DeKalb: Official statement on move to balanced calendar

Official statement from DeKalb on calendar change:

After receiving more than 12,000 responses for input, the DeKalb Board of Education voted to approve the superintendent’s recommended 2013-14 calendar at its meeting Mondy. With it, the DeKalb County School District adopts a balanced calendar, and classes will begin for students on Aug. 5, 2013, and end on May 29, 2014.

The approved calendar includes 180 days of instruction for students and 190 teacher-contract days. The semesters are divided equally with 90 days of instruction for each.

One of the 10 teacher-contract days is comprised of four two-hour conference nights scheduled by each school during the year. With the balanced calendar, the first semester, including all final exams and End of Course Tests, will conclude prior to the winter break.

Based on feedback received, the spring break was moved to be in line with other metro-Atlanta districts. Spring break will be April 7-11, 2014. While the approved calendar has an earlier start date, it includes two additional weeks of vacation during the school year.

“We are grateful to our calendar committee for sharing their time and expertise to put this calendar together,” said Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson. “We must continue to challenge our students to achieve victory in every classroom, and this calendar will reduce the amount of time our children are away from our schools.”

The balanced calendar is used by other large urban school districts, including Indianapolis Public Schools and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

The board’s vote does not include early release days, which will be an administrative decision.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

26 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

October 9th, 2012
10:44 am

and this calendar will reduce the amount of time our children are away from our schools.”

Big whoop – a whole 2 weeks. I want to see her explain the amount of time students are away from subjects on the 4×4. What a bunch of hooey!!!

catlady

October 9th, 2012
10:55 am

What day is Mondy?

The Deal

October 9th, 2012
10:55 am

Yes, I think 2 extra days off in October (always had Columbus Day) will make all the difference in student achievement in DeKalb.

I also think a great way to run a survey is to have an open survey where anyone can respond any number of times (like having central office employees enter over and over) and compare that to a closed survey given to an unpublished list in an unpublished manner (was this trackable by anyone for fear of retribution).

Worst of all, this sends the message that, regardless of parent input and involvement, Cheryl Atkinson is going to do what she wants and will go to any lengths to justify it. See: new SUV scandal, calendar, PhD program.

DunMoody

October 9th, 2012
11:14 am

Frankly, these decisions should be presented for what they are … draconian. Why do roundtables, surveys, op-ed matter when Dr. Atkinson has the final say and will exercise that authority at will? Next up: her decisions on universal scheduling across all high schools, early release days, the abysmal math curriculum, etc. Do we get to play “survey” and offer input? Again? And again?

Dunwoody School District, please. (Yes, it’ll take a constitutional amendment change – deleting 8 progress-choking words.)

CTPAT

October 9th, 2012
11:47 am

I commend Atkinson and the Board for caring about the opinion of its teachers. You’ll note that 41% of the parents supported this as well, so it’s not like there wasn’t any parental support for it, just not majority parental support. But, the majority of teachers supported it. If they ignored the opinion of our educators, people would have been angry too. Looks like they can’t win even when they try to take into consideration the opinions of differing groups who might night agree.

DunMoody

October 9th, 2012
12:02 pm

CTPAT – since the survey only gave parents two options – a balanced calendar starting August 5 and a “traditional” calendar starting August 12, I suspect that parent responses were far more diverse than the highly the so-called survey allowed. I know many parents used the comment section to elaborate on their preferences – including starting school later. This wasn’t really a survey … it was a carefully narrowed, outcome-controlled pro forma effort. Over and over again through the years, parents have said STOP to early and mid August school starts. To no avail.

And putting this in terms of an “us/parents” versus “them/teachers” is polarizing at best.

Edugator

October 9th, 2012
12:52 pm

This is a fiasco, and will hardly help with learning in the classroom. Returning from 3 days off in October, and a week in February, will require a certain amount of reteaching as well. Two weeks off from the tradtional summer break? Hardly a difference maker. But it might make the difference between getting a summer or not, and in being able to get together with out of state family or not, and in spending a fortune air conditioning schools or not.

Schools are not being run for the pleasure of the teachers and administrators. It’s for the kids, and this schedule is not kid friendly.

disgusted

October 9th, 2012
12:55 pm

How is this Victory in the classroom?

Also, given the current budget crisis, how does this help?

I’m counting the years until we are out of the system…

Ghoti

October 9th, 2012
1:15 pm

What a pantload!

I’m the parent of 2 Dekalb school students, and I am livid over this! The so-called “balanced calendar” is nothing but a nightmare for working parents, and will accomplish nothing but making the overpaid school board look like they’re doing something to justify their salaries. Why did they even bother with a survey if Cheryl Atkinson was going to push this through anyway?

I want my vacation time in August, not September or February!

When I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, we started school the day after Labor Day, got out in June, and no one forgot what they learned over the summer. Maybe all these furlough days and worthless little breaks should be eliminated instead, if they’re so concerned about students forgetting what they learned.

Hello, Georgia tourist industry….SPEAK UP and demand that school start at the END of August, like in Florida or South Carolina!

