Time and Learning Task Force called for additional resource teachers for schools that might choose full day Mondays

Starting in 1999, Project Excel provided full day Mondays for 16 elementary schools in Fairfax County.  However, the school board ended this program because the cost was considered too high. The last three schools which had the full day schedule will switch back to early dismissals on Mondays this September.

Clearly it is time to reconsider some earlier models for full day Mondays that would not be as expensive as Project Excel.  The Time and Learning Task Force presented a major proposal  to the  school board’s Instruction Committee  in 1996. That year I wrote a summary (shown below) of the task force recommendations. There have been some slight changes in the school hours since that time. All figures are based on the schedules in 1996.

Time and Learning Task Force Proposes Plan to Give Elementary School Students a Full Day on Mondays 

Since the early 1970’s, Fairfax County elementary school students have been dismissed 2 or 2 and 1/2 hours early on Mondays so that teachers would have a block of time for planning and meetings. There have been various proposals over the past nine years to keep the students in school on Monday afternoons while making other provisions for planning time for teachers.

“If American students are to meet world-class standards all children will need more academic time.”  –The National Education Commission  on Time and Learning, 1994.

The most recent proposal was presented to the Fairfax County School Board’s Instruction Committee on May 2, 1996, by the Time and Learning Task Force. The Task Force proposed that each elementary school should be given the option of voluntarily choosing whether to provide a full-day on Monday for students and additional resource teachers for the school. Each school would design its own collaborative decision-making process to ensure broad school and community agreement.

According to the Task Force, “Some schools may want to follow the process used by high schools to decide on block scheduling in which: a) a committee investigates models; b) the committee makes recommendations to parents and faculty; c) parents vote; and d) faculty votes.”

A school which decided to provide the additional time for the students would then decide which types of resource teachers to hire. With a uniform 6.5-hour day Monday through Friday, students would gain a total of 2.5 weeks of additional instructional time per year.

Elementary School Weekly Schedules

Comparison of current schedules to proposed changes recommended by the Time and Learning Task Force

Student activities  Grades 1 – 6

Current time

Proposed total time

Proposed change

Subjects taught by classroom teacher 25 hours/week 25 hours/week none
Instruction by PE and music teachers

2. 5 hours/week

2 hours/week

-0.5 hour/week

Instruction by an art teacher

.5 hour/week[1]

1 hour/week

+.5 hour/week

Additional resource teachers identified by school (e.g., reading, math, computer, science, foreign language, health, music, PE.)

none

2 hours/week

+2 hours/week

Subtotal of instructional time 28 hours/week 30 hours/week +2 hours/week
Lunch 2.5 hours/week 2.5 hours/week none
TOTAL student time in school 30.5 hours/week 32.5 hours/week +2 hours/week

 The total time mandated for music, art, and PE instruction each week by specialists is the same under the proposal as it is under the current schedule: 3 hours.

  • Music—minimum of two 30-minute sessions each week, for a total of 60 minutes.
  • PE—minimum of two 30-minute sessions each week, for a total of 60 minutes.
  • Art—minimum of one 60-minute session each week. This is an objective the School Board has been working towards even without any increase in time for students.

Under the Task Force proposal, the additional time for instruction by specialists to be chosen by each school is 2 hours. The school could choose resource teachers for reading, math, science, a foreign language, computers, health, or other subjects. The school would have the option of choosing to have additional instruction above the mandated amounts for music, PE, or art.

The Task Force said that schools should choose measures to reduce fragmentation in the student schedule. For example, language arts instruction by the special education teacher could be scheduled during the time the classroom teacher is covering this subject.

Kindergarten student activities

Current time

Proposed total time

Proposed change

Subjects taught by classroom teacher and/or aide 15.00 hours/week 13.75 hours/week -1.25 hours/week
Instruction by PE and music teachers none 1 hour/week +1 hour/week
Instruction by an art teacher  0.25 hours/week)  0.5 hours/week  +0.25 hours/week
Instruction by other resource teachers none 1 hour/week +1 hour/week
TOTAL instructional time 15.25 hours/week 16.25 hours/week +1 hour/week

Under the Task Force proposal, kindergarten teachers and specialists would be guaranteed five hours of weekly planning time.

