Schools around the nation are looking for ways to improve student performance in light of stricter state and national standards. The Tampa Schools in Florida have been forced to make changes. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. One of the changes that Tampa Schools will see in fall of 2007 is a change in the start of the school year.
While most of the country doesn’t go back to school until after Labor Day, Tampa Schools (like all Florida Schools) are used to starting school in early August. Being the tourist state that it is, Florida Schools have tried to arrange a schedule different from the flock of tourist crowds. But the schedule had some problems.
Families in the Tampa Schools complained that the early August start date wasn’t reasonable. Ever been in Tampa in August? Not the best time for sitting in a crowded classroom and trying to concentrate on schoolwork. Turns out that even families in the sunny Tampa Schools use summer vacation as a prime travel time. And just think about how many Tampa Schools’ residents are northern transplants! Early August is a prime time for family vacations, and get-aways to the cooler northern weather. So this year Tampa Schools will be going back to school at the end of August. But a different starting date won’t get the children in Tampa Schools where they need to be when the No Child Left Behind Mandate rolls around.
Tampa Schools Need to Focus on Families
Reforms in the Tampa Schools address issues like class size (a state mandate), drop-out rates, and preparation for life after high school. These are definitely critical issues. While the state of Florida passed the maximum class size requirement, and schools are required to comply, it’s not easy to do. Many of the Tampa Schools needed to add portables, hire extra teachers, or create team teaching groups to get sizes down.
But this is all done with the kids in mind. And even teachers who gripe about being set out in a portable trailer don’t usually argue the merits of smaller class sizes on student achievement. Here’s the real problem. Whether in the Tampa Schools or anywhere else, the kids who are struggling are the lower income students, and they are often minorities. That’s why the achievement gap in the Tampa Schools has gotten such attention.
But of course it makes sense that less educated parents with less money/time, are going to have children who struggle. So every time I hear someone quote a study on the correlation between poverty and low achievement, well- I thought that was a no-brainer to begin with! I’m not saying that the Tampa Schools are doing anything wrong by implementing their current initiatives. On the contrary, they need to. But the most critical need of the Tampa Schools is to find a way to reach out to struggling parents. Because struggling parents are going to have struggling children. And a large percentage of them would love to do better, but don’t know where to begin. So maybe the key to improving education in the Tampa Schools lies in educating the parents of the Tampa Schools.
Tampa Schools Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U. S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit Tampa Schools