Walton County: Slices 20 days of the year, adds 20 minutes to the day. Does it equal out in the end?

Walton County just adopted a 160-day calendar for next year, adding 20 minutes to each school day to make up the missing 20 days. The county blamed state cuts of $7  million for the drastic measure.

School will start August 16. There will be a three week winter break. School will end May 20.

A teacher from Walton told me, “Our teachers seem to be on board with the idea and there has been effort on the part of administrators for several months now to keep teachers in the loop so that there will be buy in on this. The BOE has been very committed to doing what they can to save taxpayer money and to save jobs without making the students suffer academically.”

The system will focus on bell to bell instruction and do away with many field trips, but I still think there will be a learning loss when you chop off 20 days.  Do you think adding the 2o minutes a day mitigates the shorter school year?

According to the county Web site:

The modification will reduce the number of days students are in school from 180 to 160. The number of hours of instruction will still be more than required by the state because the school day will be extended by an additional 20 minutes of instruction.

In making these budget reductions three goals have been set. These goals are:

-The reductions would have as little impact on our quality of instruction as possible.

-We would protect the employment status of our employees to the greatest extent possible.

-We would spread reductions in expenditures across schools, programs, and employees as fairly and equitably as possible.

-The shorter school year is being considered because it will significantly reduce school operating costs. Most of the savings will be generated, because schools will operate for twenty fewer days. Savings for diesel fuel alone would be approximately $52,000.

-Other savings would relate to utility costs. August is the most expensive month for utilities and is also a month utility companies use when establishing rates for the entire year. In the past, extreme heat in August has also caused student safety concerns, and beginning school later in August would alleviate those concerns.

65 comments Add your comment

drew (former teacher)

May 27th, 2010
6:07 am

Well, just doing the math, it looks like 20 minutes more a day, over the course of 160 days, works out to be about 8-9 days worth of instructional time, so no, it doesn’t quite equal out.

But the good news for teachers, is that while they’ll take a 20-day hit in pay (I’m assuming their pay will be based on the 160 day schedule), they’ll still get the pleasure of teaching that extra 20 minutes each day…for FREE.

And Maureen, it’s a great time to be doing the Get Schooled blog, eh? No shortage of topics around here.

Hank Rearden

May 27th, 2010
6:23 am

Well, like Deal Real Mistake said – local districts will figure it out.

Guess them Walton County folk just don’t work hard enough.

Of course not

May 27th, 2010
6:46 am

This is just ridiculous…

Maureen Downey

May 27th, 2010
7:08 am

@Drew, There is a FAQ on the Walton site that deals with teacher compensation: (You can get there via the link in the blog entry.)
Here are the questions on teacher pay:
Would teacher pay be cut?

The number of hours worked by teachers will be the same because teachers will have their workday increased by one hour.

6. How many days will teachers work?

Teachers will work 170 days: 160 nine-hour student days and 10 eight-hour teacher work days.

Fericita

May 27th, 2010
7:28 am

Perhaps in middle and high school this wouldn’t equal a shortage of instruction, but in elementary schools, an extra 20 minutes is pushing it. The kids are tired at the end of the day. I feel for those K, 1st, and 2nd grade teachers especially! Those will be a cranky 20 minutes for sure. But, like anything, I suppose they’ll all get used to it.

Teacher&mom

May 27th, 2010
7:40 am

No…let’s put this in a different perspective since so many folks like to compare education to a business. Would keeping a business open an extra 20 minutes a day make up for lost income when the owners decide to close shop for 20 days? I don’t think so. Walton just chopped off a full month of school….4 weeks….20 days. That is brutal. However, I don’t think they will be the only county to try such desperate measures.

teacher in waiting

May 27th, 2010
8:10 am

While I can understand the need to consider everything in the budget at this time, it seems to me that the powers to be have taken every effort to decimate our education system. There is a plethora of studies that show how many students struggle or cannot retain the material they have been taught over the 12 week summer break and the teacher has to spend the first few weeks trying to get them back up to speed. Our education system is broke in every sense of the word.

incredulous

May 27th, 2010
8:16 am

Fericita makes a good point about young elementary students being tired at the end of the day, however I think this plan will be rough on older students too, particularly those in the harder high school courses. High school learning involves both classroom instructional time and independent study and practice, i.e. homework. How is the missed 20 days’ worth of homework supposed to get crammed into the evenings (shortened by 20 minutes) and weekends of the shortened school year?

