DeKalb offers parents two calendars. Weekly early release still under consideration.

Just received this from DeKalb schools:

After hours of collaboration and discussion by a team of parents, teachers, principals and administrators, the DeKalb County School District Calendar Committee has released two calendar options for public review.

The first, a traditional calendar, reflects a start date of Aug. 12 and an end date of May 23. DCSD has historically adopted the traditional calendar model.

The second, a balanced calendar, begins the school year on Aug. 5 and ends on May 29, but has an additional week of vacation in each semester. Balanced calendars are growing in popularity and are utilized by other districts including Rockdale County Public Schools and the City Schools of Decatur.

Both calendars have 180 school days for the students and an additional 10 days for the teachers, comprised of nine work days and four two-hour teacher conference nights.

Among other considerations is a weekly one-hour early release in order to allow for professional development for all teachers and administrators.

“We know that in order to provide the best possible education for our students, our teachers must also be life-long learners,” said Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson. “These professional learning opportunities will help our staff help our children.”

The calendars will be available for public comment until Sept. 26. Community members may also participate in a brief survey to gauge the level of support for each calendar as well as the early release day.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

82 comments Add your comment

d

September 17th, 2012
8:30 pm

Now the one major question regardless of which choice…will teachers actually work 190 days and kids get 180 of instruction?

Eric

September 17th, 2012
8:34 pm

Don’t know why people think balance calendars are so wonderful? There would be less of a summer vacation, but I guess everyone’s supposed to work 24/7 sooner or later, and that leisure is a notion of a bygone era.

JT

September 17th, 2012
8:36 pm

Did they actually post the calendars or just the description of them?

concernedmom30329

September 17th, 2012
8:58 pm

Maureen,

For Dr. Atkinson to claim that she is worried about “summer melt” for students, yet continue to allow high schools to use block scheduling, when some students can go 9 months between math and language art classes, is ludicrous. Study after study has shown that it isn’t the calendar but the number of days — 220 days serves disadvantaged students better than 180, but Dr. Atkinson has chosen to use a huge percentage of DeKalb’s Title 1 funds for a packaged program, America’s Choice.

Dolores

September 17th, 2012
9:15 pm

You know everyone continues to complain about how the kids have problems with the block schedule. Not sure but our students’ scores have improved each year with the block. I think that it depends on the students and perhaps that’s it.

Atlanta Mom

September 17th, 2012
9:25 pm

“Among other considerations is a weekly one-hour early release in order to allow for professional development for all teachers and administrators”
I’m curious. Would one hour each week be an effective delivery method for professional development?

The Deal

September 17th, 2012
10:01 pm

I wish Dr. Atkinson would focus on our known problems (there are many) instead of creating new ones. Both parents work in our family, and, even though the two weeks in the middle of the semester don’t represent extra time off, I don’t consider having to put my 4 kids in 2 random weeks of camp in the middle of the year to be anything that benefits their academic achievement. I don’t have the money or time off work to be free those two weeks during the year. It is much easier to make day plans for the kids in one block in the summer. Employers understand parent time off is more likely to happen in the summer, and they plan for it, too.

Dr. Atkinson, please focus on bigger and more important issues that are directly related to student achievement. Stop with all of the assessments (the whole month of October), fix the block scheduling, fix the high school math, target failing schools, produce an org chart, keep our accreditation, don’t spend $30 million more than is budgeted in a year, be transparent with us and SACS, and, just do your job.

d

September 17th, 2012
10:09 pm

To anyone who complains about the the two weeks off in the middle of the year, what do you do with your children during those same two weeks in the summer?

