Fairfax County adds 64 positions for full-day Mondays

In addition to questions about recess, I also asked other questions about the change in the elementary school schedules now that Fairfax County has full-day Mondays. Here are the questions, along with the answers from Brandynn Reaves, public information specialist:

Question:  Would it be correct to state that nine additional schools added FLES [Foreign Languages in Elementary Schools] this September, for a total of 55 schools with FLES?

Answer:  There are 55 schools in Fairfax County Public Schools that have the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program.  They are listed on the FCPS website at http://www.fcps.edu/is/worldlanguages/fles.shtml.

Question: How many schools added additional instruction by music, art or P.E. specialists?

Answer: Below is a breakdown of added staff position for music, art and physical education:

Subject

FTE [Full-time equivalent] total 2014_15

FTE total 2013_14

PE

478

424.16

Art

265.13

257.57

Music

271.33

272.57


Questions:
 Do you have figures on how many of the additional FTE positions in P.E. and art are added solely due to increased enrollment and how many are added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule? Do you have statistics on the types of additional staff positions that were added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule?

Answer: A total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays.  The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (pe) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers. 

There were 755.2 art/music/pe teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/pe teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments.

Question: Do you have statistics on how many schools have 60 minutes per week of P.E., How many have 90 minutes? Are there any schools which now offer more than 90 minutes per week?

Answer: Statistics for how many minutes each school has devoted to physical education and music classes is not centrally maintained.  With the implementation of the full-day Mondays, each elementary school had the flexibility to determine how to best utilize the additional instructional time for students. Elementary school master schedules were reviewed by the regional assistant superintendent’s offices only to ensure the appropriate amount of teacher planning time was provided.

This information, which was provided to me in emails sent October 24 and November 4, was also included in the recent article in the Fairfax VOTER.

Fairfax VOTER describes schedule and staffing changes in FCPS

The December Fairfax VOTER features an article about the changing schedules in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This newsletter for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area includes a description of the switch to full-day Mondays for the elementary schools.

On June 26, the Fairfax County School Board voted to stop dismissing elementary school students 2.5 hours early every Monday. This has increased instructional time for students and allowed for 20 minutes of daily recess. In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.

As of November 2014, a total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays. Brandynn Reaves, a public information specialist with the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, provided me and the other authors of this article with the following information:

The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (PE) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers.

There were 755.2 art/music/PE teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/PE teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments

The Voter article also describes the calendar changes this year and the school board’s decision to provide later start times for high schools and secondary schools next fall.

FCPS describes the full-day Monday plan

Here is the press release from Fairfax County Public Schools about the vote last night:

Fairfax County School Board Approves Full-Day Mondays for Elementary Schools Starting in September 2014

The Fairfax County School Board approved a master calendar change that will provide a uniform length elementary school day and eliminate the shortened Monday schedule beginning in September 2014.  This change will increase instructional time for students and will allow for 20 minutes of daily recess.  In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.
 
“After surveying both parents and teachers, we saw that parents overwhelmingly supported this change—and as soon as possible,” said Ilryong Moon, School Board Chairman. “In addition, elementary teachers have consistently cited in our working conditions survey that they need guaranteed, self-directed time for planning.”
 
The change also solves the challenge of meeting the annual 990 instructional hour requirement in state law, which Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) does not meet under the current shortened Monday schedule. Instead, FCPS has met the state requirement of a 180-day calendar, which resulted in sometimes having to add days to the end of the school year to make up missed days due to inclement weather. The new uniform elementary schedule will eliminate making up inclement weather days at the end of the school year if fewer than 13 days are missed.
 
A uniform length elementary day also provides an opportunity for an innovative school year calendar that builds in consistent holidays, such as a full two weeks for winter break, and strategic planning days throughout the year.  In addition, one master calendar will be followed for all elementary, middle, and high schools.
 
The change will add staff to elementary schools such as World Language teachers and other instructional specialists to provide planning time for teachers. There will be no changes in music, art, or physical education, nor changes to Regulation 4422, which limits the number of hours that librarians, and other school-based professionals, can be dedicated to providing for planning time coverage.
 
Superintendent Karen Garza and her staff will convene focus groups of elementary principals, teachers, school staff, and other key stakeholders in July to work out the details of the implementation. Then, each school will communicate their individual schedule changes to parents before school begins on September 2.
 

