Thursday, April 05, 2012

Board Votes to add Extra Days to School Year

From SPS:

The Seattle School Board on Wednesday decided to extend the school year by two days to make up for January’s inclement weather.

The last day of school will be Friday, June 22. Seattle students lost three days of school in January because of severe winter weather conditions. One day was made up on Jan. 27.

The School Board voted 0 to 7 against applying for a waiver from the state, which would have allowed Seattle Public Schools to not make up those two days. Not making up the days would have saved the district about $500,000.

“This is a statement on the value of classroom instruction,” said Board President Michael DeBell, after the unanimous vote.

58 comments:

RosieReader said...

I find it a bit ridiculous that the Board decided, in April, to change their mind on when the last day of school would be. (At least for K-11, since the seniors will already have graduated.) I imagine we are not the only family that has made summer plans contingent on the District's original decision. I'd imagine that many educators have also made plans, not expecting they'd be working the week of June 25. And by "plans" that will certainly include air fares and vacation plans, but it will also include changing the start date of the summer jobs that many educators hold to make ends meet.

Instead we'll have three days of extra school picnics and extra field trips and extra everything but education for a few days.

So call it a "victory" if you want, but I think it's really absurd that the Board did this now. And for my family, an expensive absurdity.

mirmac1 said...

In future negotiations with labor, all parties should keep in mind which days are flagged for snow-makeup days. As it stands, the CBA identified the first day to be in Jan (forget the date), then the next two at the end of year, then any beyond that number during one of the breaks/PD days. Not smart in my book.

Anonymous said...

NW Mom/Family Scheduler says:

I imagine there will be a lot of unexcused absences for those last days. My family will unapologetically be one of them. The board/staff decision came far too late in the year. Family time is far, far more important than desk cleaning time. And frankly, given SPS's crap ability to plan, I will not invest hundreds of dollars on travel rebooking fees.

Any board member who truly believes learning happens those last few days, needs to get out of their ivory tower. And no, don't blame the teachers. Classrooms do have to be disassembled and final loose ends tied up.

I do blame the SEA and staff though. Putting snow day makeups at the end of the year is bogus.

Anonymous said...

My family will not be attending school on those days. It's ridiculous.

-SLP

Eric B said...

I don't quite get the "nothing happens in the last two days of school" argument against extending the school year. I agree that little learning is likely to happen on the last two days of the year. What I don't get is why that should extend to the last two days of the original school year. Do teachers really have that rigid a schedule (on June 18th, I will be teaching X)? If they do, wouldn't they have pushed them back for the snow days?

Juana said...

Couldn't the school administration convert half-days and professional days to make up time?

Sahila said...

You know, the world wont stop spinning on its access, the sky wont fall, and our children will still get into college IF THE SCHOOL YEAR GETS SHORTENED A DAY OR TWO BY MOTHER NATURE DOING HER THING...

this whole focus on making up days is stupid... no one will ever be able to convince me that what the children MIGHT have learned in that 6-12 hours of class time is essential to their happiness or future success....

Patrick said...

I think the Board did the right thing. Instruction days are important, and we should not shorten the year just because there was more than one day of snow. There's more than one day of snow more years than not.
The District calendar says that snow days 2 and 3 will be added to the end of the school year, and as far as I saw they only announced that they would seek a waiver, not that they had been granted a waiver.

Anonymous said...

It might be useful to know that teachers are required to work through June 23rd regardless of whether the students attended or not. Contractually, they are required to work a certain number of days and since they were not at school when we had snow, the teachers have to make up the snow days.

It is published when snow days will be made up and skipping the days had not been approved yet. I'm sure there are families that made plans and will be gone and this messes up our own families plans, BUT I feel the school board did the right thing.

There probably won't be a lot of learning happening on those last two days, but maybe there will be on the Thursday and Friday the week before, when there might not have been otherwise.

Maybe we can all lobby the school board to plan school around each of our families' vacation calendars. I know I would like mid-winter break back for a ski trip and a week off in October would be great - good time to visit Disneyland. Just cut the school year back to 100 days or so and it might work.

- kitty

Anonymous said...