Maureen Downey

September 17th, 2012
10:15 pm

@d, In the summer, there are dozens and dozens of camps available for kids from preschool to high school. There is one recreation department camp in September and February when my system takes its breaks. When my system moved to this schedule, there was a concept that school-based enrichment programs would be offered. That never happened, which is why you will see lots of kids roaming around downtown Decatur during these breaks. It is far easier to fill two weeks in the summer than a week in February and a week in early September.
Maureen

concernedmom30329

September 17th, 2012
10:25 pm

Delores,

Which scores? Which school, if you don’t mind sharing? Overall, the system’s SAT scores have plummeted since the inception of the block and as the parent of college bound students, this is the only score that matters to me.

It is clear that the block has damaged the math SAT scores at most DeKalb schools.

RCB

September 17th, 2012
10:51 pm

The whole summer off is ridiculous if you’re REALLY talking about education.

mountain man

September 18th, 2012
6:33 am

“The whole summer off is ridiculous if you’re REALLY talking about education.”

In the “old days” – you had the option of “summer school” to make up work if you were not ready to pass to the next grade level. That is the way it should be now – pay teachers more and require them to work year-round, then use the summer “quarter” (why DID we move away from the quarter system?) for intensive low-student:teacher ratio classes. Then if the student is STILL not on grade level – retain them. Then regular students can go back to having their summers free, parents don’t have to struggle as much with day care, and at-risk students can be addressed. But no, I forget, that would take money, so it is not a viable option. Just don’t go to the balanced schedule.

mountain man

September 18th, 2012
6:40 am

“To anyone who complains about the the two weeks off in the middle of the year, what do you do with your children during those same two weeks in the summer?”

Summer camp. They have those things in the summer. They don’t have a “one-week” summer camp in February. So older kids become latchkey kids, and parents struggle to find daycare for the younger ones.

mountain man

September 18th, 2012
6:41 am

By the way, yes, the block schedule is stupid, also. I won’t go into the myriad reasons that it does not make sense.

d

September 18th, 2012
6:44 am

So mountain man, is it my job, as a teacher, to provide child care services? Maybe it’s that belief that is the core issue behind our educational issues today.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
6:53 am

While, I am not a fan of the 4×4 block, I don’t think it has much to do with scores falling – there are schools on traditional schedules and modified block that have seen their Math scores drop as well.
I haven’t yet made up my mind – though I will only have one more year left in DCSD, so for me it does not make much difference.

My niece is a student in Cherokee Schools which is on a balanced schedule and that school district has a good academic reputation. My sister indicates that it has not been an issue for the family.

Mountain Man

September 18th, 2012
7:25 am

“So mountain man, is it my job, as a teacher, to provide child care services?”

This isn’t the 1950’s when all the men worked and the wives stayed home and were barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. In today’s world it is almost a necessity to have a second income. The average cost of family health insurance alone now is $15,000. For lowere wage earners, they NEED a second income.

Parents have always worked around the school schedule and daycare and summer camps have grown with the times and started offering child care in the summer. But very few cater to the “abnormal” scheduling of the “balanced schedule”.

Is it the “job” of the schools to provide child care: no. But the schools through their ELECTED School Boards, must be responsive to legitimate parent issues and this is one of them.

There is an old saying – “There are two types of fools, one says this is old and therefore good, and the other says this is new and therefore better.” I may be the first type of fool, but it seems like you and the others pushing the balanced schedule are the second type of fool. What benefits are there, education-wise, to the balanced schedule? Don’t give me that crap about students “forgetting” over the summer – if they “forget”, then they never learned it to begin with. I didn’t forget my multiplication tables over our “long” summers when school started AFTER LABOR DAY. Because I had truly learned them.

As someone said, there are plenty of REAL problems that need to be dealt with – discipline, attendance(that is a MUCH bigger issue than calendar), social promotion.

Mountain Man

September 18th, 2012
7:26 am

It seems to me that the only people arguing FOR the “balanced” calendar are teachers wanting vacation breaks during the school year. If you are that burnt out that you need a break, then something else is wrong.