Details on the new 2014-15 calendar can be found here:  http://www.fcps.edu/about/14-15cal.shtml

Key points for full-day Mondays listed

The agenda for the decision on the Elementary Master Schedule has been posted for the Fairfax County School Board meeting this Thursday. Here is the proposal:

Key Points:

  • A uniform elementary day would increase instructional time for all elementary students and would allow for 20 minutes of daily recess for children.
  • FCPS currently does not meet the 990 hour requirement in state law due to our current early Monday, thus we had to make-up three instructional days beyond the advertised last day of school so that we met the 180 day requirement. Having a uniform elementary school day – Monday through Friday – will prevent us from having to make-up days if we have less than 13 inclement weather days.
  • A uniform elementary day also provides us with the opportunity to utilize an innovative school year calendar that builds in consistent holidays, such as a full two weeks at the Winter Break, and it provides for strategic planning days throughout the year.
  • Our bi-annual working conditions survey has consistently revealed that our elementary teachers need more guaranteed, self-directed time for planning. This new uniform elementary day would only be implemented with new regulations/rules that provided all elementary teachers with at least 60 minutes of self-directed time four times per week and at least 60 minutes one time per week for collaborative team planning equating to a total minimum planning time per week of 300 minutes.
  • A uniform elementary day is responsive to our parents. Our FCPS parents have consistently asked for the elimination of the early Mondays due to the inconvenience this causes for many of our working families.
  • This proposed change in our current elementary schedules on Mondays and to provide elementary teachers with dedicated planning time is estimated to cost a maximum of $7.6 million. This is difficult in these tight economic times, but we believe that this is an important investment in our students and our teachers. As such, a growing number of County Supervisors have expressed that they will provide us financial support for this important change. They have some monies available that were not budgeted due to unanticipated revenues from law enforcement activities.
  • In addition, there are no changes anticipated in Music, Art of Physical Education, nor would there be changes to Regulation 4422, which limits the number of hours that librarians, and other school-based professionals, can be dedicated to providing for planning time coverage.
  • The All County Choral Festival will continue next year and is tentatively scheduled for April 24-25, 2015. The general music teacher association and the fine arts office are discussing options should early-close Mondays be eliminated. Typically, one site rehearsal is scheduled in each of the three months prior to the concert. One option being considered is to schedule the site rehearsals on the afternoons of the February and April strategic planning days, plus one afterschool site rehearsal in March. Once the 2014-2015 school calendar is finalized, adjustments to the rehearsal schedule will be made in order to coordinate with the approved calendar.
  • There are currently nine schools on the waiting list for FLES. We will work with the schools to see if a fall implementation would be possible.

Implementation Plan:

  • In July, we will convene focus groups of teachers, including special education teachers, music and fine arts teachers, counselors, librarians and parents along with elementary principals to provide us input into the design of regulations and rules related to the changes in elementary schedules.
  • Create a cadre of elementary principal master schedule leaders by region to work with all other elementary principals over the summer on the design of master schedules for all elementary schools.
  • Once elementary principals have completed the design of their new schedule, we will ask that they convene a meeting of their parents prior to the start of school to inform parents of this new change in schedule and how it will benefit their children.

Recommendation:
That the School Board approve the Master Calendar Revision for the 2014-2015 school year, as detailed in the agenda item.

Attachments:

Proposed Master Calendar SY2014-2015.pdf (73 KB)

Recommendations to FCPS Master Schedule and Annual School Calendar.pdf (964 KB)

Master Schedule Work Session 061614 – Final SB Presentation.pdf (547 KB)

Congratulations to the staff members preparing the proposal for coming up with a good option for scheduling rehearsals for the All County Choral Festival.

Three cheers for Superintendent Karen Garza and everyone who worked so hard to bring this much-needed proposal to the school board!

Note (added June 25): The following paragraphs are now moot because the minor mistake in the first bullet point was corrected today on the BoardDocs website. I have also corrected that in the text above. Even though this is no longer in the agenda item, I am leaving the paragraphs below in this post since they explain the state regulation regarding recess.

One minor point I would like to mention. I think there is a mistake in the first bullet point, which states, “A uniform elementary day would increase instructional time for all elementary students and would allow for the state required 20 minutes of daily recess for children.”