Yeah, will change the CB contract then and make PD days and those 1/2 day more flexible to allow for make up snow days DURING the school year when it makes more sense for kids' learning. You can switch some PD days to end of school year where you need time to clean up the classroom and complete your paperwork galore.

parent

sps grad and mom said...

Sorry, I'm not feeling your pain - the district has said all along that snow days would be made up first on the day between semesters and 2nd and 3rd by adding on to the end of the year. I think families plan vacations on those days at their own risk.

RosieReader said...

Kitty, the issue is the timing of their decision. For a couple of months we were told that the District was seeking a a waiver of the makeup days. Now, quite late in the game, they changed their minds.

Anonymous said...

For some, it's about vacations. For me, it's about what a complete waste the last week of school is for my kids. Make up snow days at end of school year just add to more wasted time, not quality instructional time. It's all about CB agreement.

parent

SP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't mind this decision. Snow days get made up. Fine, they should. I mind that this decision was made in April instead of January.

-Laura

Anonymous said...

Rosie Reader, the district didn't change their mind, but the school board disagreed with them and said no. Did the school board originally agree to it? And are you sure the state would approve the waiver? It wasn't a done deal. Go ahead and take your kids out of school. They probably won't miss valuable lessons. But you bought your tickets before anything was final. That's just the way it goes.

I can't say that the district has always done what they say they are going to. Not a strong point with them.

- kitty

SP said...

You are right, Laura. It was announced in January that a waiver was being applied for with the state and yet the district waits until April to give it to the Board for approval?

What kind of a precedence would we be setting if the district applies for a state waiver every time we have a snow day, each year?

I appreciate that the Board is trying to respect "instructional days" but it would be much more effective to take away some of the full day releases & early dismissals etc. that eat away at instructional time all year long, instead of at the end of the year. We have absolutely no policy limiting either District mandated, nor site-based partial day releases which are extremely disruptive(some schools have one early release almost every week, many others have one every two weeks)!

Anonymous said...

I am glad the board decided to over-rule the staff recommendation and make up the snow days. I think instructional time matters and that snow days should be made up later in the year.

Jane

mirmac1 said...

But Rosie, that is how it works. Staff did not present the long-awaited waiver until a few weeks ago. Then the Board considers it, approves or rejects it. No rubberstamp. If staff did not make a good enough case, then that is what happens. I agree with the board's decision.

Anonymous said...

"I mind that this decision was made in April instead of January."

No, the decision was made in May 2011. That's the date on the district calendar that's been pinned on my wall all year.

In May 2011, the district laid out a plan for how snow days would be made up. All that's happened now is that the district is being told to stick to its original plan, which we have all known about for nearly a year now. The plan itself never changed; people's hopes and expectations are all that changed.

I guess that I too don't understand what the big deal is. The possibility of a waiver is not the same thing as having a waiver granted. If I asked my boss if I could take certain days off and she said, "Let me check and get back to you," I wouldn't buy my tickets until I had a firm answer. That's exactly what's going on here. People apparently proceeded as if the waiver had been granted; that's not the district's fault or the Board's fault.

And the time to discuss whether it makes sense to add days at the end of the year is when the calendar is being developed, not after the snow has happened! The whole point of having contingency plans is so that everyone knows what to expect if inclement weather occurs and can plan accordingly.

--confused by the comments

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Any board member who truly believes learning happens those last few days, needs to get out of their ivory tower."

Actually that concern was discussed on of the committee meetings. I think the Board is well aware of that issue.

I think making up time, in the future, should come out of PD or school year vacation days. Stick the PD at the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

confused by comments,
your confusion is understandable. Kinda like what went down at Lowell. All the admin steps one must take and then don't take. In the end, the idea of using one's 100K+ paid salary to come up with some lame snow day planning and waiver seeking process to absolve the missteps involved is SO adminstratively perfect! Yeah, you're right, it's NOT the district's or the board's fault. Missing point is quality instructional time for kids.

Sheesh, the idea of allowing flexibility of PD timing to cover snow days is obviously too much for this district, SEA, or this board to consider. Must be a nightmare to figure who gets to go on bathroom or lunch break first down at JSCEE.

parent

Patrick said...