Mountain Man

September 18th, 2012
7:44 am

Year-round schooling seems to be the latest “craze” in the education field, as if all our other problems will magically disappear. Parents have roundly opposed the concept of year-round schooling, so the education establishment has tried to slip it in the back door with the adopting of “balanced” calendars with earlier and earlier start dates. Some schools now start in July. Pretty soon they will move it back to June, and “voila”, a year-round calendar. It is death by a thousand cuts.

The “old” days may not have been perfect, but they were a heck of a lot better than today’s schools. So get rid of all the newfangled school ideas and go back to BASICS, until you completely ruin our education system.

By the way, the only ammo that opponents of public schools have is the ammo that public schools have given them. Solve the problems in your school systems and you won’t have to worry about competition.

Mountain Man

September 18th, 2012
7:47 am

“So mountain man, is it my job, as a teacher, to provide child care services?”

If a mom (or dad) has to stay home full-time to provide daycare for their children, they might as well just home-school them and leave the schools out of it. Their kids would be better off, too, not being exposed to discipline problems, and uncaring students and their parents.

Pardon My Blog

September 18th, 2012
7:58 am

Block schedule? Why not find out how it is working for the students in Coweta County and elsewhere before taking the plunge. I think you will find it has hurt the high school kids when it comes to AP course test, etc.

It sounds as if Atkinson is using the spaghetti test, throw ideas out there and see what sticks instead modeling the system after already proven methods. She really is in over her head and all of DeKalb is suffering whether you have a student in the system or not.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
8:01 am

Maureen, did my comment get lost in the filter?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

September 18th, 2012
8:36 am

For once, I’m with @The Deal…Dekalb has so many issues that Superintendent Atkinson could be focused on right now, yet she continues to push this pet project upon us. @Cheryl Atkinson – How about spending those “hours of collaboration” balancing the DCSS budget???

DunMoody

September 18th, 2012
8:44 am

Repeating my comments from DeKalb School Watch Two: So many repercussions. Will our high school AP teachers continue to give the same heavy-weight summer assignments under a balanced calendar? (Many systems do NOT give AP summer work.) Will our students have homework over the weeklong breaks? Will teachers lose the planned early release days to furloughs? Will DCSS provide extended childcare in clusters where low income families do not have the means to pay for those early release days? Will the balanced calendar factor in the dysfunctional block schedule, with its unhappy mix of year-long courses and semester-long courses? (Note to Dolores: under the block, students can and DO go an entire 12 month period between math and world languages unless the AP of curriculum stands on her/his head, overloads classes, and forces eSIS to make the block fit into its 7/8 period paradigm.)

Dr. Atkinson is well known for loving the balanced calendar concept, so I imagine that we’ll see a balanced calendar next year, without the requisite pre-planning essential to managing such a critical change as well as consultation with the business community that will be directly impacted by DCSS’ calendar experiment.

I look forward her roundtables … purportedly a two-way conversation with parents, teachers, and community members about whatever is on their minds. Or not.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
8:49 am

My sister’s children attend Cherokee County Schools – one of this state’s best school system. Cherokee is on a balanced schedule. My sister indicates it has not been an issue for her family and daycare and YMCA programs, etc accommodate these schedules. I am not sure how I intend to “vote”, but I don’t believe this needs to be as “drama-filled” as I am seeing.

Here is a link to the Cherokee County school district calendar: http://portal.cherokee.k12.ga.us/parentinfo/Documents/2012-13Calendar.pdf

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
8:52 am

OT….but the next time someone says the school district doesn’t need as many school police officers….

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/crime-law/dekalb-school-cop-hurt-in-student-brawl/nSDdX/

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
8:55 am

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
8:58 am

I wonder how well Cherokee Schools would look with DeKalb’s demographics?
What’s good for Cherokee (and many people in Cherokee do not like the early start calendar) isn’t necessarily good for DeKalb.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
9:11 am

@Bubba, should demographics come into play here? An academic schedule that works should work for ever level of achievement – just my opinion.