The state regulation does require each elementary school to provide students with a daily recess; however it does not specify a minimum amount of time for recess. The Virginia Administrative Codes states, “Each elementary school shall provide students with a daily recess during the regular school year as determined appropriate by the school.” (8VAC20-131-200(C))

Greenburg gives update on the full-day Monday proposal

Yesterday Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT), sent his members a report on the latest changes that have been made to the proposal for full-day Mondays. He explained that there have been adjustments to the number of minutes for both unencumbered and collaborative planning time. Also, staff meetings should be limited to an hour in length and not be held more than twice a month. In an earlier message he explained the history of the current proposal.

Here is the text of his most recent email: [Read more...]

Elementary teachers and parents to receive survey on full-day Mondays

My FCPS – Employees has posted the following information:

A survey to gauge the support for a proposal to change shortened Mondays to a full school day at all elementary schools will be sent to all elementary teachers and parents this week.

To better maximize instructional time and provide dedicated planning time for elementary teachers, the School Board is considering changing the current shortened Monday schedule to a full-day Monday at all elementary schools. Superintendent Karen K. Garza recognizes that considering making this change for this coming school year is ambitious, but is compelled to consider this possibility due to the benefits to teachers, students, and families.

As part of this proposed change, the school division will develop regulations outlining minimum time guidelines for teacher-directed planning (a minimum of 240 minutes per week) and collaborative team planning (a minimum of 60 minutes per week) within the instructional day. A lack of adequate planning time for elementary teachers has been a continuing prevalent theme in the FCPS working conditions survey results. Additionally, no changes will be made in music, art, or physical education regulations. The length of the teacher workday will remain the same.

The proposed change also adds enough instructional hours so the need to add makeup days to the end of the school year is eliminated, and provides more flexibility to address make up days within the calendar.

For more information, go to the FCPS Full-Day Mondays website at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fulldaymonday.shtml.

Starr drops support of later high school start times

The Washington Post reports that Superintendent Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has changed his mind about supporting later high school start times. One reason was cost, which would have been about $20 million.

One paragraph in the public announcement from Montgomery County Public Schools gives a rather high cost estimate for increasing the length of the elementary school day from 6 hours and 15 minutes to 6 hours and 45 minutes:

The cost of adding 30 minutes to the elementary school day would vary depending on how the time was used. For instance, extending recess or lunch would cost about $8 million a year, while increasing art, music, and/or physical education classes would cost about $47 million per year.

I wonder whether further analysis would discover that these costs, which seem very high, could actually be kept lower. [Read more...]

Questions about the full-day Monday proposal

This morning Louise Epstein, the chair of the Fairfax Education Coalition, sent me quite a few interesting questions about the proposed full-day Monday schedule. As of this date, the Recommendations to FCPS Master Schedule document posted for the next work session on June 16 is the same PowerPoint presented May 28. At that meeting, Sandy Evans (Mason District) and other school board members asked for more details.

I urge the Fairfax administrators to provide a more detailed narrative explanation of the proposals for providing full-day Mondays and more teacher planning time. This explanation should include answers to the questions listed below.

Here are the questions Louise Epstein asks regarding the proposed full-day Monday schedule that was posted:

 1.  Is FCPS planning to change its current regulation that requires elementary school principals to provide 45 minutes of band/strings every week?  If so, what will the new FCPS regulation require elementary school principals to provide for band/strings every week?  Can the current regulation be posted as an attachment to the board agenda?

2.  Does the sample schedule posted assume that students spend less than 45 minutes/week in band or strings?  Does that include the time that students spend walking from their classroom to and from the band/strings room?

3.  Can staff provide sample “specials” schedules (including fine art, general music, chorus, strings, band, PE and foreign language) for students in schools with and without foreign language instruction, for students who fit the following profiles?

a. Participate in strings/band and chorus.

b.  Participate in chorus and general music.

c.  Participate in general music only.

d.  Participate in strings/band and general music.

3.  Can staff provide sample schedules that would explicitly give elementary school students the option to take 60 (or 45) consecutive minutes of band/strings every week?  Could these sample schedules be posted online for discussion at the June 16 work session?

4.  What are the citations to the state laws, regulations and policies that would impose minimum requirements for language arts and does the state require two hours/day of language arts instruction?  If not, why does the sample schedule provide about two hours/day of language arts instruction?

5.  What are the federal or state laws, regulations or policies – if any – that require the inclusion of about 30 minutes/day for “intervention & enrichment” during elementary school?  What do elementary school students who are at or above grade level do during these “intervention & enrichment” periods?

6.  How does elementary school foreign language instruction potentially affect the number of minutes scheduled for band or strings in the sample schedules?