Teacher planning time

Grades 1 – 6

Current

Proposed total

Proposed change

 

Planning time during student day 2.5 hours/week 5 hours/week +2.5 hours/week
     music and PE teachers

2.5 hours/week

2 hours/week

-0.5 hour/week

     art teachers

none[2]

1 hour/week

+1 hour/week

     additional resource teachers

none

2 hours/week

+ 2 hours/week

Planning time before and after the student day (including Monday afternoon) 7 hours/week 5 hours/week -2 hours/week
TOTAL planning time 9.5 hours/week 10 hours/week

+0.5 hour/week

Under the Time and Learning Task Force proposal, each participating school must provide a minimum of five hours of planning time per week within the student day for every full-time teacher, with a minimum of two of the five hours provided for grade-level or team planning.

Schools would need to develop alternatives for a school-based staff development delivery system other than designated Mondays.

The total yearly amount of teacher planning time under the Task Force proposal would increase to a total of 180 hours. Even if every Monday afternoon under the current schedule were used for planning, the total yearly planning time would be 162 hours. However, at least seven Mondays are holidays or workdays, so a total of 14 hours of planning time is lost. Also, at least five Mondays are used for a variety of reasons (area meetings, central meetings, non-school-based in-service activities, and subject area meetings). Therefore, the total planning time minus holidays and other activities is currently 138 hours per year.

Cost

The Task Force recommends that the decision whether to implement a 6.5 hour uniform elementary school day be voluntary on the part of the individual schools, so it is not yet known how many schools will demonstrate an interest in this change. Therefore, costs can only be estimated at this time.

If all 134 elementary schools chose to adopt the 6.5 hour uniform day, total implementation costs could be in the range of $11,000,000 to $13,000,000 per year.

After School Programs

The Task Force recommends support of the extended day program implemented in February 1996 by the Hunters Woods Arts and Science Magnet School. There are four components: academic, technology, recreation, and community service.

Hours are from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Monday. A site director, one teacher, and a teacher’s assistant are needed. Approximately 50 tuition-paying students are needed to sustain this program. It is projected that about 10 additional students may be accommodated with tuition waivers for every 50 students.

We thank Task Force member Ed Grady and Chairman Maryanne Roesch for providing information for the tables in this article.


[1] The art teacher visits each class approximately every other week for one hour under the current schedule.

[2] The current model for art instruction is that the classroom teacher stays in the class with the art teacher. (However, in some schools, the art specialist time is used as planning time for the classroom teacher.)

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Fairfax Principals supported a uniform elementary school day

Let’s not forget that positive steps were taken towards fixing the elementary school schedule in Fairfax County in recent years.  On June 2, 1994,  Gregory J. Lock, Jr., the president of the Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals, sent a letter to Gary Jones, the chair of the school board, on this topic. Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Dr. Jones,

The Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals heartily endorses Mrs. Laura McDowall’s “Resolution Establishing A Task Force To Study The School Day & Year,” which she plans to offer at the June 9, 1994 School Board Meeting.

As you know, The Elementary School Study – 1993 Update describes in detail our suggestions for restructuring the elementary programs fo the Fairfax County Public Schools and includes our recommendation for a uniform elementary day. Simply by eliminating the Monday early closing for elementary students, we can add nearly two weeks of instruction annually, without adjusting the school calendar.

To be done correctly, there will be substantial costs to ensure that teachers will continue to receive adequate planning time and that schools will have the time and resources to provide local staff development. We see Mrs. McDowall’s resolution as being key to implementing a systemwide emphasis on elementary initiatives and providing the foundation necessary to support middle and high school programs. We hope that a vision can be created that will receive the full financial support of the community, and we look forward to helping it become a reality.

Please vote in support of Mrs. McDowall’s resolution for the elementary children of Fairfax County.