DunMoody

September 18th, 2012
9:34 am

What does the proposed calendar look like with weekly early release days? Surely those days have to be made up in the summer break. Insufficient detail by DCSS .

bu2

September 18th, 2012
9:36 am

The Deal said it well, Atkinson has lots of other more pressing issues than another disorganized change.

And as Mountain Man pointed out, the schools can’t live in a vacuum. In the summer there are lots of enrichment options. In these odd weeks its simply a limited number of daycare options. And with only a 2 week decrease in the summer “gap,” its really just making things more difficult for parents and students, not really helping the kids.

DunMoody

September 18th, 2012
9:42 am

It hasn’t escaped my notice that DCSS is presenting the community with just two calendars to review: a single “traditional” calendar with yet another too-early school start date and a single “balanced” calendar that wends its way around testing windows and creates a week off in the second semester when school has barely gotten underway. Neither is acceptable.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
9:46 am

@Dun, If DeKalb moves to a balanced calendar, I would think it would make sense to simply adopt the Decatur calendar, which had us back Aug. 1 this year. (Again, I don’t like this calendar but the system contends it helps in teacher recruitment, so I accept it. )
Decatur rents school buses from DeKalb, and many Decatur teachers live in DeKalb. It would just seem logical for the two to align if they are following modified calendars.
Maureen

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
9:47 am

Dunwoody Mom,
You put forward Cherokee as an example of an one of the state’s best school districts – and that it has August 1 start date calendar – hence the calendar must be good.

Cherokee has a much more homogenous demographic mix than Dekalb. Looking at statistics, if you put Dekalb’s demographics into Cherokee – it would no longer be viewed very well. Cherokee’s overall better than average test scores aren’t due to the balanced calendar – it’s due to demographics.

Dawn

September 18th, 2012
9:48 am

@DunwoodyMom, I think it’s disingenuous of you to suggest that demographics shouldn’t play into any analysis of school calendars. What works for upper-middle class suburbanites with a mom or dad who stays home with the kids or has vacation time to take off to be at home in random-middle-of-the-semester breaks does not work for minimum-wage workers with no vacation to be off. Before you ask what that minimum wage mom or dad would do during the summer, you know there are lots of camps, even affordable ones at churches and county rec centers, that will not be available. Maureen even attested to this in one of her above posts. And the stress the parents feel at trying to juggle this schedule on top of the stress they may already be experiencing by the nature of being poor, is felt by the kids and has a direct impact on their ability to learn. So, don’t ever say that any given element of education, even a calendar, can work for every level of achievement. The linked article below has more detail on the non-cognitive effects of stress.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926641098000421

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
9:51 am

Maureen: re:Aug. 1 this year. (Again, I don’t like this calendar but the system contends it helps in teacher recruitment, so I accept it. )

You don’t seem to have much backbone. Blindly accepting something that isn’t the best for your children because a government agency tells you it might make things easier for them (and you actually believed it?) – not the way to go.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
9:52 am

@Bubba, I made no such inference. I was basically playing devil’s advocate and pointing out that Cherokee runs a balanced schedule and is a successful school district. Again, I am just not sure why you keep bringing demographics into this. The reason that DCSD is not “successful” has little, if anything, to do with its academic calendars.

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
9:54 am

Dunwoody Mom, you don’t get it, using your words:
The reason that CCSD is better than average on test scores has little, if anything, to do with its academic calendars.

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
9:55 am

Ok, well, I can see this conversation has degraded….