Is it reasonable to put the PD days at the end of the year? It would certainly be better for families. But it would be pretty pointless to have PD days at the end of the year if the teachers use them for lesson planning and collaboratively discussing how best to teach kid X or handle misbehavior. Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Not if you listen to teachers about what goes on in some of the PD days. Besides we're not talking about all PD days, just a couple. And we still have those 1/2 days to play with? It's call planning with instructional quality in mind. And yeah, I'll take a hit if we have a snowpocalypse that has us burried in for 2 weeks. Then, it make sense to add some days to end of school year, some days to spring breaks, etc.

parent

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind the added snowdays to the end of the school year if the decision happened in January, right after the snowy days. But wait until the 4th of April, and make a decision about it yesterday, doesn't make any sense. If you plan to travel you have to buy your tickets in advance, the earlier is the better (cheaper). If you need a summer job you have the right to know when you can you in advance. Why was this long wait anyway???
- Enough is enough

dan dempsey said...

At 180 instructional days the school year is 15 days short of the European average and the length of school day is also shorter than that average.

Are the PD days in existence largely so that the administration can justify its voluminous size and the need for time to continue pushing ineffective practices? Maybe with more refinement in PD time these practices might work better? There is no indication that the counterproductive plans for math over the last decade will work better with more PD.

RosieReader said...

Mirmac -- Perhaps I'm painfully naive, but I was under the impression that the Board, through its chair or its executive committee, is in charge of setting its own agenda. I may well be wrong and perhaps they have to wait for the staff to present it with the issue. Assuming I'm right, though, when the Board members heard (as we all did) last January that a waiver was sought, they could have put it in their agenda as soon as possible. Instead, they wait three months for no apparent reason.

Anonymous said...

Are people really so bothered that we ended up with a school year that looks like what is was supposed to look like? This has been on our calendars for ages. If you decide to take your kid out of school early, fine. But we all knew the original end of school date, and we all knew the snow make up dates. There is so much else to get upset about!
-Good Grief!

mirmac1 said...

No, RosieReader you are not painfully naive. Quite the contrary.

I was at the A&F committee meeting when staff finally got their sh*t together and decided, yep, we're gonna ask for a waiver. Until then, all can presume that the CBA will be followed and the school year will be as long as it was originally set out to be.

This actually should cheer all those pro-1620BP folks. The Board leaves it up to the interim Superintendent to know the laws and the rules and act accordingly. Yet, in the event (as in this case but not all) the supt is required to consult and get authorization from the board, then the homework must get done. Does the board have to act like me and constantly ask "did you do your homework? Can I see it? Is that all of it?"

Anonymous said...

Who ever said that instruction is not happening at the end of the school year?
Where did the perception come from that, just because it's near the end of the school year, learning time is over?

I must be hardcore. My students are working until about 2 p.m. on the last day. Then, we have a liitle meeting and party where I tell them that, come September, I'll be checking on how much they read all summer (so they better be on it!).

I'm not the only teacher like this, by any means.

If you want to go on vacation early, then do it. Just don't convince yourself that it will be a free-for-all back in the classroom while you're gone.

By the way, I think that the testing culture has helped create this message. When the standardized tests are over, some people equate it with the end of instruction. That ain't the case.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

No, not really Good Grief. What's the point? You want to try capacity and BEX, AL, C & I, Math curriculum, MAP (maybe they can stick MAP testing at the end of school year) instead? Some of this stuff has been going on for years since we enter SPS 2004. So yeah, let's not fix anything, big or small, 'cause there's always another day at JSCSEE.

-de ja vu

Disgusted said...

I'm ok with this. 172 days of school is on the lean side. The District has been slowly chipping away at school days with professional development days etc. I think the Board sent a strong message to the District.

From past experiences, I never schedule vacation the day after school gets let out.

Jan said...

I am with RosieReader here -- or maybe I am more extreme than she is. I think learning is incredibly important -- but two more things:
First, "learning" is not the same thing as "seat time," (one would hope for a correlation; sometimes, with some kids -- it is an inverse correlation, like it or not). "Learning" is also not seasoned teachers, TFA teachers, test scores, service hours, PE requirements, or a whole host of other things required in school. One hopes that most of these things correlate, somewhere, along the way with the learning our kids need to accomplish to have the lives they want -- but it is a pretty strained correlation in some instances.

