February Break is Not Needed

One of the built in benefits of the school schedule is the fresh start provided at the beginning of each quarter, semester, and school year. This is a terrific opportunity for every student to “get it right” with attendance, homework completion, and academic achievement. Either the student is continuing his or her strong efforts from previous terms OR he or she gets the chance to start over with good intentions.

As a teacher, I always enjoyed the opportunity to start fresh because a new term usually meant starting a new topic or unit. Historically the third quarter is the toughest on students in regard to rigor, and overall grades generally reflect this fact. It’s a time to really push for  content in our rush toward the Regents exams. In New York State, schools are measured and judged by our graduation rate and by the performance of our students on our Regents exams, particularly at the mastery level of 85 and above. This puts tremendous pressure for improvement on everyone from the superintendent to the principal to the teacher to the student.

As we embrace this new beginning, this third quarter/second semester fresh start, we look forward to only three weeks of uninterrupted instruction when we enter another break, one week off starting with Presidents’ Day. Many of our students will return this Tuesday after a full week off without daily attendance, attending only for their scheduled Regents exams. This February break is a problem.

Any school counselor certainly knows, and most teachers, that the return from and anticipation of school breaks is hard on many children who do not enjoy that time at home for any number of reasons. We just get our kids back in the swing of things, and BOOM, another break.

In my opinion, the February break is a worthless waste of time. Many advocate that we were better off with two weeks at Easter time. I don’t honestly care one way or the other if Easter is one week or two, but can definitely say that the February break is an interruption to student learning that we don’t need.

  1. It is too bad that we couldn’t move the regents week to right before Christmas break, or before the February break. This would provide us a longer uninterrupted period of instruction between these two breaks.

  2. Here is how it usually goes, for me at least. Christmas break is coming, I start wrapping up the unit and test. When the students come back there’s little time to introduce new material because they need to review for the exam – it’s in class – two more days wasted. Regents exams come and the kid’s are off for 5 days. Students come back, we squeeze in a new unit or two and then they are gone for another week. When they come back this time they are confused – some can’t even remember what desk they sit in and the question of the day is, “Do you know my locker combination?”. We review, get into the swing of things and get some work done. Then comes the Easter/Spring break. Honestly, there are at least 2 days of slow down and/or catch up around each break. That’s about 10 days of classtime 6% of their year. I’ve never heard anyone give a sound educational reason for these breaks and I doubt that I ever will.

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