Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Hard To Believe School Schedule

So I was perusing around the SEA (Seattle Education Association) website and found next year's school calendar. I thought, "I should post it to give people a heads up on their calendars."

Once again, this calendar begs the question, "When are these kids in school?" (Keep in mind that you should check with your school, particularly middle and high school, for additional time off for late-start days for professional development. Roosevelt had about 12 of these a year and I know West Seattle and Franklin do as well with Hale having the highest number of them. I believe Eckstein has started but I am not aware of what other middle schools might have started as well.)

To add insult to injury, the Winter Break, Dec. 22-Jan.2 has 6 weeks between it and Mid-Winter Break, Feb. 16-20 (not counting two holidays, Jan 19 and 26th). Mid-Winter Break has 5 (!) weeks between it and Spring Break, March 30-April 3. Spring Break is then followed by 3 weeks (!) of WASL testing (April 13-May1). This is followed by about 6 weeks of school before the end of school June 17th.

I think the extra week in February and the long extended interruption of WASL are just folly to public education in Seattle.


reader said...

... not to mention the 6 week minimum it takes to get up and running in fall. The schools don't really do anything until November, mid October at the earliest. That's when our school was doing "baseline" assessments, supposedly required by the district. Some baseline, that's after weeks and weeks from the start of school!

anonymous said...

I agree Melissa, we could do without the February break. Where and how did this break come about anyway? And I think WASL eats up precious time too. We used to have standardized assessments when we were kids and they were administered in a few hours on one day. And, I don't remember weeks of test study and prep either. In all fairness though the WASL probably only takes 12-14 hours total, as it is just an hour or two a day for the two weeks, but it is a huge interruption in schedule and then add in the prep and you have a time sink.

Momma Snark said...

To my knowledge, midwinter break (the one in February) exists partially to keep kids out of school at the height of the flu season. Given how many kids were out sick at my school during February, this strategy makes some sense.

SS said...

Regarding the 3 weeks for WASL- I called Nancy Steers (SPS) about this recently, and she explained that elemenatry, middle & high schools all take the WASL during those 3 weeks, but not the whole time for each school.

Here are the high school dates (all tests will be on Mon/Tues next year):
March 16 & 17- reading
March 18 & 19- writing
April 13 & 14 math
April 20 & 21 science

It's my understanding that all high schools have 2 to 3 hours late arrival for each of the 8 WASL test days which is 16-24 hours of lost instructional time for the 9th, 11th and 12th graders. This is a big hit, especially for those classes whcih are only one semester.

Nancy told me that some schools continue with their AP classes during WASL testing because it is so close to the AP testing dates. Does anyone know which schools do this?

As far as site based professional development goes, Madison Middle School will have 16 late arrivals next year. Hale this year was the winner with 32 late arrivals, almost one every week! That's 64 hours of lost instructional time for those students. Where is the accountability for this?

Jet City mom said...

when you add this to how many days teachers are out of the classroom because of illness, trips, training, or coaching school teams, we get a better picture of how many days our kids are in class, with their teacher.

( and don't forget early dismissal with shortened class periods, if the day breaks after lunch, the state counts it as a full day)

Length of day varies as well, communities across the nation are looking at school year/day.

Children in Chicago schools, for example, spend the equivalent of 8 fewer weeks in school than do students in New York City.

AR2007020401087.html> extended school day

another mom said...

Isn't the school calendar negotiated as a part of the SEA contract?

Teachermom said...

If education were fully funded, you wouldn't see such a sparse school year calendar. As it is now, if you stretched it over more days, you would be trying to do it on the same amount of funding.

I do not like the "MidWinter" break. I find it really frustrating to get back in the groove after the first Winter break, and then have another week off.

If I were compensated for it, I would much rather have my trainings all during the summer, rather than after school or during professional development days/early release days. A lot of those days are not well-spent or planned for.

If we had a set professional development calendar for the summer, things would be better planned (maybe even based on teacher input for what they thought they needed more professional development for!), and teachers could plan their training needs/summer vacations ahead of time.

And yes, WASL is a huge time suck, mostly because it takes up a lot of the key instructional time of the day (morning). They still have to have lunch and their recesses, so there goes most of the day.

reader said...

How about have the WASL on the first month of school? That way, all the time wasted already due lack of planning for the start of school, would be going to something we have to do anyway: WASL. And then we wouldn't be wasting the last 6 weeks of school, which is currently wasted because the WASL is done. Presumably, the district wouldn't throw away the whole rest of the year because it started out with the WASL... I guess you never can tell!

anonymous said...

The kids loose so much of what they learn over the summer that WASL in the first 6 weeks of school would not make sense. How about giving the WASL the last few weeks of school, which tend to be wasted anyway? Put them to good use!

Jet City mom said...

If I were compensated for it, I would much rather have my trainings all during the summer, rather than after school or during professional development days/early release days. A lot of those days are not well-spent or planned for.

I'd agree that training days are not always well planned. At one of my daughters schools, every year they would hold a class to teach them to use their e-mail ( I knew this because I was in the building - as a PTA chair, I always had work to do)
Not sure how they arrive at what the time will be used for. Perhaps the heads of the departments decide?

