A DeKalb teacher sent me some good questions on the district’s adoption this week of a balanced calendar with a shorter summer and more breaks during the year.
It is interesting how much time is devoted to calendar debates in metro Atlanta. Cobb is going to revisit its calendar again, too, even though adoption of a balanced calendar a few years back led to a rapid reversal and turnover on the school board. None of the options under review in Cobb is a balanced calendar.
Spurred by the travel and vacation industry, North Carolina passed a law in 2004 that schools cannot open until Aug. 25. The law gained some flexibility this year and now says the opening date can be “no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26” and closing date “no later than the Friday closest to June 11.” Districts can seek waivers and many do.
So far, I have only heard from folks in DeKalb unhappy with the new calendar, but I am sure there are parents and teachers who are pleased with it. Any of you out there willing to comment?
Here is what the teacher wrote:
How did the district determine “teacher support” of the balanced calendar? The survey was given to “certified staff,” not just teachers. Therefore, certified school and county administrators – employees whose contractual days are different from teachers – could also vote.
But the survey did not ask which type of certified staff was choosing the calendar. And there was nothing to indicate that the surveys were tracked, so it seems that someone supporting one calendar over another could make as many copies as he’d like. Exactly how much did the board know about this survey before voting on the calendar?
If the need for this balanced calendar is to reduce the “brain drain” that takes place during the longer summer break, is the district planning on changing the 4X4 block schedule that so many of its high schools now use?
With this block schedule, a student could finish his math studies in December and have to wait until the following August to continue his math studies. Isn’t seven months away from instruction more detrimental than eight or nine weeks?
Since the superintendent cited Decatur and Rockdale as examples of districts using the balanced calendar, it would be interesting to know if they changed their instructional schedules when they adopted the balanced calendar or why they use the alternating block schedule instead of the 4X4 block.
Why did the district tout the Gandara & Fish study (1994) of improved academic achievement among at-risk students enrolled in schools using a balanced calendar but exclude such relevant details as smaller classes and increased instructional days?
Why did the 2013-2014 calendar have to be voted on this past Monday? And what was the reason for rushing the certified staff survey so that it was distributed on paper and given only one day for completion and submission.
Did the district analyze its utility and fuel bills for the first week of August, the three days in the first week in October, the third week in February, and the last work week of May to determine that cooling buses and schools for two more hot weeks won’t cost the district more money? I thought the district implemented a four-day work week in some of June and all of July just so it could save $250,000 on utility bills, so it appears that the district has recognized utility costs in other circumstances.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog