Archive for the ‘Calendars’ Category

To cope with budget, Cobb shortens school year, raises class size and cuts teachers. Welcome to the new normal

I can’t help but be depressed at the continual AJC news stories about larger classes, fewer teachers and shorter calendars.

This story is about Cobb, a school system that has been an academic pace setter and a major factor in the county’s appeal to middle-class families. When these top systems start slashing, I worry even more about the future of education in Georgia.

Here is the latest report from the AJC:

After failing to reach agreement last week, the Cobb County school board held a special meeting Monday for another go at next year’s budget, and approved one with $841.9 million in spending.

The 2012-13 budget, which kicks in July 1, cuts 350 teaching positions. That should increase average class sizes at all grade levels by two students per teacher.

The new budget pulls back from other cuts that were contained in the tentative budget approved in April.

Instead of five furlough days, for instance, teachers and all other employees will get three. That will mean a …

Continue reading To cope with budget, Cobb shortens school year, raises class size and cuts teachers. Welcome to the new normal »

Four-day school week: Could it increase teen pregnancy?

In poor rural counties, there is not much for teens to do with an extra day off, a fact that worries health officials. (AP Image)

In poor rural counties, there is not much for teens to do with an extra day off, a fact that worries health officials. (AP Image)

A big question about four-day school weeks — a budget solution that several Georgia systems adopted to cut costs  — was what students would do with that extra day off from classes.

An Elbert County teen health center is hoping that the answer won’t turn out to be have sex and babies at higher rates.

Take a look at this interesting article in the Georgia Health News. Here is an excerpt:

“Elbert has had the problem of teen pregnancy for a long time,” said Adriane Strong, the adolescent health educator of the Teen Matters Clinic in Elberton. “The teen birth rate was higher several years ago, then it came down. But recently, it may have gone back up,” Strong said.

“Around 20 teens aged 15 to 18 visit our clinic every week,” said Strong, “The majority of them are seeking services including birth control and STD testing …

Continue reading Four-day school week: Could it increase teen pregnancy? »

DeKalb unveils three possible 2012-2013 calendars, including one with Aug. 1 start date. Early release on Wednesdays.

DeKalb kids would go back to school Aug. 1 under one proposed new calendar. (AP Image)

DeKalb kids would go back to school Aug. 1 under one proposed new calendar. (AP Image)

DeKalb parents are being asked for feedback on three calendars for the upcoming school year.

All three options have schools closing an hour early each Wednesday to enable teacher planning and development.

An APS administrator kindly sent me a note that the standard metro area spring break is the first full week in April (beginning on a Sunday), so the metro systems should have the break scheduled for April 8-12. In two of these options, DeKalb would have its break a week earlier.

Option A resembles the school calendar of nearby Decatur. School starts Aug. 1 and there are week-long breaks in October and Thanksgiving and then the winter break. In the second half of the year, there are week-long breaks in February and April with school ending May 29.  The spring break is the week of April 8.

Option B starts school back on Monday, Aug. 6. There is a week off at Thanksgiving, 12 days over …

Continue reading DeKalb unveils three possible 2012-2013 calendars, including one with Aug. 1 start date. Early release on Wednesdays. »

New study: Four-day school schedule improves math and reading performance

Mary Beth Walker, dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, has just published the draft of a study looking at four-day school weeks and their impact on elementary school students.

Her study offers a surprising conclusion: The adoption a four-day school week had a positive and often statistically significant relationship with performance in both reading and mathematics.

The study estimates the impact of the four-day school week on student achievement using 4th grade reading and 5th grade mathematics test scores in Colorado; more than a third of Colorado districts have adopted four-day schedules. Walker co-authored “Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week” with D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University.

According to the authors: “The four-day school week is associated with an increase of over 7 percentage points in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the …

Continue reading New study: Four-day school schedule improves math and reading performance »

DeKalb school chief: Balanced calendar to shorten summer, weekly early release for teacher training and planning

Cheryl Atkinson

Cheryl Atkinson

In his introduction of DeKalb’s new school chief at a chamber event this morning, school board chair Gene Walker described Chery Atkinson as someone “who doesn’t go along to get along. She is small in stature, but huge in determination and commitment. Dr. Atkinson believes in what she is doing. It pours out of her. I am proud to work with this lady.”

Atkinson began her State of the System address with her usual theme: Victory.

“Victory is what we will have in every classroom,” she said.

After a very warm description of each board member, Atkinson praised them  for their support. She then introduced her “A team,” the staff members who lead departments and serve as her cabinet.

She reiterated her goals for the school system, saying how community input in her first 90 day listening tour led to the addition of “safe and orderly schools” to the priority list.

Here are highlights from her State of the System address: (She mentioned plans to move to a balanced …

Continue reading DeKalb school chief: Balanced calendar to shorten summer, weekly early release for teacher training and planning »

State approves class size waivers again. Larger classes and fewer teachers reflect financial free fall.