At the same time -- family time, and family finances are also important. And the District pretty much values them at zero. Long papers or test preparation assigned over holidays, homework that is time-consuming and/or flat-out stupid, transportation issues and starting times that require parents to drive kids or pay for before/after-school care. The list goes on. While I realize the schools can't bend and twist for every permutation, they could be much more flexible and reasonable -- if they valued family time, and family finances. But they don't --and so they aren't.

I hope, for the kids' sake, that "enough already" is right, and teachers have kids engaged in learning right up to the end. To the extent they don't -- what is the point of making them all be there at all? It only becomes justifiable if the value of their -- the kids'-- time is zero. And I don't think it is.

To suggest to parents who made travel plans (in reliance upon what the District said they were going to do) that somehow the "seat time" represents irreplaceable learning time seems wrong. In fact, my kids all made way more progress (at least in reading and math) over the summer than they did during equal amounts of time during the school year -- since they could set their own time, work at their own pace, and progress without a lot of the time/attention distractions of the school building.

Politically, I can see why the Board made this decision. And if enough teachers like "enough already" are out there maximizing every hour of time they have -- well, good. But I would bet that not all teachers are as diligent in this regard as "enough already" (especially since spring fever is pretty rampant by mid June).

Patrick said...

As far as I remember, no one at the District said "school will let out on June 20." They said they would ask for a waiver so it could let out on June 20. I hope we've learned enough about SPS to understand that that's no guarantee.

Anonymous said...

@Jan

When parents have the opportunity to take their kids on vacation, they are learning way more than I can ever teach them in a room (except when it comes to learning the very basics of reading and writing)--I am not pretending otherwise.

I just wanted to let you know what's happening between the walls where I'm coming from.

The so-called opportunity gap is widened during vacation--families with financial and/or educational means tend to enrich their children's learning, whereas parents without these means tend to have children who lose ground.

Go on vacation! Have a great time!
But know that I'm not letting up.

I don't know the timelines like Mirmac and others. It certainly seems like a delayed message from the school board, but it also sounds like they were following some protocol (which obviously has a too-slow turnaround time).

In terms of the big picture, applying for a waiver to miss instructional days sounds pretty pathetic, to me. Lots of kids in the district need more school days, not less.

Enjoy a guilt-free, much deserved vacation! Remember how priviliged we are (I can't wait for my next adventure).

--enough already...who keeps pretending to still have close-up vision (sorry about the continued typos)

Anonymous said...

"privileged"--far-sighted case-in-point

--enough already

RosieReader said...

Patrick makes a good point.

And "enough already," I'm guessing that you teach somewhere in the K-8 continuum. And I confess I wasn't thinking of that, since my own kids are in HS. In HS, any final exams/projects in classes that seniors take must be completed and graded before those seniors are scheduled to graduate. The District's calender suggests that the high schools are graduating June 15, 16, 18 and 19. Maybe there's still instruction at the lower grades. I've certainly been wrong before.

Anonymous said...

@Rosie

Besides travel, I don't have much of a life outside of my first grade classroom (no longer in Seattle).

So, yeah, you got that right! I'm in the earlier grades (probably in more ways than one).

--enough already

Eric B said...

If no learning happens in the last week of school, then we can just skip it altogether. Cut the year back to 170 days. Next year, we'll see that no learning happens in the last week of school, so we can go to 165. Etc.

I just think this whole concept that teachers will have nothing to do in those last two days is insulting to teachers and students. Sure, some will check out, but most? I doubt it.

mirmac1 said...

Eric B.

That's a sure way to cut the budget!

Anonymous said...

Maybe this has already been said because I haven't read all the posts, but so many teachers are already going to be there the week after school is out that why not just mandate that teachers work but allow kids a regular start on vacation?

Now I'll be here babysitting those who choose to come instead of doing the clean up, paperwork, reorganizing and other stuff that I'm always there doing unpaid anyway.

Crazy.

just another teacher

Jan said...

I think Eric B's point is a good one -- that you can't keep justifying cutting back because the last few days are "less intense learning experiences" than the 175+ that preceded them, even if they sometimes are.

