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MN Start Times Yield Different Opinions

September 6, 2011, 6:00 PM by David Brown

MN Start Times Yield Different Opinions
LUVERNE & PIPESTONE, MN - Tuesday wrapped up the first day of school for many Minnesota students. But a group of schools in the southwest part of the state have already been in class for two weeks. Do the different start times matter?

By starting August 22, Luverne students and teachers believe they're multiple steps ahead of their counterparts.

"If you asked me right now, it's kind of nice that today (Tuesday) isn't our first day and we're in the full swing of things," Luverne High School principal Ryan Johnson said.

Minnesota state law dictates the school year starts the day after Labor Day. But Johnson says his school is one of several in the middle of a three-year experiment with a late August start.

"Luverne is in a group of 25 schools in the southwest part of the state that went to the Department of Education to try something new," Johnson said.

"It's really just a two-week shift," Pipestone High School principal Cory Strasser said. "I don't see it as that big of a deal."

Just north of Luverne in Pipestone, Strasser is getting off to a running start on his first day, saying the timing of the school year doesn't matter

"The way our teachers teach our expected content and curriculum, our kids are going to be successful whether they start today or if they had started two weeks ago," Strasser said.

But Johnson says with firm windows for state testing, starting earlier does bring some advantages.

"By starting that, we're giving them a couple of extra weeks of being able to see how that improves our tests scores and the workings of that," Johnson said.

Strasser says it doesn't matter if kids started in late August or the first week of September, it's up to the teachers to make sure the kids are prepared for standardized tests.

"A test can be a test," Strasser said. "Really, I think the biggest thing is how we teach our kids."

And while Johnson agrees teachers play a critical role in how students test, that's the purpose of Luverne's early-start experiment.

"We're just trying something different, seeing how things work out whether it's test scores, student or teacher morale, looking at those options," Johnson said.

Strasser says Pipestone has no plans to try an earlier start time. Johnson says Luverne will re-evaluate after the three-year window ends in 2013.

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