Tony

May 27th, 2010
8:17 am

There are limits to what children can absorb in learning during the day. Methods like this to deal with budget shortfalls are not based on learning research but upon reaction to the fact that schools can not make up the difference in funding for what the state is withholding.

td

May 27th, 2010
8:51 am

teacher in waiting, I guess PARENTS will need to get involved in their children’s education now and make sure they do enough during the summer to retain the information. The Government can not make up for good parenting and the sooner we realize this fact the better off we will be as a whole.

Also, I do believe we all had at least 12 weeks off in the summer during the 70’s and 80’s and I think our generation did fine academically.

truth

May 27th, 2010
8:57 am

If cutting utilities is important, why not start after Labor Day? A mid-August start, and an extra weekoff at Christmas is disingenious.

Call it purely a cost cutting plan and move on. The kids and society WILL suffer for years.

catlady

May 27th, 2010
9:18 am

I think it is a great idea. Teacher workdays are preserved; I applaud them for that. It involves sacrifice on the part of parents (they feel what the budget cuts actually mean, and might start advocating for money for the schools); I applaud them on that. They save money in other areas; I applaud them on that. It will save taxpayer money on free/reduced lunch; I applaud them on that.

I thought school bus drivers and cafeteria workers had 180 days guaranteed to them; I guess that is not true.

What are their school hours now? We go 8-3 with bell to bell instruction already in my elementary school. It is brutal; some of our kids are on the bus before 6:30 and off after 4:30. All grades ride the same buses.

teacher in waiting: we have to do that every MONDAY. However, I posit that if a child has truly LEARNED something, they don’t forget over the summer. Too often we go for exposing the kid to skills, but not mastery.

John

May 27th, 2010
9:19 am

That is an absolute joke. That means that you add 3 and a half minutes to each of the six high school subject periods each day. Do you really think that enough will be taught in 3 minutes each day to come anywhere close to the lost 20 days of instructioon? Give me a break.

td

May 27th, 2010
9:26 am

truth, How will our “kids and society suffer”? My kids go to schools that score the highest every year on the CRCT and on average the highest scores on the SAT. They have not done hardly anything since the test ended in mid April. That means they are basically waisting time and really do not need to be in school waisting the taxpayers money to heat the building, feed the children, pay for gas for the buses, pay for the bus drivers and for janitorial services.

Dose of Reality

May 27th, 2010
9:36 am

Absolutely insane move on the part of Walton County. Just another reason why educators do not have any business handling the business side of education. In reality, that 20 days is more like 40 when you factor in the fact that it has become commonplace for instruction to come to a grinding halt after the CRCT.

do the math...

May 27th, 2010
9:44 am

OK, 20minutes/day x 160days = 3200minutes = 53.333… hours. Let’s say 53 hours.

53 hours / 20 days = 2.65 hours.

It doesn’t sound like 20 extra minutes for 160 days add up to a lot more time than 20 days. Are they saying that we spent 2.65 hours/day for instruction and the remaining time are for non-instruction?

By reducing the number of school days, what exactly do they save?
transportation
utilities
food

Do these cost really add up to 7 million in 20 days?

I wonder how many parents would rather provide own transportation for the entire school year than to having to find child care arrangement for 20 more days.

Federal money coming?

May 27th, 2010
9:45 am

Is the federal money coming anytime soon? Haven’t seen a time line. Is it going to effect what these districts have already voted on?

Can we trust the Georgia legislature to actually dole it out in a timely manner?

Dose of Reality

May 27th, 2010
9:47 am

Do the math- Don’t forget, they save themselves the trouble of having to pull together an extra 20 days worth of inadaquate instructional materials!

truth

May 27th, 2010
9:48 am

td, congtatulations on your Lake Wobeegon (sp?)kids and school. Maybe they can waste over 10% of the school year, but most GA kids can’t.

We need an educated work force. Have you ever had a real conversation with a kid that can’t break 900 on the SAT (old scoring)? Not a confidence builder!

Dose of Reality

May 27th, 2010
9:51 am

Federal money coming- If the school system squandered the funds they had before the economic downturn, why should I (or anyone else for that matter) believe they won’t make the exact same mistakes with the federal funds?