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

October 9th, 2012
3:38 pm

I totally agree…

“Why did they even bother with a survey if Cheryl Atkinson was going to push this through anyway?”

Talk about trickle-down government…

Disgusted in Dekalb

October 9th, 2012
3:46 pm

What a charade. It reminds me of the survey they sent to parents when my kids were in high school during the regrettable Crawford Lewis days. The survey was supposedly to gauge parental opinion of the block schedule but there was no way to respond negatively. I don’t remember exactly how it was worded but here’s an approximation—Question: How much do you like the block schedule? Answers: (1) A lot, (2) A whole lot, (3) A whole bunch, or (4) Tons.

Concerned

October 9th, 2012
4:51 pm

With this type of decision making process, she’s got 2-3 years maximum, and we will be finding another Superintendent. So far, she has not instilled confidence and trust.

Meanwhile, we need to fight for what we want. Cobb County fought and changed their balanced calendar back to traditional after the board had already approved it. Let’s unite and make our voices heard. Send emails directly to the superintendent. Show up at board meetings and speak.

First is was Johnny Brown busing teachers across town to sing “Happy and you Know it” in 95 degree heat. Then, Crawford Lewis with all kinds of cronyism. And now, we have someone who seems to like to do whatever she wants…taking surveys until she gets the results she wants.

When we stop tolerating it, it will stop.

big picture

October 9th, 2012
6:21 pm

She wanted a “longer” school year to ensure students don’t “lose” information. Hence the “balanced” calendar. NOTE, however, that they STILL have not published ANYTHING about the “early release days” – nor will the board have any input on this – it’s “an administrative decision.” Then let’s count days in terms of “hours of instruction” and see how committed the super REALLY is to ensuring “victory” in every classroom. Those weekly early release days are time of lost instruction. MANY commentators note that it has deleterious effects on learning for the entire day that the release takes place.

I do not trust Atkinson. I do not believe she really wants “victory in every classroom.” I see it as a crock. Her SUV has NOTHING to do with classroom level outcomes. Loss of media specialists does. Paying attorneys fees for an indicted super versus smaller class sizes – not in her books. Promoting parental involvement – not a concern – she surveys teachers twice to improve results, does not reach out to parents again – and clearly LIED to a board member. I watched her ASSURE Nancy Jester that parents would be resurveyed as well. Did any of you receive a second chance?

Those noting that teachers overwhelmingly supported this, NO, they DID NOT, if you only include survey results in the first round.

Statistics DO NOT LIE. Survey methods are manipulated to ensure the results desired. This is NOT evidenced based decision making. This is manipulation.

My2Cents

October 9th, 2012
10:57 pm

I can see that there will be increased costs due to A/C use. What exactly are the demonstrated benefits? The idea behind starting classes before Labor Day was to give a week or two advantage for standardized tests – and did that really work? Not to my knowledge, or at least not enough to balance the inconvenience. This school system is grasping at straws. I can only hope that at some point the ‘new and improved’ approach rolls around to some of the basic, grounded methods that have been proven by time and results. Soon.

Jan Ferrara

October 10th, 2012
5:31 am

alm

October 10th, 2012
8:43 am

If they’re serious about victory in the classroom stop with the furlough days and over crowded classrooms!

DunMoody

October 10th, 2012
8:52 am

Speaking to standardized testing early in the school year: added to the overload of county, state, and federal tests, now we’re dealing with Race to the Top testing. Let’s just call October TestOber and understand that real instruction doesn’t begin until January. Teachers are overwhelmed by benchmark tests, post tests, EOCT tests, AP tests, and, oh, yes, tests of the material they’re trying to teach. Now that we finally have classes “balanced” (late September), we can waste even more time on testing. The balanced calendar won’t change an iota of the disarray. Indeed, it’ll give DeKalb’s Central Office even more time to get their act together while students and teachers play the annual waiting game.

DunMoody

October 10th, 2012
11:18 am

Interesting comments by DeKalb teachers on Facebook, in Get Schooled and other DeKalb schools blogs … having friended a few of teachers through the years, I can see many of their peers’ remarks as well. If anything, this decision is angering many of them even more. Hmmm … where is that “overwhelming” support again?

The Deal

October 10th, 2012
1:00 pm

DunMoody, you are correct. I have yet to see a positive remark from a teacher. This will garner zero support from teachers. You know what would? Hiring more of them so they’re not teaching 40 sixth graders in one room. This is like beating someone to a pulp and then giving them a cookie to cheer them up.

pride and joy

October 10th, 2012
4:02 pm

CHerly is a misfit. She doesn’t fit into any academic setting. Her idiotic ideas of starting school while it is dripping hot will not help students learn. He week off here and there at a time only makes 41% of teachers happy because they get to take off for a vacation during the school year.
As one poster noted earlier — schools are for the kids, not the teachers. Do what is right for the children and their families — what are working parents to do with a week off in October? When school is out, aftercare is CLOSED. What to do with kids then?
You will see a lot of kids left at home alone out of necessity and lots of kids wil be injured and some will die — let’s all run Miss Cheryl out on a pole — tarred and feathered — the sooner the better.

