New Brunswick

Paul Bennett calls number of snow days a 'crisis' for schools

A Halifax-based education consultant says students missing an average of 12 days in New Brunswick this school year because of snow days is a "crisis."

Education consultant says there is no reason students shouldn't be learning at home on storm days

A Halifax-based education consultant says students missing an average of 12 days in New Brunswick this school year because of snow days is a "crisis."

Paul Bennett, an education consultant, says graduating students who miss several days of classes because of storm days are at a disadvantage if their final year is disrupted. (CBC)
Paul Bennett, the director of Schoolhouse Consulting and an adjunct professor of education at Saint Mary's University, wrote a report in 2010 for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies called School's Out Again.

"The way I put it is that throwaway school days hurt students. They do not do as well on their final exams and those that are graduating or going to university are at a considerable disadvantage if their final year is disrupted in this way," he said.

Cassie Pitchford, a grade 12 student at Riverview High School, says all of the snow days are making her final year more difficult.

"It just means the more cramming of all the material at the end of the year which means a lot of studying for us and it's really difficult when a lot of us work."

As part of his report, Bennett analyzed how students performed on final mathematics exams in Nova Scotia and then compared the results over a three-year period when there were very few days cancelled.

He says student did far worse in the year when there were as many as 14 snow days in the province. 

"It's a crisis situation any time students are out of school as much as they have been in New Brunswick, and when you start losing more than 10 days or two weeks of school as a result of inclement weather or a variety of other cancellation reasons, it is serious because it impacts on students," Bennett said.

Pitchford says she has started cutting back on extra curricular activities to give her more time to get in extra studying.

"It's something I need to do in order to make sure I stay at the level I am with all of the snow days."

No excuse for not learning on snow days 

Bennett recommends education officials make changes to how professional development days are scheduled, suggesting they should be grouped near the end of the school year so they could be cancelled to make up for snow days.

Education Minister Serge Rousselle is striking a committee to look at options to make up for lost class time caused by snowstorms. (CBC)
He also suggests e-learning on days when school is cancelled, and what he calls 'blizzard bags' for students who do not have access to a computer at home. 
"These are homework bags where they're expected to do work and when school resumes, to have accomplished their objectives," Bennett said.

"There's really no excuse these days for kids to be out of school and not learning when everyone practically has access to home computers or can find access to home computers."

Aodhan Murphy, a Grade 12 student at Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton, says he would like to see more teachers give assignments on snow days.

"I think that would probably be beneficial, just because the assignments need to get done," he said. 

Leadership needed

Bennett has suggestions to make up classroom time in New Brunswick for lost snow days, including moving parent-teacher interviews to evenings, cancelling professional development days when necessary, and extending the school year.

"Your school year for students ends on June 19 but everywhere else in the Maritimes it ends on June 23," he said.

Bennett says he sees a clear way to reduce the number of missed days in New Brunswick from 13 to five or six.

"All we need is leadership from the top to make those decisions," he said.

Education Minister Serge Rousselle said on Wednesday he plans to strike a committee to look at options to make up for lost class time caused by snowstorms.


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