Coalition supports full-day Monday proposal

The Coalition of the Silence (COTS) sent out an online newsletter Friday endorsing Superintendent Karen Garza’s proposal for full day Mondays for elementary schools. The newsletter also explained why COTS stands firmly behind efforts to shift high school starts to a later, healthier time.

Here is the newsletter article regarding full day Mondays:

Restoring Full Day Mondays Will Benefit COTS Kids

“More Time in School” has been COTS’ mantra this entire school year. We are delighted to report that Dr. Garza has made a formal recommendation to restore full day Mondays for ALL elementary school students in FCPS. In so doing, she has also committed to providing elementary school teachers with unencumbered planning time throughout the school week. That’s important too since successful teachers need time outside the classroom to plan lessons, grade assignments, contact parents, etc. You can read the presentation on “full day Mondays” at the link below.

http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/9KJMS55C3B56/$file/Recommendations%20to%20FCPS%20Master%20Schedule%20and%20Annual%20School%20Calendar%20-%205-28-2014%20-%20Final%20SB%20Presentation.pdf

As with all change, this one comes with consequences. In this case, real and legitimate concerns have been raised about the impact on art and music programs.   While the programs are not being eliminated, it appears that the amount of time devoted to art and music may be reduced.   COTS understands the profound importance of art and music education. We believe art and music education is much more than “just” a creative outlet — although creativity in and of itself is certainly of great value. But creativity also makes kids great problem solvers. There is substantial evidence that strengthening the creative “right” side of the brain enhances students’ academic achievement in “left” brain work – like mathematical reasoning. Great “artists” throughout history were also inventors and engineers … our favorite is Leonardo DaVinci. Some of his greatest inventions were the result of his creativity.

If restoring full day Mondays meant cutting arts and music completely, COTS would be alarmed. However, we believe that an appropriate balance can be struck to preserve arts and music education while also restoring full day Mondays. But of primary importance for COTS is “time in school.” Loss of learning time on Mondays for our kids can never be replaced.

Because of the urgency that COTS’ places on “more time in school,” we cannot support calls for delay. COTS has been advocating for this change for over a year. While in an ideal world, we would support bona fide community engagement over the summer, we also know that doing so will push off restoring full day Mondays for another year. Our kids cannot wait that long! Sadly, we also know that “community engagement” as currently undertaken by FCPS rarely, if ever, represents the full diversity of FCPS. COTS families in our more socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, whose children will benefit the most from full day Mondays, rarely come to school board meetings or forums. They rarely complain. Many are happy with anything they can get for their kids and don’t know how much more there is.

This silence, especially when juxtaposed against highly organized and empowered voices, will leave the erroneous impression that “more time in school” does not matter to our community. It does!  In 2009, the last FCPS schools with full day Mondays lost that time in school.  These schools were disproportionately minority and poor.  Every school that lost full day Mondays saw a decline in SOL scores and student achievement the following year.   Make no mistake: cutting full day Mondays hurt COTS kids then.  And it continues to hurt them today. Our kids need full day Mondays back. And they need it back next year!   School Board members, we are calling on you to please, “listen to the Silence.” Support the Superintendent’s recommendation. More time in school is the right thing for all kids, especially COTS kids. And no amount of community engagement is going to change that.

About COTS

The Coalition of the Silence is a community-based organization that seeks to end the achievement and discipline gaps that persist between racial and ethnic subgroups in affluent public school districts – like Fairfax County Public Schools. Tina Hone, who is the founder of COTS, served on the Fairfax County School Board from 2007-2011.

 

Fairfax schools may scrap half day Mondays

Fairfax schools may scrap half day Mondays, according to this TV news report by Peggy Fox on WUSA9. “The new plan would guarantee teachers get more planning time and it would give all students full school days.”

Fox said that the plan would give elementary school teachers time to plan when kids are in special programs such as music or art. “School Board member Elizabeth Schultz has been pushing to get rid of early release for years and says that the new administration is not only open to the new idea, but is working out the details,” Fox reported.

The plan has to go before the school board before it is approved.  The school board will hold a work session to study this proposal on May 28.  

Correction: The original post included a phrase that is not factually correct. The original sentence said “Fox said that the plan would add 10 minutes to every school day and give elementary school teachers time to plan when kids are in special programs such as music or art.” The phrase “add 10 minutes to every school day and” has been deleted.