Lisa B.

May 27th, 2010
9:53 am

I believe that Murry County is using a 160-day calendar this year, and has voted to use the same calendar for the coming year. I’d like to hear from Murry County folks how the 160-day calendar worked for them and impacted their test scores this year.

Lisa B.

May 27th, 2010
9:55 am

Several school systems around the state have voted to have a four-day work week next year. Does that mean they cut 36 instructional days off the calendar?

Dose of Reality

May 27th, 2010
9:56 am

TD- scoring the highest on the CRCT is like obtaining a world record for drinking the most yoo-hoo in a day. Sure, you’re the “best” at what you do, but does anyone care? Does it make you a more valuable member of society? Don’t kid yourself, the CRCT is meaningless in terms of measuring aptitude and academic knowledge.

oldtimer

May 27th, 2010
9:56 am

I think most will be fine. I wwent to school from Labor Dad to Memorial Day..did very well on SAT…and have three degrees. Nothing happens now days after testing. Schools might think about stopping earlier in May. Teachers may have to cut some fun days and movies, but material will get covered.

Tonya T.

May 27th, 2010
10:10 am

oldtimer:

I graduated 11 years ago. Even I am I amazed at the differences those seemingly few years can make. What worked when you were in school—well, the times have changed. The social and behavioral issues teachers face now are mind-blowing. My husband is a middle-school teacher, and I wouldn’t take his job for a powerball jackpot.

Overachiever, Under-compensated

May 27th, 2010
10:19 am

Y’all sound crazy! If your teachers aren’t teaching after the test, RISE UP! My students were looking at me like I was crazy but teaching & learning kept right on happening until the last bell rang…every day, all day. Think about it: 4th graders in the state of GA are supposed to learn American History from Native Americans to the Goldrush. You’re telling me somebody somewhere is adequately (not to mention exceptionally) covering that information in 30 weeks (36 weeks of school minus 2 weeks of testing & 4 weeks after that) ? Give me a BREAK! If your teachers stop teaching that’s the problem, NOT the length of the school year.

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Dogmom

May 27th, 2010
10:40 am

@ Maureen – can you verify the exact amount of seat time required to count for an instructional day? It think it’s 4.5 hours for elementary students. If so, tacking 20 minutes on to the school day is about right. The teachers are the ones who will suffer the most, especially if they have a ton of after school “professional duties and responsibilities.” Many of them already stay an hour or two late everyday on their own time as it is.

truth

May 27th, 2010
10:46 am

Think about it… if a average high school graduate from ANY state but South Carolina moves to Georgia, the average IQ of both states goes UP!

Adding 20 days might not be enough.

HS tchr

May 27th, 2010
11:19 am

If everyone will pay attention, the rural systems that were already running on much tighter budgets are the ones going to four day weeks or finding ways to reduce the number of days. In my system, we’ve already taken basically a 10% cut in pay, and that only covered about 1/4 of the total state reduction in funding. It’s not like we can keep the buildings open with no electricity ro run busses on empty tanks. We’re likely to go to a 4 day calendar because the local revenues aren’t enough to make up for the budget slashing at the state level.

HS Teacher

May 27th, 2010
11:44 am

Why is any energy at all being wasted on figureing out how to remedy the situation. The core problem still exists and will exist until the problem is solved!

The core problem is the politicans/administration in charge making WRONG decisions for public education. The republicans want to destroy it so they can go to a voucher system. The administrators would never cut their own salary/bonus so they cut the classroom needs for the students (larger class sizes, fewer teachers, teacher pay cuts, furloughs, etc.).

Until the core problem is resolved, these issues will continue.

Joy in Teaching

May 27th, 2010
12:42 pm

I’m not sure if this information is correct as I got it off the Walton Co. website, but high school students are required to have 59,400 instructional minutes.

According to the Walton Co. website, students are currently receiving 69,600 instructional minutes. When they go on the 160 plan next year, students will receive 65,120 instructional minutes which is still WAY above what is required.

People can scream all they want about how the kids are going to suffer but lets face it: there are some days in most schools when instruction isn’t exactly bell to bell. There will always be fire drills, announcements on the intercom, pep ralleys, student assemblies, etc. Yet the general public doesn’t seem to care if those days interfere with instruction.