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
9:56 am

@bubba, I see no data that would lead me to believe the Aug. 1 date hurts students. I think it is a major inconvenience for many parents but don’t see it undermining academics.
Keep in mind that most Georgia systems start around Aug. 9 anyway, so we are talking about a single week. My kids have always gone back by the second week of August. So, the change was not earth shattering.
Maureen

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
9:59 am

Maureen, I see no data that shows that the quality of teachers hired by school districts starting on August 1 is better than school districts starting August 9 or later. We are talking about a single week.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
10:04 am

@Bubba, Before Decatur adopted its calendar, it surveyed teachers and parents. Teachers preferred it, saying that they needed the week-long breaks. Again, if we were debating a Sept. 1 start date versus an Aug. 1 start, I would feel differently. But I can’t get too worked up over Aug. 1 versus Aug. 8.
Maureen

Bubba

September 18th, 2012
10:07 am

Maureen, if you surveyed teachers and asked them if they wanted free manicures, they would prefer it.
Teachers are employees, period.

Flabberghasted4sure

September 18th, 2012
10:12 am

@DunMoody – agree! Neither have well thought out options related to where breaks are placed, start dates, and the traditional calendar has 88 dyas one semester and 92 the other semester – giving block schools different instructional time frames. Usually there are more options to review.

In the past, DCSS has strived to adopt a calendar that roughly matched other public school systems in metro Atlanta in terms of spring break, winter break, etc. It is beyond me why they would present a balanced calendar so different than neighboring Decatur.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

September 18th, 2012
10:13 am

If DCSS moves to a balanced calendar w/ early release days (and those days don’t end up being furlough days), will they require teachers to get professional development hours? No offense, but if CE isn’t required, I’m betting they won’t do it.

alm

September 18th, 2012
10:15 am

Decatur attracts lots of good teachers. The K-3 schools have certified teachers working as paras because they want to get their foot in the door.

DunMoody

September 18th, 2012
10:19 am

I suspect that Atkinson will announce before January that all high schools will be on the same schedule. Evidently she likes the block schedule, but the balanced calendar does not support that particular model. Of course, she could also wait until next April or May to announce her decision, AFTER schools have developed schedules for the following school year. And expecting them to do the work again. Sigh.

DunMoody

September 18th, 2012
10:21 am

I will add to the balanced calendar considerations: AP tests are given early in May. End of course testing has to be completed in time for reporting to the district and state level. Which means teachers then come up with more content for a final exam OR students spin their wheels in lame duck classes.

CTPAT

September 18th, 2012
10:29 am

I am in favor of the balanced calendar. I see my kids starting to get edgy and “tired” of school about every 6 weeks. When they get this way, that’s when the behavior problems start and the lack of attention to school work begins. A break seems to rejuvenate and refocus them. I do think they’ll miss out somewhat on the longer summer, but I’d prefer them to be focused while learning. My sister is in Cobb and they really liked the balanced calendar for the year that they had it and said that there were options for childcare during the those breaks (I think the community will fill the need here if there’s enough notice).

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
10:33 am

@DunM, It would surprise me if she moved all schools to block.
The state saw a drop in SAT/ACT scores a while back in high schools that moved to block and promised further study, but it never happened. I interviewed one of the researchers in the 2006 University of Virginia-Harvard University study of high school science courses. That study found that students on block schedules did not perform as well as kids on traditional schedules.
UVA researcher Robert H. Tai told me that teachers approached the 90 minute block much as they had the shorter class period, so the time was not used effectively. It was a surprising conclusion as UVA had been influential in leading schools to adopt block scheduling as a result of its research on how best to organize school days.
At the time, I wrote:

The foundation of block scheduling is an energetic instructional model that calls for many different activities within a 90-minute block, but researcher Robert Tai of the University of Virginia and his colleagues said students reported no differences in teaching methods in long or short classes.

“But even when the teachers appear to be doing block schedules the way they should be done, their children aren’t doing any better, ” said Tai.

The “why” of that isn’t entirely clear, although education researchers have their hunches. It may be that students and teachers lack the stamina to maximize every minute of an hour and half period, which would also explain why so many videos and DVDs are viewed in high school now.

“The argument for block scheduling was that students were caged within the 50 minute class period, but all we’ve done is change the size of the cage, ” said Tai. “We haven’t gotten rid of the bars.”