Why Your District Should Stop Worrying About Missed Days

Chad OstrowskiBlog, Mastery Learning Better

In This Post:

  • The problem with time-based learning and why we should move away from it.
  • A solution to make time more flexible and learning more important.
  • How Mastery Learning can help you (and your school) make this shift & worry less about unplanned days off.

Missed Days are Coming

Depending on where you live (I live in the Northeast), snow days may be a real problem for your district or school this winter. This is especially true if you live in a rural district with limited road crews. It’s around this time of year I hear terms like “Blizzard Bags”. I also hear other ways that schools and districts combat the loss of time due to these unscheduled days off.

Whether you like it or not, chances are that you may have a few free days off this year (I know you’re tearing up just thinking about it). You will probably miss some instructional time with your students. I’m going to tell you right now that you and, more importantly, your district should stop worrying about it.

The Fundamental Problem

The Fundamental Problem with this idea is the assumption that TIME is the most important factor in a student’s learning. The entire premise is that a student missed a certain amount of time, so they need to “make up” that same amount. It also assumes that it is not the learning or the content that is important, but rather the amount of passed time. And that time must be made up with a certain amount of work to account for it.

The focus of classroom, school, or district should always be LEARNING and mastery of content. The concept of time-based learning is outdated, archaic, and pointless in today’s 21st century classrooms.

By adding additional (and usually pointless) work like “blizzard bags” or “make-up assignments” to account for lost instructional time, we are sending a very odd message to students. Many times these assignments are created to be generic and “evergreen”, meaning they can be used at anytime during the winter season without considering the content being covered.

This means that after “X” amount of days off, a student can complete this misaligned, un-targeted, and potentially useless work. And they do it for no other reason than to say that work was done.

Not only does a mastery-based system allow students to continue working regardless of their location, but it also allows them to continue learning via meaningful and targeted experiences. Click To Tweet

The Solution

If students take part in Mastery Based Learning (sometimes called Competency Based Learning), then time becomes much more flexible and matters much less. It is replaced with a focus on the actual learning taking place and the mastery of content.

If students are able to learn in a structured system that focuses on competency of information instead of how long a they sit in their seat, the equation suddenly changes.

Not only does a mastery-based system allow students to continue working regardless of their location, but it also allows them to continue learning via meaningful and targeted experiences. This could also mean that schools, districts, and maybe even states, could do away with make-up days and focus more on make-up learning.

The other fundamental shift that has to occur is the realization that time does not equal learning. It is the learner’s ability to master the material and show competency that is, and should ALWAYS be, the focus of the educational system.

When this shift occurs, things like Snow Days, Assemblies, or any other distraction from the normal schedule simply don’t matter.

So hopefully, you are looking at those missed days a little different after reading this. And hopefully, the educational system will start to do the same.

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About Chad Ostrowski

Chad Ostrowski is the co-founder of the Teach Better Team and the creator of The Grid Method, but he is a middle school science teacher at heart. He now travels the country sharing his story, working with teachers, schools, and districts to help them to reach more students.