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Analysis Finds that Scarsdale is Offering the Fewest Hours of Teaching Among Peer Districts

boredstudentThough the Scarsdale School District claims to set standards for educational excellence, on one measure it appears that they are falling behind. A group of Scarsdale parents, with children at all grade levels, did some research to compare the number of hours of synchronous learning offered in the Scarsdale Schools to 20 other area districts. 

The results were surprising: The group found that of the 20 districts analyzed, Scarsdale has less instructional hours in all age ranges than every other district.

Scarsdale is providing 12 to 14 hours per week for elementary school students and 17 hours a week for students in middle school and high school. At the top of the range are Great Neck North and South with 24 hours of instructional time for elementary school students and 30 hours a week for those in middle and high school. In Westchester, Irvington is offering 22 hours per week for elementary school students and 30 hours for middle and high school students. In Chappaqua, elementary and middle school students attend school for full days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays, with a half day on Wednesdays.

The Scarsdale School administration defends the schedule saying that limitations on space due to NYS social distancing requirements are to blame for the curtailed school days. However at the elementary level, some districts have employed creative solutions like installing plexiglass shields to permit more children to be in class together.

At the upper levels, other districts are using livestreaming or Google Meet to allow those at home to follow their classes. In Scarsdale, the high school cohorts are split into A and B groups, with the same lesson being taught on alternating days. This means that in many subject areas, only half the curriculum will be covered over the course of the year. Furthermore, Wednesdays have been set aside for teacher planning and professional developent, specials and tutorials. There is no sychronous learning on Wednesdays, cutting llive teaching by another 20%.

As to why Scarsdale is not livestreaming classes, Assistant Superintendent Andrew Patrick explained that teachers are just getting acclimated to the hybrid schedule and reporting that teaching to small cohorts is working. The district is also concerned about requiring too much screen time for students. He also explained that any change to the schedule would require lengthy collective bargaining negotiations with the teachers union (STA).

At a Board of Education meeting on October 5, School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman responded to the analysis telling parents that it might not paint the complete picture. He said he confers with area superintendents on a daily basis and the information that is written does not reflect what might be happening on the ground. He reports that some of these districts began school later than Scarsdale and have had to close for a day or two due to COVID cases. In addition, districts are having trouble staffing in-person classes and teachers are often absent.

Here is a copy of the parents’ letter that was sent to the administration and the Board of Education just prior to the October 5 meeting.

Dear Board and Administration,

I am attaching a chart comparing Scarsdale School District’s instructional time to other peer districts. This chart was produced by a group of parents who reached out to local schools to collect information about their hybrid plans, with a focus on ‘synchronous’ learning time. Notes were taken and included to flush out some details, hours are all estimates. It is intended as a snapshot only.

We do not draw conclusions, nor do we have recommendations for educational plans based on this small sliver of information.

But we notice two things that we wish to share:

1) Of the 20 other districts reviewed, Scarsdale has less instructional time in all age ranges than every other district. We are at the bottom.

2) Most/all other districts use some sort of live-streaming technology for the upper grades to support learning during this crisis with most live-streaming into the classroom.

Anecdotally, there are a number of other districts who have already made adjustments to plans, keeping the promise of a dynamic program. With so much uncertainty on the horizon, this is an important aspect of life today and we want to support our district to be flexible to improvement for student learning.

We realize that COVID-19 could require us to quickly pivot to all remote at any time, so while numbers are still on the low side should we be attentive to options now for more instruction?

We are sharing this info with others because we find parents and community members like to make up their own minds, review data for themselves.

Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to review this analysis.

Best,

Lisa Gans
Diane Greenwald
Debbie Hochberg
Elizabeth Hoexter
Sarah Hopkins
Michael Kahan
Tina Lin
Mimi Rocah
Stacey Schutzer
Michelle Sterling
Mauri Zemachson

See the entire chart here:

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