I’m on planning right now. But last period I had 5 students out of 25 as this is the last week of school for us. The intercom went off at least 30 times during the period calling students up to the office to check out. Should I have expected them to sit in straight rows in a studious manner attempting to teach them something with all of the interuptions going on? I finally gave up and we played a game. Not exactly bell to bell instruction, mind you, but technically the hour that I had supervision of those kids is still considered an instructional hour by the state. The same types of days happen before Christmas break, at the end of the day during CRCT or ITBS testing week, etc.

Hopefully, Walton County will be able to cut out some of the fat of down time that happens in schools.

Private School Guy

May 27th, 2010
1:28 pm

I’m all for such innovation but there should be some compensation for increasing the school day. I think that more systems should have made changes in the school year when considering savings and teacher furloughs. DeKalb is furloughing teachers seven days and not cutting one school day. Planning and staff development has been cut in the process. Another aspect of this is that by having students in schools less days passes the issue of childcare (not education) back to the parents. If this is done parents will be more likely to settle for a tax increase to keep this from happening. A $100 tax increase costs less than seven days of childcare.

Tonya T.

May 27th, 2010
1:32 pm

To tell you the state of education in Georgia today, let me offer all of you this. I was interested in homeschooling my rising 6th-grade son next year. I applied to Georgia Cyber Academy the first day registration opened. Demand was so great they held a lottery and he’s been wait-listed. I guess more parents than I thought are looking to make sure their children get a good education and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Been there done that

May 27th, 2010
2:32 pm

Regarding the wasted days after the CRCT…I can’t speak for the high schools but the Cobb Co elementary schools worked to continue to remediate students in danger of failing the CRCT. There would be no summer school this year due to financial issues and retesting was scheduled for May 18th and 19th. We didn’t find out who actually had failed until May 10th. A bit ridiculous…work 2 hours per day on reading skills for approximately 3 weeks, and then retest.

Kathleen

May 27th, 2010
3:02 pm

Well, it is sad to say but the fewer days my kid has to sit with those “educators” the better! Teachers can no longer teach, they just spew info. Treat them like professionals, pay them like professionals, and don’t just talk about how important education is. Students no longer learn because they are too busy ridiculing and talking smack about each other and thinking about what fun they are going to have after school or this weekend. Education is broken. Our kids are paying a high price.

what are we paying teachers for?

May 27th, 2010
3:18 pm

If not much happens after standardized tests, then why are we paying teachers for 180+ days (before furloughs)? Even if they were doing “remediation” as Cobb elementary teachers are apparently doing, that time is a complete waste of time for those who passed the tests – even though they might not know the results.

If the only things happening after the tests are movies, parties, and remediation, perhaps we should just cut the school years at 160 days – no need to add any minutes since they were able to provide whatever was necessary without such extra time.

RBN

May 27th, 2010
3:49 pm

This is just another way that we are cheating our students of being competitive in the world economy. Is 160 days enough? That depends on your standard for an adequate education. Hope fully the courts will step in soon because our legislature certainly thinks so. What companies will come to Georgia knowing that their families will have this for a school system? The ones who will suffer most are low income and ESL students. Twenty more days without hearing English spoken and perhaps without a decent meal.

liberal

May 27th, 2010
4:17 pm

I am a liberal and proud of it. So, I understand the importance of providing decent meals to children of the poor families. However, we should separate that issue from education of our children. As a liberal, I do believe it is our responsibility to feed those children, and the government as our representatives should provid the appropriate funding for such endeavor. But, I also believe that education policies should be made by considering only what’s the best interest for students’ learning. We should not keep schools open for 180 days just so that poor children can get decent meals. If that’s the reason, why are we stopping at 180 days? Why not 365 days?

@Tonya

May 27th, 2010
4:27 pm

Tonya, if you’re interested in the cyber academy but can’t get in, I recommend you check out Oak Meadow school. It is a SACS accredited distance learning school. http://www.oakmeadow.com

Gwinnett Parent

May 27th, 2010
4:57 pm

We could do fine with 160 days if the teachers could hit the ground running at the beginning of the year and teach until the end of the year. After my daughter finished the CRCT in April instruction time came to a halt. The work in the weekly folder was reduced by over 70%. The last 2 weeks were nothing but parties. The first 2 months of the yr is filled with nothing but review and assessment. Why do they have benchmark tests at the end of the year if the students are going to be re-assessed at the start of the next year? At least start from the point of the previous yr’s assessment. We definetly waste over 20 days a yr.

