Serving the High Plains

Logan board opposes PED's 5-day week plan

The Logan Municipal Schools board approved and sent a letter to the state’s Public Education Department that “strongly” opposes a plan that would largely increase instruction time from four to five days a week at many rural schools.

The board approved the letter unanimously during its Dec. 11 meeting.

The PED is proposing revisions to school calendar requirements that would require a minimum of 180 instructional days. That would require four-day schools to have 50% of their calendars align with five-day instruction weeks.

According to PED, about 20% of New Mexico’s school districts operate on four-day schedules. All four public schools in Quay County are four-day.

The proposal has met considerable opposition from rural districts with four-day instruction weeks, including Logan.

The Logan board’s letter, citing state law that granted school districts the flexibility to design their own instruction calendars, stated the proposal “would disregard the local authority granted by statute.”

The letter stated the proposal would contradict the Public School Finance Act, “rendering this proposed regulation as illegal and out of alignment with state statute.”

It described the plan as “ill informed.”

“Requiring all schools to comply with a uniform calendar rule suggests a ‘one size fits all’ approach and fails to account for the diversity of the various school districts in our state, both demographically and academically.”

The board stated Logan High School boasts a graduation rate of 97.3% with just 147 instructional days. The statewide rate is 76%.

“Not only is it insulting to suggest that our graduation rate is in need of drastic improvement, but it is also highly unlikely that increasing our calendar by 33 instructional days would somehow improve our graduation rate to 100%,” the letter stated.

“On the contrary, we predict such an egregious requirement would reduce our rate, as students and families would flee the burdensome requirement in search of common sense!

“Until the statewide rate reaches our local rate, we believe the state should resist placing additional requirements on our locally developed and approved instruction calendar,” the letter added.

Logan Elementary School students have a 79% proficiency rate in reading and 61% in mathematics — more than double the state average.

The letter stated the proposal would likely lead to fewer professional development days for teachers.

“(W)e urge the department to abandon these proposed revisions and reaffirm each district’s authority to establish its own instructional calendar in alignment with the law and with its own community priorities,” the letter concluded.

During Wednesday night’s San Jon school board meeting, superintendent Alan Umholtz said “every superintendent in the state is upset about the 180 days” proposal, noting even many districts that hold classes five days a week would have to lengthen their school year.

Umholtz said the New Mexico School Superintendents Association would have “a great law case” against the state — signaling a lawsuit if the proposal were enacted.

“We’re fighting to keep our control of the (school) calendar,” he said.

Education Secretary Arsenio Romero, in an op-ed sent to news outlets just days before the Logan board’s meeting, wrote that he wants to give teachers more time to teach.

“One common complaint I hear from educators as I travel around New Mexico is that they do not have enough time to do all that they need to,” Romero wrote. “That they often attend professional development training and other work meetings when they are not getting paid for their time and work.

“This proposed rule change will address that by ensuring there are enough days in the school year.”

Romero cited a RAND study of four-day and five-day schools in several states, including New Mexico. The study found math and English test scores for students in four-day schools didn’t grow as fast as similar districts with a five-day week.

“That meant students in the four-days districts fell behind a little more each year,” Romero wrote, adding that the lag during an eight-year period was roughly equivalent to learning loss seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Change can be difficult, and what is familiar is comfortable,” Romero concluded in the op-ed. “But, we cannot accept continued low proficiency rates as just the way things are in New Mexico. We must take bold measures to change educational outcomes for students in New Mexico.”

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