In my field, I arrange for my own continuing education and pay for it. Motivation comes from my desire to keep current and add to my store of knowledge as well , which can add to my employability.

While I know that several of my Ds teachers arrange for additional training than what the district provides ( like the Park City math institute in Princeton), that isn't generally the case as collective bargaining doesn't allow for extra pay without seniority.

( Good thing we in Washington don't want merit pay for teachers- otherwise we would have had to accept that $13.2 million dollar science and math grant)

What I have seen is that the first couple months of school are a toss up, because there may not be enough classes/teachers & I-728 money doesn't kick in to allow for extra hiring till October.
Of course by October, most of the good teachers have long been snapped up.
But after October 1 enrollment counts, the district eventually gives the go ahead to the schools to post the job listings.
Then if everything goes well, we have all the needed teachers in the building by the end of October.
Oops but then it is November!
Half days for teacher conferences, holiday break, December- winter break-
End of March- spring break
April WASL testing
and school is out in Mid June.
Half days are poorly used.
WHen classes are shortened, it is all the teacher can do to take roll, get the kids situated and then it is time for the next class.

Although I realize the district uses these days toward the length of the school year- they are not days when meaningful work is accomplished.
I think it would be far better to have a full day off, for teacher training, and have full days of learning.

Michael Rice said...


I need to comment on something. Reader wrote: not to mention the 6 week minimum it takes to get up and running in fall. The schools don't really do anything until November, mid October at the earliest.

I'm sorry your child attends such a school. Where I teach, I give the students the Wednesday - Friday of the first week to settle in (actually, it is so everyone can get their schedule in order), then the first Monday, we start. I give a quiz that Friday and when the students start failing because they didn't do anything during the week, they snap out of it. I can't imagine ever teaching in school where the first 6 weeks are wasted and no learning takes place. How is that possible? Why do you put up with it?

As for the calendar, I agree with the sentiments being expressed. We had 14 Late Arrivals and 5 Early Dismissals this year. The great majority of the Late Arrivals this year were for professional development in a program called Reading Apprenticeship. Now, I'm sure this is a fine program, but as a math teacher, I feel my time would have been better spent doing math professional development, or having class with my students. I give quizzes just about every Friday and since we have 19 Wednesdays where we don't have a full day, I'm only giving 3 assignments per week. I end up not covering as much as I need, so my students are not as well prepared as they could be. This is a big frustration for me. I miss those 19 days that I could either go more in depth on whatever topic we are on, or spend it on more topics, so my students have a wider knowledge of math.

reader said...

The school is good, for the most part, but just missing a lot of days. Ok, so they ARE doing something, they're just not dialed in... and lots of subjects haven't even begun until then and schedules aren't even set.

Jet City mom said...

How is that possible? Why do you put up with it?

It's possible because not all teachers as I mentioned are not always in the classrooms where they are needed, students are still being shifted around.
I have also, even though my daughter had an IEP and had learning challenges, neverbeen able to select her classroom teacher- she usually ended up with the weakest teacher for that grade.

Why I put up with it?
I didn't . Not sitting down anyway- I tried to appeal teacher selection. I looked for private schools & hired tutors to try and make up the difference, I quit my job so that I could be in the school building every day to support the classrooms and the teachers & I kept looking for a school with a stronger principal, who expected a higher standard from everyone in the building & led the way.

Not everyone can quit their job & we were lucky to find a public school with stronger leadership by high school-but IMO, there are not enough such schools for every student in the district.

Even though she did enroll in a school with more accountability, her previous experience had left large gaps that had to be made up and it has been a struggle. Think of those kids who aren't able to have that opportunity & we can see why our drop out rate is so poor considering we have the highest level of adult education in the country.

anonymous said...

"I have also, even though my daughter had an IEP and had learning challenges, neverbeen able to select her classroom teacher- she usually ended up with the weakest teacher for that grade"

Why do you think your child was always given the weakest teacher?

Jet City mom said...

I had enrolled my daughter in the school in order so that she could participate in mixed grade classrooms.
As she had widely varying strenghts and weaknesses- I felt a mixed grade class, where she could have the same teacher for several years, would be a good fit.

In many grades there were one or two mixed grade classrooms- & one single grade classroom.
From the time she entered the school, I advocated for the mixed grade classroom- but she was assigned the lone single grade room.

In 3rd grade for instance- I thought her teacher had high standards ( although later my daughter complained about meanness)- I was happy with the 3rd grade teacher at the time.
For 4th grade, she had less work required than she did in 3rd. Worksheets, even ones you colored in, were the bulk of the classroom curriculum I saw.
In 5th grade, her teacher was gone for the bulk of the year & because she did not take a leave, the classroom had rotating substitutes.

I was envious of the parents who discussed the engaging work their children were doing in their mixed grade team taught classrooms.

Complaining to the principal didn't do any good, because we also had rotating principals who were less engaged than they should have been with the school.

parent1 said...

Why do you put up with it?

I agree. You simply don't always have a choice. And why shouldn't the onus of getting their act together fall on the school? This isn't the fault of a parent. Come on. The schools should be ready on day 1, not have a million days off for worthless trainings, and end June 17.