SE GA Teacher

May 27th, 2010
5:31 pm

I’ll soon be SE GA Retired Teacher, and I feel lucky that I’m able to do it. I began teaching thirty ago and have times ever changed! Now, I made less than $10,000 for my first two years, and that was when we lived in Fulton County, but I absolutely loved everything about teaching. The kids are my favorite aspect now. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. We had to teach our second graders everything they needed to know to exceed, not just pass, the CRCT, and once that was over, it has been review weak areas and get ready for third grade. Our school has parents that expect their children to be learning each day, so we did teach until the end. I would have anyway, but this was a great time to teach higher level thinking skills, etc. That can be fun, also. I’ll miss my admin, co-workers, and students, but not the silly paperwork, especially the lesson plans that were more detailed than the ones I did at GA State 30+ years ago.

Teacher from somewhere else

May 27th, 2010
5:31 pm

If there were any labor laws in this state, a decision to add minutes to teachers’ days would have to be voted on by all teachers. Working extra time for less money would not be OK with me. And, most of us know that there’s a declining achievement curve as the afternoon wears on–you can pretty much kiss anything after 1:30 goodbye, particularly when kids aren’t allowed recess or any down time all day long.

ScienceTeacher671

May 27th, 2010
5:42 pm

I can’t believe all these schools that quit teaching after the CRCT. We have exams on the last 2 days of school, and most of the teachers at our school teach until then.

I guess if the administrators allow it and the parents don’t complain….

BTW our district cut 6 instructional days and added 15 minutes to each school day, so 20 minutes for 20 days doesn’t sound right to me.

@ st 671

May 27th, 2010
5:56 pm

My sons are in HS, and they do have final exams in the last 3 days of school. Unfortunately, it sounds like most (not all) of their teachers have been reviewing for the last 3 weeks – and a few weeks before then for the EOCT if there is one in the course. I don’t consider “reviewing for tests” to be “teaching.”

ScienceTeacher671

May 27th, 2010
7:31 pm

I don’t consider “reviewing for tests” to be “teaching” either…and I don’t have the luxury of reviewing for 3 weeks. On block schedule, we’re doing all we can to teach all the required material before time for the test, actually.

peanut

May 27th, 2010
7:52 pm

Murray County did have the 160 day calendar this year and did adopt it for next year. The CRCT scores were on the same scale as the surrounding counties that maintained the 180 day calendar. Did the teachers work harder or smarter? Smarter would be the answer you would get from these people. Was there parental concern at the times of instruction from beginning to end? Yes, but their concern was more about the time their child was getting off the bus versus the time they spent in the building. A 4 day week was the initial plan, but there were so many parents screaming about who was going to watch their child(ren) on that one day the school would be closed that the 160 day was adopted, and it has worked.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

May 27th, 2010
9:03 pm

I get tired of people saying that nothing happens after the CRCT. Not in my classroom! We are WORKING! Tomorrow is our last day (Cherokee County). In my math classes today we were reviewing and checking the work they’d been doing this week, which is all standards-related. Tomorrow they’ll have their party, sign yearbooks, etc…but up until now we have been working.

Fericita

May 27th, 2010
9:54 pm

Gwinnett Parent, in reference to your comment: “Why do they have benchmark tests at the end of the year if the students are going to be re-assessed at the start of the next year? At least start from the point of the previous yr’s assessment. We definetly waste over 20 days a yr.”

Students often lose a lot/regress over the summer, and retesting is often neccessary for the teacher to get a clear picture of what the students know.

I’m sad to see so many posters saying that learning stops after the CRCT. It’s true that we have to be finished teaching new material by the CRCT, since theoretically, anything from the entire school year’s standards can be on it. But, that is no reason to stop teaching. Good teachers go deeper
into standards that had to be truncated in order to cover everything. Of course, dramatic, costumed plays might not be the way to go, I hear…

Love to Teach

May 27th, 2010
10:40 pm

Teacher pay will not be taking a hit. We will be working 1 hour extra each day so we can be fully prepared for the next day of instruction and show everyone that Walton County can make a 160 day calendar a success! :-)