Editorial: Easy, popular answer not always what is truly best

School choice is much more than public, private, parochial, online or home school.

As evidenced by the robust community forum in Camp Verde this week, another key component of school choice today involves how many days a week students must show up for class.

While traditionalists will tout the merits of a five-day school week, there is a growing movement toward a four-day school week. Two Verde Valley school districts – Camp Verde and Beaver Creek – are among those who subscribe to the Monday-through-Thursday option.

It bears emphasis that a shorter school week does not equate with less time in the classroom. Camp Verde’s current four-day program includes earlier start times and longer release times than their five-day counterparts. Even with a four-day school week, Camp Verde High School students, for example, invest 345 more hours per school year in the classroom than the state minimum requirements.

Tuesday’s glowing community endorsement of the four-day school week cannot be dismissed. But as the Camp Verde School Board moves forward in deciding other options such as a traditional five-day week or modified year-round schooling, it’s important to remember that a decision based on popular sentiment is easy to make.

That does not make it the best choice.

School Board members should pay close attention to how Camp Verde students fare on state standardized tests vs. those schools that have five-day school weeks. They should compare graduation/dropout rates at Camp Verde High School vs. similarly sized communities that have students attend school five days a week. They should compare how many of their graduates go on to college vs. those schools with traditional calendars.

They should also ask why the parents of between 75 and 100 Camp Verde students each year choose to have their children attend five-day-a-week schools in Cottonwood. Further, they need to ask if leveling the school-week options in the Verde Valley would allow Camp Verde to retain some of the approximately $330,000 in student state aid that it currently loses each year to schools in the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts.

Camp Verde school board members also need to remember that human nature being what it is, folks are naturally inclined to stick with the status quo. The strong support expressed Tuesday in favor of a continued four-day school week should not have come as a surprise. It was predictable human behavior.

For Camp Verde School Board members, the easy and popular answer on school calendar options is staring them right in the face.

Their job is to decide if that truly is the best answer.

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