Teacher Reader

October 10th, 2012
4:41 pm

Parents who make the argument about working parents and this balanced calendar are no better than Atkinson and those board members who voted for it. Keep arguments on the children and how it will/will not effect the education our children receive.

While I believe that school shouldn’t begin until after Labor Day, parents need to focus on what is best academically for their children and not what is best or easiest for them. To fight Atkinson and win, you need to do what she and the board are unwilling to do, and that is to truly put children first.

DunMoody

October 10th, 2012
4:55 pm

If even more teachers join the exodus from schools (and it’s been a torrent in Dunwoody) because of the balanced calendar, then what caliber of experienced and motivated instruction will be left? I’d say this balanced calendar is just as much a threat to quality education as all the other truly abysmal decisions Atkinson & Co. are making – pay cuts, benefits cuts, increased class sizes, benchmark tests, post tests, lack of preparation for the first day of school, etc. etc. etc.

big picture

October 10th, 2012
7:19 pm

Even the Cobb super said in today’s paper that there is no convincing evidence that one calendar has benefits to academic outcomes over another. I think he stated that the community’s preference matters. Instead, he noted that what matters is what goes on inside the school house and classrooms. Wonder what Cheryl’s response to this is. Clearly she’s not up on the current literature, and wants to deflect the focus from what IS happening inside the classrooms and schools (e.g., we’re losing our best and brightest – our teachers are stressed and demoralized). She is NOT addressing the real issues.

A TEACHERS SHOES

October 11th, 2012
12:43 am

The Teacher Keys, The SLOS, Benchmarks, Chapter Tests, SFA-Success For All or (Success For Atkinson), RTI, TESTOBER, INCLUSION(Students who are ready to learn must sit by bored and angered because of the learning disabilities and BEHAVIORS of Inclusion students), just for a start. I will let you know now that there is not much teaching or learning going on inside of the classrooms of many Dekalb County Schools. Teachers now only teach skills that are going to be on the tests. The children barely have a chance to master content before there is some bung of a test to take.

Many teachers in the system are making plans to leave the county as soon as possible. Many before the end of the school year if they can get out. Because, It does not matter how hard you teach or how long you stay after school to prepare for the next day, or tutor all week and twice on Saturday … it is never enough. Someone who has been out of the classroom (School Administrator, Data Coach, LTSE, Counselor, or other person with an out of the classroom educational lottery job) will say “Your test scores are not high enough. You are not doing enough to help these students achieve.”

No one takes into account that many children are behind in reading and math because teachers are not allowed enough time to truly teach a skill where children can truly grasp it. Children learn that there is no fun in learning anymore and that school is a place of torture. No one takes into account that the immigrant populations are growing in many Dekalb schools and we do not have the real resources to help these students.The only thing that is constantly shoved down their throats is test, test and more test. Why do you think children are so happy about any day (you name it) that they do not have to come to school.

Now we have a balanced calendar coming up next year. I will not lie here. I need the breaks. It gives me time to catch up on paperwork and possibly a little time to get to know the people who live in my house (My husband and two children). Go on vacation. Nope, I have not had a substantial raise in over 7 years and Atkinson & Co. are steady cutting teacher salaries while raising her own and her hand picked cronies. However, any vacation time I get, believe me I have earned every second of it.
Now some of you may not believe this, but your children are ultimately YOUR resposibility. The schools are not here to provide free babysitting and that is exactly what goes on the last two weeks of the school year. The big testing is over and kids know the school year is over.

In truth I am merely an employee of the DCSD. If I don’t like what Atkinson & Co. are doing. I can just resign and move on. (Which I plan to do) regardless of who is elected President. The school board has shown that it does not care about it’s teachers or other emplyees for that matter. It is up to YOU the PARENTS to show up at the board meeting and make your voices heard. Not just the parents on the North end of the county and in the Druid Hills area. But those of you on the Southside. Let the board know that your child’s teacher needs to spend more time teaching and less time proctoring tests and gathering useless data.

Then, go to your child’s school. Yes, I understand that many of you are working parents (I’m one myself). Take a day off and spend the day, yes the whole day at your child’s school. See what your child goes through in a day. Check out the school climate. Don’t let anyone herd you through the building. Really hang out. Eat cafeteria food with your child. Use the restroom where there are no paper towels or soap. Then contact your local school board member with your findings, and hold them accountable for the promises they made in order for you to elect them.
THEN PARENTS YOU WILL TRULY BE TAKING BACK YOUR SCHOOL SYSTEM.

Terry Krugman

October 11th, 2012
11:24 am

One blogger “Deal” referred to an SUV scandal in Dekalb. I missed that one. Could you inform me please?

Pride and Joy

October 11th, 2012
8:49 pm

big picture says “(e.g., we’re losing our best and brightest – our teachers are stressed and demoralized).”
the best and brightest left years ago when more opportunities opened to women in the 80s. reEducated women have real jobs now and are not nearly so restricted to teacher, nurse, secretary.
When women had more opportunities, women like me no longer had to settle for teaching….