By Guest Blogger Michelle Ballard
As the parent of students who have overcome struggles in school, I'm very concerned about the new teacher's contract cutting classroom time. School districts across the country are lengthening the school day and their students are improving because of it. But the new contract in New York City actually cuts instructional time by two and a half hours per week, which adds up to three weeks per year.
When my daughter was in second grade, she was having a lot of trouble with reading comprehension. It was so bad that the principal told me that she was at risk of being held back. I started meeting regularly with all of her teachers.
They decided that in order to get my daughter on track, she needed to start working every day on reading comprehension in a smaller group. As a result of that extra help, she was not held back, and this June she will graduate from Junior High. In fact, she's in the running to be valedictorian.
Not every child learns in the same way as other kids, and sometimes they need extra small group support to keep up. That doesn't make them less smart or less hard working. I have five kids. Four are currently in the Public School system and one is a graduate.
Both my daughter and my son were helped by small group time with teachers. But I'm worried that my younger daughter won't have the same chance. She's ten years old, the same age that her brother and sister got the extra help that kept them on pace with their peers.
If she falls behind, who will help her? Who will make sure that kids all around the city get the extra help they need to keep up? Losing two and a half hours of precious instructional time could put them even farther behind.
I was optimistic a few weeks ago when the Mayor and the Schools Chancellor announced the new city teacher's contract. Carmen Farina is a former principal, and she's talked a lot about bringing joy to the classroom, something I welcome.
But I had no idea watching the chancellor and the mayor with the head of the union that day — sharing smiles and hugs during the announcement — that my daughter's education, and the education of thousands of kids like her around the city, was the collateral damage.
I hope that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina put back the instructional time they cut from the school day. Kids like my daughter need that time and they don't deserve to be shortchanged.
I wish more adults in charge would think more about the students who really need this time in the classroom.
Michelle Ballard is a New York City Public School parent and Bedford-Stuyvesant resident.