A bill recently passed by the Kentucky Senate would end the state program that permits school districts to offer nontraditional instruction days as opposed to tacking on days to the end of the calendar, but local educators along with State Representative Regina Petrey Huff, argue the program is working as intended, at least locally.
Senator David Givens, R-Greensburg, introduced Senate Bill 73, which would amend the law establishing the pilot program to sunset it at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Greensburg said it is not his intention to end the program, especially in areas where it is working, but to require other school districts, along with the Kentucky Department of Education to ensure all school districts are meeting an objective standard with the program.
“We do have some examples of excellence with regard to NTID in the Commonwealth,” Givens said. “Sadly enough, we have some examples of students sent home with a small binder of mimeographed pages as snow day packets. “What they are studying on those two to three pages is not pertinent to what they are currently learning in the classroom.”
“What we simply need to do is hit the reset button to give KDE more direction with regard to rigor and standards of NTI days,” Givens added.
“It won’t fit every district. It won’t fit all subjects. But it can be done better.”
Huff, a veteran middle school teacher that serves on the House Education Committee, said she agrees the assigned work must be designed to keep the students engaged in their respective classes.
“The House really wants to keep the program in place,” Huff said adding the House isn’t ready to hear the Senate bill and may even craft its own bill.
Huff said she and other educators are scheduled to meet with Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt to see what may be done to tweak the program to make it more uniform across the state.
“There has to be something that shows accountability,” Huff said.
Givens said he is not opposed to looking at a bill crafted by the House should it make the necessary changes to the program noting that when his bill was first released, there was apprehension in the Senate until he spoke about it on the floor. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, 36-0.
“They had a lot of the same initial concerns until I explained the goal was to get to NTI 2.0,” Givens said of his fellow senators. “My goal has never been to do away with NTI and never do it again.”
Mark Daniel, Director of Support Services at Corbin Independent Schools, said like with their daily classes, Corbin teachers are required to make lesson plans for the NTI days and keep them updated as the year progresses.
“They build lessons and assignments to align with what they are teaching up to a 10-day span,” Daniel said adding that the principals are responsible for making sure that the teachers do it and keep it updated.
Corbin Primary School Principal Travis Wilder said teachers at Corbin work to make NTI days a snapshot of the missed day, assigning work that matches the subjects the student would have missed.
“We do a special class offering each day,” Wilder said of the primary school which includes kindergarten through second grade. In addition to math and language arts, the students would have work in science, arts and humanities, social studies or physical education, depending on the day of the week.
Wilder said teachers are available to help through social media or by calling the school between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“We want them to message the teacher,” Wilder said explaining that the teacher is receiving credit for the school day and is expected to be available to the students
When a student submits the work, the teacher may review it and offer comments to the student.
“The students are given multiple attempts to complete the work,” Wilder explained adding that there is also additional time to ensure students that don’t have access to the necessary technology at home are not penalized.
Williamsburg Superintendent Dr. Amon Couch said his faculty and staff are instructed to follow state guidelines concerning NTI, “to the letter.”
We are always working to try to communicate with our parents and to be sure that it is good, quality work,” Couch said.
“We like it,” Couch said of the NTI program. “We feel like it is effective.”