It would be interesting to really brainstorm with the entire learning community (kids, teachers, parents, administrators) about how we deal with the year end. My personal impression is that my kids are chomping at the bit in September -- and then much of the first few weeks are squandered with no homework, no progress through the books, etc. It is the end of September or early October before they are really moving at freeway speed. Then, by June, when the seniors are already gone, they are tired, the weather is above 40 and rain has turned to drizzle, if not sunshine, I would imagine that they would love to be doing less, or at least something different. I know that I always had a harder time with the last paper, and the last exam -- and I was a pretty diligent student. It has to be hard for teachers to keep kids focused those last few days (which is why some teachers probably try to adapt their material to the attention levels, leaving parents to conclude not much is happening, leading to the "erosion issue" that Eric notes. I wish my kids' schools did a better job of jumping in right away in September, when they are rested and raring to go, and that we could think of ways to better use the last few days of the year, when many kids are counting hours to being out for the summer.

Jan said...

Having posted above, I must also confess that I think LOTS of things (like site decisions, BEXIV, the leadership vacuums at Lowell, L@L, and McClure, the achievement/opportunity gap, the possibility that good teachers are being targeted for discriminatory firing based on age/expense, math book selection, etc. -- are ALL way more important than this. So I am happy to take this one to the back of the line.

Anonymous said...

stuff happens - school gets cancelled - days get shuffled and added

do NOT schedule optional family events within a week of the end of the school year, or, tough luck. whe people schedule their lives outside of the constraints of SPS, then SPS people have to choose - get over it.

RealProblemsPlease

Anonymous said...

That's because, Real Problems, SPS can't handle real problems, much little ones.

fed up

seattle citizen said...

Parent, you made a couple of comments that indicate that you think the union and the CBA were somehow responsible for this, and I'm wondering if you know something I don't:
YOu write in one comment that it's "all about CB agreement."
In another comment you write, "the idea of allowing flexibility of PD timing to cover snow days is obviously too much for this district, SEA, or this board to consider."

Did the SEA or CBA mandate that students come to school those days? I doubt it. The CBA mandates a certain amount of work days, and the staff would work those days, regardless. That wasn't the issue, the issue was whether students would be there.
Does the SEA mandate PD occur at scheduled times of year, is that the issue? And this meant SPS couldn't use that time for students and then move the PD to the end of the year? Please tell us if you know, because I don't, but you speak as if this is the union's fault and I just don't see it.
And moving "PD days to end of school year where you need time to clean up the classroom and complete your paperwork galore" ignores the purpose of PD, whether you agree with its content or not: PD is for staff collaboration or whatever to address teaching and learning in the school. It's not about "cleaning your classroom" (tho' I believe the CBA does contain language around one day at beginning and one day at end for classroom set-up and take-down.)

Anonymous said...

For many who are so concerned about missing 2 days of instruction and it's long term impact, and there is some valid point to it if it happens every year, what about the # of schools which are asking for more and more PD days and early releases. Some schools are up to having an early release every third or even every other week, and more schools are reportedly looking at doing this.

Forget the disruption to learning by maybe bailing 1-2 days early at the end of the year compared to the guaranteed regular built-in disruption of additional early release days throughout the entire school year.

PD early-release concerned

StepJ said...

I would argue that the overall approach to accommodating emergency/make-up days is flawed. It can't be corrected for this year but could be for next.

Example: In other districts I have experienced "make-up" days are included in the regularly scheduled school year. If 170 hours are the State minimum then the school year is scheduled to include one or even two extra weeks of instruction time by starting the school year earlier in September or even in August.

If there are days lost to power outage, boiler failure, snow, etc. then those days are taken from the reserve of the extended school year.

If there are no days lost -- then bonus -- then all of the scheduled days are available for instruction.

I suspect SPS schedules only the bare minimum to have extra monies for pet projects - for example $5 - $7 million for the upgrade of the IT infrastructure to support the MAP test.

Schools have to plan to a known school year to reserve parks, pools, transportation for end of year celebrations.

Are students going to pay attention once they have been handed their end of year certificates or diplomas? No.

Adding extra days to the end of the school year does not genuinely add to actual instruction days. IMO - This particular vote from the School Board was purely political and for show.

