It's called report card day by many. The day starts much the same as any ordinary school day: Students clamber onto buses, into mom and dad's car or hit the sidewalks heading for school. They go to their homeroom, take a seat, attendance is taken.
It's called report card day by many.
The day starts much the same as any ordinary school day: Students clamber onto buses, into mom and dad's car or hit the sidewalks heading for school. They go to their homeroom, take a seat, attendance is taken.
But that's about where the day ends at several schools, literally lasting only about as long as it takes for kids to receive their grades and head back out the way they came.
Under Illinois statute, it's one of two school days that may last less than the required minimum five clock hours of classroom instruction yet count as an entire school day.
But with the push for greater achievement scores as well as the increasing cost of operating schools -- emphasized only more now with high fuel prices - just how beneficial is a report card day?
"I would say it's pretty pointless . . . there's not anything educationally productive going in the classroom -- it's just a end-of-the-year habit or ritual," said Randy Vincent, superintendent of Fieldcrest School District 6, which serves students in Woodford, Marshall, LaSalle and Livingston counties. "I don't know why."
Bill Link, superintendent at Pekin Grade School District 108, agreed, saying "it's purely an operational issue."
Simply put, schools count the day as one of the 180 days required of the school year. School code requires 176 days of attendance, not including four teacher institute days.
And while general state aid is based on average daily attendance, school districts have the choice as to which months to base their attendance for that aid. May is typically not one of those months because students often are gone on family vacations or for a host of other reasons, officials say.
"I'm 60, and as long as I can remember it's been steeped into the history of public school practice," said Jeff Nelson, assistant superintendent at the Peoria County Regional Office of Education, of report card day. "At some point it was adopted into the school code because it's always the way things had been done."
Some schools districts have their last day consisting of 15 minutes or less, others an hour or two; some schools have teachers work the entire day, others a half-day; and the last day at some schools is preceded by a half-day.
Despite the lack of classroom learning, Vincent pointed out that for teachers it's a chance to tie up any loose ends and take care of the "closing" of the school year and their classroom. "It is an opportunity to have one final school contact with kids before summer."
Still, attendance on report card day is typically lower, increasingly lower the higher the grade level, Vincent admitted. Adding to it, Fieldcrest spends about $750 each day in fuel expenses alone just to bus students to and from school on its 19 buses - not including pay to the drivers.
According to the two bus contractors who will provide transportation for the nearly 2,000 students at District 108 today, the price tag will be about $500 in fuel alone.
Peoria School District 150 will spend $18,000 in fuel and bus driver wages for that one hour students will spend at school on Friday, spokeswoman Stacey Shangraw said Wednesday.
"I couldn't find anyone who could tell me why," Shangraw said.
"It would be nice to do some creative thinking," Link said of changing report card day into a day that holds more educational benefits, though he, too, noted that for teachers it is a regular work day.
In some cases, schools use the time for planning for the next school year, he said.
"The use of time is left flexible to meet the schools' and teachers' needs," Link continued. "Our view is that this time on this particular day is an accommodation for the countless hours of teachers' personal time spent working in their classrooms and preparing prior to the official start of the school year."
Vincent wonders how the day would be structured if students were kept all day.
Many admit that keeping attention on a last day, or even last week, is challenging.
Whether a school district wants to change tradition resides with those individual school boards to decide -- how long their last day of school is or what kind of activities to involve, Nelson said.
"It's not a bad thing to examine past practice," he said.
Dave Haney can be reached at (309) 686-3181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.