2017-18 brings changes to school day and school year
Subjects matter: Middle schools adjust scheduling
Effective with the 2017-18 school year, middle schools will have designated English language arts (ELA), social studies, math and science teachers. Previously, middle school teachers were scheduled to teach both ELA and social studies; or math and science, easing the transition of students from elementary to middle school by having fewer individual teachers and courses.
Next school year, students will have more teachers in middle school. However, each teacher will “specialize” in a content area of his/her expertise.
“We believe this is a ‘win-win’ for students and teachers,” explained Clover Park School District (CPSD) superintendent Debbie LeBeau. “Teachers will teach in their strength content areas and students will benefit from their teachers’ expertise and focus.”
Other benefits to the scheduling change include better retention and recruitment of teachers and more focused professional development.
More time to learn: Elementary schools switch from quarters to trimesters
Also effective with the 2017-18 school year, elementary schools will move from quarterly (45 days) reporting periods to trimester (60 days) reporting periods.
A committee of elementary principals and teachers, along with district staff, studied the recommendation and support its implementation. In addition, parents, principals and teachers were surveyed to determine their level of support. Survey results showed that all parties support the change.
“There are several advantages for both students and instructors in moving to a trimester reporting period,” said Ron Banner, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, citing the following:
- More time for students to learn and demonstrate proficiency;
- More time at the beginning of the school year for students to acclimate to school, classroom and schedules before baseline testing and grading begins;
- Fewer marking periods, to reduce time for necessary testing and to increase instructional time; and
- More flexibility for teachers to pace curriculum and ensure student mastery of skills.
Consistent professional development: District considers adjustment from early release half days to late-start Wednesdays
The district genuinely values professional development for staff to improve their professional practice. Staff need time to plan lessons and assessments based on the state standards to ensure each student’s school experience is the very best possible.
CPSD is considering a weekly one-hour late start Wednesdays to conduct Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and provide professional development opportunities. The late start Wednesday schedule would not decrease instructional hours.
In PLCs, education professionals come together on a regular basis to review and analyze student data, revise their teaching strategies and practices and collaborate to improve student achievement.
The goal of PLCs is the long-term improvement of student learning and achievement for all students. PLCs provide a consistent and ongoing meeting time for teachers to collaborate.
Certificated staff do some of this work now during the nine early release professional development half days that are included in the school year calendar. There are however, 23 schools, and the collaboration time varies. In some cases, teachers meet before or after school.
“We believe we can improve student achievement even more by ensuring all certificated staff have a consistent time to collaborate,” said Brian Laubach, deputy superintendent. Over the past several weeks, a proposal was shared with the school board, teachers’ association, staff and families to change from nine early release half days to 29 one-hour late starts on Wednesdays.
The district would maintain three half days in the fall and three half days in the spring for teacher-parent conferencing, as well as the half day before Thanksgiving and the last day of school.
Surveys have been distributed to obtain feedback on the proposed change from parents, staff and administrators. Survey data will be analyzed to determine if additional refinement of the proposal is needed. Staff has also met with transportation and student nutrition services to determine how late starts Wednesdays can be implemented efficiently in schools.
A decision is anticipated by May 1, 2017, and more information will be available at that time.