Fairfax Superintendent undermines authority of principals

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale recently sent an email to the two teachers’ unions that focused on teacher workloads. As I noted in an earlier post, I believe that he is ignoring the time problems of students. I am troubled by this paragraph in his email:

I will speak to all the principals about ensuring we do not create inappropriate work load/time demands on our teachers this next school year. I will also ask you to help identify some kind of a process to deal with issues that arise from both teachers and principals perspective. To start that discussion, I will also talk with the Leadership Team.     –via FCFT.ORG

The principals are the instructional leaders in their schools. They are responsible for advocating for the needs of students.  Since Dr. Dale supervises the principals, it is troubling that he publicly mentions “inappropriate workload/time demands” before consulting with the principals about this issue. If some principals make inappropriate or unprofessional demands on teachers, their tenure should be re-evaluated.  However, it is wrong for the superintendent to make a statement that tends to undermine the authority of the principals as a group.  It could also have a chilling effect on the willingness of principals to speak out on policies that affect all of the schools.


Hatch Act: Small violation brings big penalty – The Washington Post

The Hatch Act, which sets limits on political activities of federal workers, has a single sanction for violation of the act–termination.

Joe Davidson wrote an article  explaining that D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that, far from a deterrent, the one-size-fits-all penalty of termination has the opposite effect. Agencies are reluctant to report violators “and therefore,” Norton reasoned, “the violations perhaps are encouraged to continue.”

via Hatch Act: Small violation brings big penalty – The Washington Post.

I posted an online comment to this article,  saying  that the Hatch Act is one of the justifications sometimes cited for “nonpartisan” school board elections in Fairfax County. Everyone knows that the elections are partisan, but continuing to designate them as “nonpartisan” allows federal employees to accept the endorsements of the two political parties.

Steve Stuban, who hopes to receive the Fairfax County Republican Committee’s endorsement for an at-large seat at the school board, could not speak at a recent committee meeting due to restrictions on political activity by his employer, the Department of Defense.

via School Board Candidates Make Their Cases to Fairfax Republicans – Reston, VA Patch

It is wrong for a prospective school board member to have to worry about losing his job if he violates some rule of the Hatch Act.  If Fairfax County returned to having an appointed school board  it would be easier for federal employees to serve on the school board without complicated posturing as “nonpartisan” beneficiaries of the endorsements of the political parties.


Stuart Gibson quotes former Superintendent Robert Spillane

Fairfax County School Board member Stuart Gibson told readers of the Reston Patch that a former superintendent used to have a sign on his desk that said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  via Whatever Happened to ‘The Main Thing?’ – Reston, VA Patch.

I commented that this superintendent, Robert Spillane, also tried several times to convince the school board to allow elementary school students to have a full day of school on Mondays. That really is the main thing!


Longer workday for Green Bay teachers

Teachers in Green Bay, Wisconsin will have a 40-hour work-week next year.
Mark Leland of Fox 11 WLUK-TV reports that the school district is adding a half hour to the teacher workday, but not increasing the number of minutes the students are in school.

“The whole purpose behind this is to help close the achievement gap to improve student outcomes by having teachers working and learning together collaboratively,” said Assistant Superintendent Margaret Christensen.

Christensen says the elimination of most collective bargaining rules allowed the district to move forward on adding teacher prep time. She says it is something the district and teachers have been working on for years. Last year, time was added by starting school late on a few days. This time student schedules won’t change.

Toni Lardinois, president of the Green Bay Education Association, said that after an initial meeting on teacher scheduling, the teachers were left out of the plan. She said teachers had a problem with the process.

Lardinois says the teacher’s union was assured when collective bargaining on such items disappeared that both sides would still be able to work together.

“It’s like the district just decided you know what we’ve got control and we’ll take full advantage of that,” said Lardinois.

The report states that the school board had scheduled a special closed door meeting for Friday morning (June 24) to “discuss among other things concerns raised regarding changes in working conditions.”

That sort of closed door meeting for a discussion of policy would not be allowed in Virginia, which has strict requirements for open meetings.

 


Glasgow Middle School switches from block scheduling to 8-period day

Glasgow Middle School is switching form block scheduling to an 8-period day next year.  Eleven other middle schools in Fairfax County also operate under a daily schedule. Principal Deirdre M. Lavery said that “assessment data collected over the past three years showed that students scheduled for a core class during 3rd period (45 minutes) outperformed their peers enrolled in the same courses taught during a 90 minute period.”

Next year all classes will meet every day for 42 minutes.  There will also be two 25-30 minute daily blocks that are allotted for “enrichment, intervention and relationship development.”

Source:   http://bit.ly/mRjulO