The AJC is reporting that the state school board waived class size requirements yet again, expecting that next school year may be the worst yet for financially strapped local systems.

A combination of state cuts, $1 billion this year, and plummeting property taxes, ongoing fallout from the housing collapse, will add to the financial stresses facing systems next year.

According to the AJC: This is an excerpt. Please read entire story.

On Thursday, the state school board unanimously approved extending the waiver for larger classes through the next school year. For students and parents, this could mean more students in some classrooms and fewer teachers.

Maximum class size requirements vary. For instance, state law says a regular kindergarten class should have no more than 18 students, while a fine arts or foreign language class in grades 6-8 can have 33 students. In addition to the state waiver, school systems also have permission from lawmakers to establish class size …

Continue reading State approves class size waivers again. Larger classes and fewer teachers reflect financial free fall. »

Reduction to equalization grants: Sounds boring but will impact many Georgia school districts

School financing expert Joe Martin sent out this note about House Bill 824, which deals with a school funding mechanism in Georgia that few people understand.

But equalization grants have great implications for the many Georgia districts that rely on them, and Martin’s note about proposed reductions is worth reading if yours is one of them.

Here is Martin’s note:

The sponsors of the proposed change in Equalization Grants are trying to make the best of a bad situation, and they should be commended for redirecting more of the available funds to the least wealthy systems. Nevertheless, we have to recognize the far-reaching consequences of HB 824 over time unless it is amended.

The General Assembly has not followed its own formula for calculating Equalization Grants in recent years. Instead, it has reduced these grants by whatever percentage was needed to keep the overall total at a certain amount. When compared with the current situation, HB 824 would provide short-term relief …

Continue reading Reduction to equalization grants: Sounds boring but will impact many Georgia school districts »

Pre-k teachers leave in droves. ‘Georgia’s reputation as an early childhood leader is tarnished.’

Cuts to pre-k have caused certified teachers to seek jobs elsewhere in the k-12 system.  (AP Images)

Cuts to pre-k have caused certified teachers to seek jobs elsewhere in the k-12 system. (AP Images)

As we discussed here last week, pre-k took a major hit this year due to the reduction in the length of program by the governor, which  resulted in lower pay for certified teachers.

As a result, many of those teachers sought and accepted jobs in k-8, which did not suffer the same cut.

Here is an AJC story that cites how those reductions to Georgia’s pre-k, once considered a national model, caused teachers to flee.

According to the AJC:

Teachers this year left pre-k programs in droves, moving into elementary school openings to avoid a 10-percent, state-ordered pay cut that’s just kicked in.

In Fulton County, 57 of 77 pre-kindergarten teachers quit between the last school year and the current one.  Some left the system for other careers, while 47 moved into teaching jobs in kindergarten through fifth grade, where salaries aren’t tied to the Georgia Lottery’s …

Continue reading Pre-k teachers leave in droves. ‘Georgia’s reputation as an early childhood leader is tarnished.’ »

School calendars: Too many breaks? And could kids really be going back next week?

I can't quite believe it, but my kids go back to school on Tuesday. (AP Image)

I can't quite believe it, but my kids go back to school on Tuesday. (AP Image)

A parent sent me a note about the frequent breaks in the school calendar.

His questions on whether frequent breaks stymie learning intrigued me as I am in a system — Decatur — that resumes classes Tuesday and has week-long breaks in September, November (Thanksgiving week), February and April, in addition to the standard holiday break in December.

(As a New Jersey native, I still can’t get used to returning to school at the beginning of August, but Decatur is one of several districts opening next week.  And the temperature is supposed to be 99 degrees, which will make for a long mile-plus walk home for my twins. )

As I have said many times, our “balanced” calendar, which made its debut last year, does not work well for me, but I am resigned to it since the system believes it is more appealing to teachers.

I chatted with a teacher today who told she hates the calendar as a parent and as an educator …

Continue reading School calendars: Too many breaks? And could kids really be going back next week? »

Memphis board delays start of school, telling city: Show us the money

School buses may not run next month in Memphis where the board voted to delay the start of school because of a funding crisis.  (AJC file)

School buses may not run next month in Memphis where the board voted to delay the start of school because of a funding crisis. (AJC file)

I received an email from an AJC reader this morning that I am sharing here. She wrote: I can’t find this in the AJC but I think it is important. Memphis City Schools met last night and announced because the city isn’t paying the school system what is owed, schools will not open on Aug. 8.  There will be another meeting Aug 2 – so this may be a bluff.

The Memphis story is on AJC.com.You can read it here.

For greater detail, I also went to the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, which is reporting what sounds like a dangerous game of brinkmanship with the city’s schoolchildren in the middle.

Here is the Commercial Appeal’s account of what happened last night at the board meeting:

Classes for Memphis City Schools will not start this fall until the City Council deposits $55 million — the amount the city has budgeted for schools from tax …

Continue reading Memphis board delays start of school, telling city: Show us the money »