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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One More Survey: Parent/Teacher Conferences

From the SPS website:

Seattle Public Schools is inviting families to comment on the parent/teacher conference schedule for the 2011-13 school years.

The survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Z8JGDDY until 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 3. This survey will take between one and five minutes to complete. Responses will be summarized, shared with School Board members and posted on the SPS website.

SPS is applying to the state Board of Education for a waiver to allow the three full-day parent-teacher conference schedule to continue. The three-day model replaces the prior model of seven half-day/early dismissals.

18 comments:

seattle citizen said...

"SPS is applying...for a waiver to allow the three full-day parent-teacher conference schedule to continue. The three-day model replaces the prior model of seven half-day/early dismissals."

Hmm, so we've already lost one half-day for p-t conferences and the district would like to continue this? I hope the community, through its board, can lobby to return to 3.5 days instead of 3 - why are we at the place where we say parents/guardians matter yet funding time is decreased? Are we at the point in our nation's economic malaise where we recognize the parent/guardian as THE most determinant factor in our children's education, yet we're cutting parent conference time, along with the counselors, IAs, specialists, etc who assist the parents in ways uncounted...

Bah. Where'd the parent's half-day go?

Sahila said...

I dont know why you dont do here what is done in Australia and new Zealand... no school days lost, no early closures, no hassle with losing time from work, no childcare issues... teachers and parents have conferences after school and into the evening - takes a week, but gets it done... and I think teachers are paid for the time - gasp!!!!

In High Schools, you're assigned time with you child's teachers, the conferences are done in the school hall (teachers sit at tables with chairs for the parents) and you move around the hall to the teachers... and its pretty efficient - some timetabling whizz works it out that you get to see all teachers in the one night and there's very little standing around waiting... and there's usually activities put on by students to keep siblings occupied...

Jet City mom said...

SPS is applying to the state Board of Education for a waiver to allow the three full-day parent-teacher conference schedule to continue. The three-day model replaces the prior model of seven half-day/early dismissals.

Good.

I think three full days is a much better use of time
Less money spent on transportation.
Easier for parents to find child care for 3 days than for 7 half days.
Classrooms are disrupted during 1/2 days ( the extent is dependent on building-but pretty common place), and little gets done.

Dorothy Neville said...

While I like the three days of conferencing more than the seven half days, one needs to be aware of the waiver and the requirements for complying with such a waiver. Evidently the district was not completely open and transparent with the state as to our overall instructional time. Evidently, even before the waiver, we have some of of the lowest instructional times of anywhere, but we weren't exactly forthcoming with that when we applied for this waiver in the past.

I think there is a bigger picture of calculating instructional time that could and should be discussed. There's a regular commenter here who knows a lot more of the history about this than I do. I hope s/he will add to this conversation, perhaps is busy with the holiday right now.

SC Parent said...

Another great prisoner's dilemma from SPS. Why does the survey force me to choose between 7 half days and 3 full days? I want my kid to be LEARNING! PT conferences should be conducted outside of school time (i.e. evenings). I would rather see these 3 days added back in as instructional days.

kellie said...

They were very unclear about this. Previously, it was 7 - 2 hour early dismissals, for a total of 14 instruction hours.

Jet City mom said...

I think this should be something at the discretion of the school.
Is that possible?
Some schools may have more parents who work nights & would find it difficult to come in- additionally- it may be difficult to find care for other children.

Also since teachers also often have young families one choice may be much more palatable than the other.

My D who is a teacher ( at a K-8 in Lake Oswego), has some teacher conferences after school, but as she lives in Portland and doesn't drive, this makes a very, very long day for her & it might be more useful if they were held earlier. Most I believe they do hold during the day.


But is this for what grade level? My younger D, did have teacher conference in middle school- it was with her core teacher- taught SS/LA.
But really- it was too short to be that informative.

Syd said...

I would really like to see links in posts open a new tab or window. I like to keep my place in the blog, and follow links.

Dorothy Neville said...

Syd, I don't know if that is doable in blogger, if the settings can be adjusted.

I always read this blog in googlereader which is a wonderful way to make sure you get every comment and be efficient about it (as they have it set up with RSS feeds for both posts and comments).

googlereader automatically opens new tab for links.

One can also right click to do that as well.

Charlie Mas said...

Right click on the link then select "Open in new tab".

Syd said...

Your right, I am lazy. But ya could write them this way so that the link is automatically opened in a new tab:

" href=”newwindow.html” target equalsign”_blank”>New Window..."

replacing "equal sign" with =

It is a good usabilty practice.

