bus drivers going to feel about getting home after 6:30! So many unanswered questions.
Ms. Partridge demonstrated that “Paternalistic Leadership” has not moved on in Boston Public Schools and the apathy it has created with our families and teachers will be no easy fix. Mandatory ELT deprives a parent of the “dignity” to make their own decision of how their child will spend the day, it imposes choices based on what someone else thinks is good for their child or some ed vendors bottom line. It is racist, classist, disrespectful and questions the ability of parents to think and choose for themselves.
BPS Parent “Allston Bob” said it best, “There are both reasonable and unreasonable approaches to ELT. The unreasonable approach excludes parents and schools from the decision-making process, and takes a ham-fisted top-down approach toward parents as well as educators and, of course, children. As parents await improvement in BPS outreach practices, this statement from BPS certainly fails in that respect.”