If actual days of instruction were actually valued then a school year beyond the bare minimum would be a part of the plan each and every year. It would not be a last minute scramble to fit in a day here or there.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was funny that a letter originating from SPS said "it would have saved $500,000 if these two days didn't have to be tacked on...."
and then closed with Director DeBell's quote about the value of education Anyone else think that was funny? and probably not a good public relations move?!

Two and a half years to go

Patrick said...

Did they explain where the $500,000 was going? The teachers are working anyway. Custodians have to be there to empty the trash, right, because the teachers will be cleaning out their rooms and dumping lots of stuff. Who's working those days who wouldn't be if there were no instruction?

StepJ said...

Heard on a news story the $500k is for transportation and food.

Fed up parent said...

Are you kidding me? We're choosing to add two days to the school year, waste $500,000, and the school board thinks this makes a statement about the "value of instruction"? What a joke! A school district that hasn't had its financial house in order in years can ill afford to waste another half a million dollars sending kids to school so they can have a few extra recesses in June. And the school board thinks it's a good idea to TELL the public that they're wasting $500,000? Wow. Does the school board really think Seattle Public Schools' instruction is that valuable? Utterly ridiculous! I am aghast and appalled and will be enjoying the 21st and 22nd of June because my children will have already begun their summer vacation.

Anonymous said...

Move testing days to the end of the year and make current map test (etc) days the snow alternates.

Juliette

Lori said...

Am I missing something? Isn't this $500K money we would have spent had it not snowed? That is, 2 days worth of meals and buses weren't used in January, so we are simply using them June 21&22 now. Seems like the costs are just shifted to June instead of having been used in January.

Or are we *really* paying $500K *more* with the added days? Are our contracts with the buses and food services such that we pay for their services on snow days even if not used? I hope out contracts are better than that!

Silly said...

Our private school intentionally adds extra days to the winter trimester in anticipation of snow days (and to help balance all the disruptions from breaks and holidays). SPS and SEA should look at doing the same. If it doesn't snow then the kids get the benefit of a couple extra days of instruction and if it does snow there doesn't have to be a huge schedule readjustment of of sequence of the curriculum being taught.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

Just so all of you know, if the last day of school is Friday, June 22nd, I will will be giving finals on Wednesday, the 20th and Thursday the 21st. We will review on Monday and Tuesday, the 18th and 19th. My Algebra classes do not end just because we have taken the EOC. We do school till the end of the school year (I'm sure you would get that response from any high school teacher). I'm not sure how receptive I will be to anyone who says they are not going to be here because they have some vacation planned.

I would take it one step further and totally do away with early dismissal or no school day PD's. They detract from the education of the children.

Anonymous said...

@Michael Rice

Amen about PD early dismissals and no school days.

Apparently, some studies showed that staffs who collaborate and study research have better outcomes. However, the teachers in the studies created such cultures in their schools organically, not by mandate.

Imposing nonsense and poor curricula onto schools, along with "coaches" who often were poor teachers, is a recipe for a waste of time (and a need for some Advil). Most teachers dread required time spent with the "experts" who do drive-by sound bytes.


Students who are struggling, especially, need consistency in school schedules.

PD (as currently done in schools) is another example of research that is not understood and then applied without intelligence.

Now if Dan Dempsey were giving the PDs, it would be time well spent...

--enough already

Catherine said...

@ Lori RE the $500K additional cost of making up the snow days.

There are a number of things that go into that additional cost number, the few that I can think of quickly are: some of the food would have spoiled and has to be replaced - never mind the craziness of the food program having to serve certain things on certain days and some things won't store for a month. Some building staff - I believe custodians in particular - have a set month off in summer, and tasks that have to happen during the summer. Some of that $500K will be in overtime for them so that summer cleaning/repair tasks can be done. Then, there are building repair projects contracted out - that work counts on certain days being available for work during the summer. Since the work might have to be delayed a day or two, SSD has to pay any over time needed to complete the jobs on time. I"m sure there are office staffers who are on a 9month schedule, who have to be paid for a few extra days at the end.

In some ways I'm surprised the number isn't bigger that $500K. Reference point SSD has a $567 million annual budget (from the rbook12.pdf on the SSD website).