Montgomery County to decide on school start times

Recommendations posted by Montgomery County:

The Montgomery County Board of Education is considering several options for adjusting school starting and ending times—also known as bell times—allowing high school students to begin classes later in the day. Any changes to bell times will be approved on February 10, 2015, as part of the Board’s Fiscal Year 2016 Operating Budget Request to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council. The annual costs of the proposals before the Board range from zero to nearly $6 million. Concerned about projected budget shortfalls in the county and the state, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has recommended the Board only consider no-cost options.

Later high school start times in Montgomery County?

NBC4 Washington shows parents asking for later high school start times in Montgomery County.


Cold weather has presented challenges to bus drivers

The Fairfax Times reports on the difficulties faced by school bus drivers in Fairfax on cold days.

The school system has heat rails at some of its bus lots. Buses can plug into these and heat their engines over night, keeping the oil and fuel warm and making the buses easier to start in the mornings. But the school system only has enough heat rails to serve about 500 buses each night, less than a third of the fleet.

Also, “when winter weather threatens, the school system also calls in its bus drivers 30 minutes early. Drivers arrive at their buses between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. to get their vehicles started.”


Will Maryland schools start after Labor Day?

Today Comptroller Peter Franchot will announce the results of a petition to start Maryland public schools after Labor Day. NBC4 reports that Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, state Senator James Mathias, and Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan will also participate in the news conference.


Florida parents request a mandate for recess

In Orlando, Florida, over 50 parents and children asked the Orange County School Board to require recess in the elementary schools. The Orlando Sentinel reports that only a handful of the 123 elementary schools in the district mandate that children must have at least 20 minutes for recess. Twenty-three have no requirement for recess.

After hearing from the parents, the Orange board later decided to ask area superintendents to get all elementary principals to work recess and physical activity into their schedules starting next fall. They also discussed passing a resolution encouraging principals to work recess into school schedules — but not mandating it.

NBC News had a report today about the school board meeting that was held on Tuesday: Watch The Today Show Clip: Florida Parents Fight to Keep School Recess – ShareTV.

Slippery roads this morning

A station wagon took about five or ten minutes to spin its wheels in the snow on the street in front of my house this morning attempting to drive north. The driver inched ahead slowly, then went backwards, then finally made it to the flat part of the road. I think it would have been safer for Fairfax County Public Schools to have a delayed  opening this morning.

Success for All improves reading skills

Social Programs That Work, a New York Times op-ed by Ron Haskins, reports that evaluations “typically find that around 75 percent  of programs or practices that are intended to help people do better at school or at work have little or no effect.”  He applauds the Obama administration’s efforts to use evidence to improve social programs.

Haskins cites Success for All as an example of a program that works.

Success for All, a comprehensive schoolwide reform program, primarily for high-poverty elementary schools, emphasized early detection and prevention of reading problems before they become serious. Students of various ages who are at the same performance level are grouped together and receive daily, 90-minute reading classes, as well as one-on-one tutoring and cooperative learning activities. We know it works because a study that randomly assigned 41 schools across 11 states to an experimental or control group found improved reading skills, including comprehension in students in the experimental group.

School calendar news

Donna St. George reports that school districts in Washington region go different routes in labeling days off. This article includes links to the school calendars in the Washington area. “As Montgomery County’s school board came under fire for its recent decision to strike labels for Christmas and other religious holidays from its published school calendar, many have asked questions about how other local school systems handle days off,” she said. “Many Northern Virginia school systems don’t mention religious holidays on their calendars, while across the river in Maryland, many school systems do.”

She also reports that Howard County schools consider Lunar New Year and Muslim holiday requests.



Teachers in survey point to need for more planning time

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers has posted the results of its member perspectives survey. Here is one of the questions:

What are the greatest future challenges we must address in order to further implement full day Mondays even more effectively? (Choose all that apply.)

A majority of the respondents (52 percent) said teachers still need more individual planning time.

See also Teachers report heavy workload.

Teachers report heavy workload

The Fairfax Times reports that a survey shows workload remains stressor for Fairfax County teachers.

“The shift to full-day Mondays for elementary schools received support from 56 percent of respondents, despite drawing initial criticism from teachers who felt left out of the decision-making,” Kate Yanchulis reports. “But with the new schedule, teachers lost 2.5 hours of planning time on Monday afternoons.”

The survey was conducted from October 31 through November 21 by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers– “91 percent of respondents said they have as much or more work as last year,” the Times reports.