Archives for September 2011

Fairfax schools get grant to combat obesity

The Fairfax News reports that  the Fairfax County Public School system will receive a $741,840 federal grant for its Living Fit in Fairfax (LFF)  program to combat obesity and promote physical fitness. Congressman Gerry Connolly announced the grant today. The grant is for the fiscal year beginning October 1 and “additional grants are expected for the following two fiscal years.”

The federal grant program is aimed at helping students meet state physical fitness standards by helping school systems initiate, expand, or improve physical education programs, including after-school programs.

Let’s hope that Fairfax concentrates on in-school programs first. Will Fairfax expand the time in the elementary school week to ensure that students are allowed more than 10 minutes per day for recess? Will it also allow more time for physcial education? Perhaps the grant money could be used to hire additional instructional assistants who could serve as recess monitors.  Then Mondays could become full days in the elementary schools. Teachers would have additional planning time during the recess periods. If students had 25 minutes of recess per day, that would amount to 125 minutes per week. This could help compensate for the loss of 120 minutes currently used on Monday afternoons.

Parents should protest any plan to provide temporary after school programs if the in-school programs remain so inadequate.

Don’t hire a superintendent who advocates continuing Monday early dismissals

Walt Carlson wrote a letter published in The Washington Post  calling for Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack D. Dale to make his resignation effective next June rather than June 2013. It seems a bit unfair to criticize Dale as a “lame duck” when he was simply indicating that he would not ask the school board to renew his contract when it expires. Walt is a long-time observer of the school board and he often has practical advice for the school board and the administration. However, I see no reason to rush the selection of a new superintendent at the same time the school board is facing an election in November and a large amount of turnover for the new term in January.

The first task for the school board will be to figure out its own priorities. Will the school board want someone to defend the status quo or seek reform? If reform, which reforms? Why should the school board rush to select a new superintendent before it has set its own goals?

Here is a hint to the new school board—elementary school students need more time in school. This should be a top priority. Don’t wait for advice from a new superintendent on whether or not this reform is needed. This is a clear necessity! If for some reason this reform is delayed, make sure that you don’t hire any candidate who wants to continue Monday early dismissals. Be sure and hire someone who has good ideas about schedules for students and teachers. Check to see what the schedules are in the school district the candidate is from, assuming you are selecting someone with previous experience as a superintendent.

Some school districts in Washington metropolitan area need to improve the school day

I agree with The Post’s support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts Theto lengthen “Chicago’s notriously short school day.”  Washington Post urges a longer school day in Chicagoto lengthen “Chicago’s notoriously short school day” (Sept 24). However, there was not a peep of protest from the editors over the last two years when the Fairfax County school board eliminated full day Mondays for 16 elementary schools. This fall all 138 elementary schools in the county dismiss students two hours early every Monday. Averaged over a five-day week, the amount of time the students have in school is 6 hours and 10 minutes per day. This is equal to the average elementary school day in Prince George’s County. Montgomery County is only slightly better, with a 6 hour and 15 minute school day. In contrast, Loudoun County, Fauquier County, Falls Church City, and Manassas City all allow elementary school students to have an adequate school day of 6 hours and 45 minutes.

The Chicago school day is 5 hours and 45 minutes. If the Post endorses adding 90 minutes per day in Chicago, why not support reasonable increases in the lagging school districts in the Washington metropolitan area? Also, Calvert County deserves congratulations for adding instructional time at most elementary schools this year.

The Washington Post urges a longer school day in Chicago

The wrong lesson on a longer school day in Chicago – The Washington Post–This is a must-read editorial in today’s newspaper.



Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale to retire

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale to retire – The Washington Post.

I posted a comment to this Washington Post article stating that Superintendent Dale will retire in 2013.

Here is one question any candidate to be superintendent should be asked: Would you support continuing the current policy of dismissing elementary school students two hours early every Monday? If not, what alternative schedule would you propose for students and teachers?


Many New York City schools have flexiblity in the length of the school day

Blogger Rachel Cromidas recently wrote, “New Yorkers following Chicago’s snowballing union-district standoff over plans to extend the school day may not realize that similar conversations take place inside city schools every year.”

She noted that teachers in nine schools in Chicago voted to extend the school day and the teachers union has filed a lawsuit over the plan.  She then explained why such a controversy is unlikely in New York City:

Staff at New York City schools routinely take similar votes, but with less fanfare.There has been no system-wide push for a longer school day in years, and educators do not foresee a Chicago-style showdown repeating in New York.

That’s in part because the average New York City school day is already much longer than Chicago’s, and slightly longer than other major cities’, with many students in school for 6.5 hours or more. In addition, the district already struck a flexible deal with the union five years ago to extend the school day by 37.5 minutes four days a week for at least 290,000 city students, mostly those who struggle academically. How that time is spent is, to a large degree, up to each school.

Hat tip: Eric Zorn Change of Subject: How NYC handles extending the school day


Budget cuts keep Poughkeepsie students indoors for recess

Elementary school students in the City of Poughkeepsie, NY,  no longer have outdoor recess after lunch. Because of budget cuts, the number of  teaching assistants was reduced from 53 to 40; therefore there were not enough assistants to monitor the 10-15 minute outdoor recess the students used to have after lunch. Michael Valkys   reported in The Poughkeepsie Journal that Jose Carrion, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that indoor activities such such as board games are being provided after lunch. “He said that teachers also can take students outside at other times during the day for recess.”


Nine Chicago schools agree to a longer student day

Teachers in nine schools in Chicago have agreed to accept bonus pay and allow a longer student day.  Monica Davey gives a good update of this issue in the New York Times.

Allentown offers before-school program

In Pennsylvania, the Allentown school district started a new before-school program, “Start Your Day Right”   for some elementary school students this September. The start times for elementary students are 45 minutes later than last year.  The “Start Your Day Right” before-school program will fill the gap, ease the transition for students, parents, guardians and the district, and allow for related learning activities.There are three twenty-minute rotations every morning, with a time allowance of five minutes for students to transition between rotations and the to their classroom. The program consists of the following:

Acting Superintendent Dr. C. Russell Mayo implements before-school program for some elementary school students

  • Breakfast/conversation with the community—Director Kris James of the ASC Child Nutrition Services Department hopes to increase the number of students eating breakfast at school.
  • Academic support and enrichment—volunteers will support academic progress by doing homework checks and reading;
  • Fitness activities—volunteers will receive physical fitness training

The student rotations total 1 hour, 10 minutes at each school.

Acting Superintendent C. Russell Mayo wrote in The Morning Call  that he hopes that the program, which started this year as a pilot program, will expand to accommodate every student needing early morning support. He is recruiting volunteers, who must pass background clearances and provide negative tuberculosis test results.

Last year all classes in Allentown started at 8 a.m. This year the schedule is staggered. “This year classes start and end as follows: high schools, 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.; middle schools, 7:50 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.; and elementary schools, 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.”

Presidential Proclamation–National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month | The White House

President Obama plays basketball at the White House Easter Egg Roll

President Barack Obama has proclaimed September to be Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  “We now face a national childhood obesity crisis, with nearly one in every three of America’s children being overweight or obese,” Obama said.  “There are concrete steps we can take right away as concerned parents, caregivers, educators, loved ones, and a Nation to ensure that our children are able to live full and active lives.”

Presidential Proclamation–National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month | The White House.