Charlie Mas said...

syd, you're lucky they even make it a hot link!

GreyWatch said...

the 1/2 days are a logistical nightmare for everyone - kids, parents, teachers, class schedules.

For kids who need consistency this really throws them for a loop.

As a working parent, it is much easier to take vacation the week of thanksgiving instead of trying to cobble together childcare for 7 days prior. Most working parents still can't make the 2-5pm slots that the conferences offer w/o adjusting their work schedules anyway.

Speechless said...

Until what time are elementary teachers supposed to stay in the building? I know many who rush out as soon as the last student leaves, and others who stay until they're kicked out by the custodian.
For teachers, it would not be fair to ask them to stay longer than their contract stipulates --even if fairly remunerated, they have, after all a life to live.
GreyWatch touches on a BIG plus (particularly for affluent families): the possibility of leaving early to go on vacation without having to miss school. What?! How?! And the conference? Well, the savvy parents schedule them BEFORE the three day break. Yes, teachers do accommodate such requests.
If given only the two options, half day for seven days or three days off, I will always vote for the second choice because it is definitely, as pointed out previously, less disruptive for everyone. After all, the families that will go out on vacation will do so whether there are classes scheduled or not. (And have you ever noticed how disruptive it is for everyone when your kid misses school?)
However, if instructional time is the issue, then the District could just add three days at the end of the school year to compensate. No need for waivers, just compliance with the amount of time that the kids have to be sitting in the classroom (whether or not they are receiving "instruction", well, that's another issue!).

Patrick said...

I guess between the 7 short days and 3 days of holidays, I'd take the 3 days of holidays.

But what I would really like is more instruction time. We have short days and extra days off every time we turn around. A week here, a week there. These are all ways for the students to forget what they were learning and lose momentum. Professional development and consultation time for the teachers does need to happen, but I don't see why it can't happen in the three hours between when the students leave and the end of the workday.

The short days are a disruption to student's schedules. It's not an extra child care expense for us, but almost nothing gets done those days. I don't think the state should count them as instruction days.

seattle citizen said...

If one wants more instructional time AND more time for conferences, there are currently these two choices:

a) Add days to the teachers' contracts without paying more, in effect docking their pay;

b) Add days to the teachers' contract and pay for it.

Otherwise, more confernce time = less instruction and vice versa.

SP said...

This new survey is really interesting- It does not state that it is for Elementary parents only (although the questions are clearly for those families). The survey says that the 3-day schedule "will not impact the number of instructional hours that our students receive" although in the previous waiver application the district said there are actually 2 less instructional hours (3-day vs. 7 early releases). The district also ignores the fundamental fact that the 3-day waiver does indeed impact instructional hours--- 3 days off is simply 3 days less in the classroom compared to no waiver. Why not be upfront about it, or is it fuzzy SPS math again?

More importantly, what this survey doesn't mention is that the new conference waiver proposal is not only for all elementary and K-8's this time, but also is adding one full day off option for all middle and high schools! How will middle & high schools be able to schedule effective conferences (with six teachers per student) in only one waiver day, compared to the 3 days that elementary schools need for the same purpose? Where is the survey to teachers, parents, etc showing that is the best use of middle & high school student's instructional time and that schools and the community support this waiver request?

SP said...

Patrick said-
"The short days are a disruption to student's schedules. It's not an extra child care expense for us, but almost nothing gets done those days. I don't think the state should count them as instruction days".

I agree totally with Patrick on this! There are no regulations, guidelines, or waivers required for partial days (early releases/ late arrivals) at either the district or the state level. The District has 5 early releases in our schedule (in addition to 3 full days off for Professional Development, and also 3 full days off for elementary conferences).

Additionally, for middle & high schools unlimited site-based early release/late arrivals days have been allowed in Seattle for PD (up to 32 days currently, with many schools at 10 or 15). That's almost one disruptive day per week all year long for some kids, and every-other week for even more kids.

The district also has allowed full days off (without the state required waivers) for K-8 middle school kids and for some middle & high schools for several years, with full knowledge that the conference waiver was just for elementary schools. The district also allows "slow start/only new students 1st day of school" (i.e. no school for 7th/8th graders), etc... When do our kids actually have a chance for instructional time with a teacher?

The 180-day statewide requirement is not even close to 180 days in Seattle. I agree that full days off are actually less disruptive than early releases, but that's a lot of time off for secondary students. Especially when, unlike all other WA school districts, the Seattle School District insists on counting all passing time, second breakfasts, etc. as "instructional time." Is there no bottom to the District's minimum?