Some high schools have homework-free weekends

Several high schools in Maryland have scheduled homework-free weekends  this fall. The Washington Post reports that no homework was assigned this weekend at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County. Last weekend Watkins Mill High School, also in Montgomery County, had a homework free weekend.

“Wootton High School in Rockville, which gave its students a homework-free weekend in September, offered sessions to help seniors with their college essays and provide information about the federal financial aid application,” Donna St. George reports. “The concept goes back to 2008.”

Nationally, dozens of schools have created occasional homework-free weekends as students take more advanced and honors classes and have become increasingly over-scheduled with other activities, said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education who has worked with schools across the country on such efforts as part of a nonprofit called Challenge Success.

In response to the Post article, one comment from “webg” was, “This year MCPS reduced the school year from 40 weeks to 39 weeks but didn’t reduce the amount of work. The number of hours in school might be the same, but the amount of time left for doing homework and other tasks is reduced by a week.”

“ThinkTwiceWriteOnce” commented, “Homework is highly overrated, just ask Finland and note their academic outcomes. There IS a better way.”

Maryland school calendars updated

The Washington Post reports on the school calendar changes in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County:

Montgomery County school officials reset the final day of classes for next school year and shortened two teacher workdays as part of a new plan to meet Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that Maryland schools extend their summer recess through Labor Day.

The county’s school board voted unanimously this week to revise the system’s 2017-2018 academic calendar so that classes, which will start Sept. 5, will end June 12 unless severe weather forces school closings during the year.

“Chris Lloyd, president of the county teachers’ union, estimated that educators will lose about eight hours of grading and planning time during the instructional year,” the Post reported.

Prince George’s County officials announced their plans for next year on Tuesday: School will start Sept. 6 and end June 13. But makeup days for snow and other inclement weather could potentially extend the school year to June 14 or 15, shift the Presidents’ Day holiday on Feb. 19 to a school day or, as a last resort, shorten spring break by as much as two days.

Garrett County schools to start before Labor Day

“The Maryland State Board of Educated recently approved a waiver request that will allow schools in Garret County to start before Labor Day for the 2017-18 year,”  WCBC reports. “The county was eligible to request a waiver because it had closed 10 days per year during two of the last five years due to severe weather conditions.”

Howard County considers post-Labor Day start for schools

The Howard County Times reports, “A post-Labor Day start for Howard County Public Schools was met with little criticism from the community Thursday evening during the Board of Education’s public hearing.”

About a dozen people testified before the board regarding the Academic Calendar Planning Committee’s two proposals for the Howard County 2017-2018 school year. One calendar recognized Gov. Larry Hogan‘s executive order in September that mandates Maryland public schools start after Labor Day and end by June 15. The post-Labor Day calendar would have school staff return on Thursday, Aug. 24 and students starting on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Washington County Board of Education rejects August 1 as start date for school

In Tennessee, the Washington County Board of Education rejected a proposal to start school on August 1 next year. Johnson City Press reports that “member David Hammond told the board he gets phone calls from parents complaining that the school year starts too early and asked the board if it would be possible to push to starting date forward a week to August 7. “

A new proposal will be presented next month.

A Tennessee code, 49-1-606, calls for students in grades 3 through 8 to have at least 150 days of instruction before TCAP testing, and high school students on the block schedule require 90 days of instruction for each semester. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for a new calendar.

Fairfax County students to start school before Labor Day next year

The Fairfax County School Board recently approved the Calendar for School Year 2017-2018, which sets the first day of school as Monday, August 28, 2017, and the last day as Friday, June 15, 2018. In February, the Virginia Department of Education informed the school board that Fairfax County Public Schools qualified for a waiver to begin the school year prior to Labor Day.

This waiver is granted if a division misses an average of eight days per year during any five of the last 10 years due to weather conditions or other emergency situations. During the last 10 years, FCPS had five years in which the average number of snow days equaled more than eight days.

At the December 1 school board meeting, Megan McLaughlin (D-Braddock) supported the pre-Labor Day start, which gives more time to prepare for national tests, but she noted that the community was almost evenly split on the issue. A survey was sent out March 30 and 36,000 responses were received from parents. “Some of us were raised on the beauty of summer, which began in June and you didn’t go back until after Labor Day.”

Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) will make a request at an upcoming school board forum to create a calendar subcommittee of the Human Resources Advisory Committee. “If approved, this group would work with staff in the development of future calendars and incorporate community feedback,” she wrote in Providence District School Board Newsletter, December, 2016. “In addition, it will engage members of the inter-faith community to ensure we are being as thoughtful as possible about student religious observances.”

Karen Corbett Sanders (D-Mount Vernon) said she supported the proposal to have a community group help develop the calendar. “We have a commitment to allow community members to provide feedback.” Jeanette Hough (R-Member-at-Large) said she absolutely agreed with the need for more public community input. Elizabeth Shultz (R-Springfield) noted that by the time there was opportunity for the public to have input on the calendar, it was draft 7 or 8, “It was a binary choice.”

Ilryong Moon (D-Member at Large) noted that the calendar provides two full weeks of winter break plus January 1, and one full week of spring break plus the Monday after spring break. This is a better way of describing the actual amount of time off for students than the FCPS press release, which refers to a two-week winter break and a one-week spring break.

The last day of school will include a two-hour day for high schools and secondary schools, and a two-hour early dismissal for all other grades. However, Schultz said she thought that June 15 was rather late for the end of the school year and she heard from a lot of families who questioned why it wasn’t earlier. She advocated greater engagement with the public over tightening the school year. “All of the three-and-a half and four day weeks wreak havoc on students and families as well.”

Schultz suggested that more professional development days for staff could be added before or after the school year starts or ends for students. Although Schultz strongly supported the pre-Labor Day start, she voted against the 2017-2018 calendar, “trying to foreshadow some of the work that needs to come.”

All the other school. board members voted in favor of the 2017-2018 calendar. Jane K. Strauss (D-Dranesville) said that the teacher workdays are very important to staff.

Chair Sandy Evans (D-Mason District) noted that a few years ago three schools (Stuart High School, Falls Church High School, and Glasgow Middle School) had the experience of starting school two weeks earlier and ending two weeks earlier than the other schools in the school system. They had quickly adjusted to the earlier schedule.

November 11, Veterans Day, will be on a Saturday next year. Schultz and McLaughlin both promised to bring back their advocacy for a student holiday on Veterans Day for the following school year.

Graduations will be held on or after June 7, 2018. Ryan McElveen (D-Member-at Large) noted that this was the first time he had notice that a “G” had been put on the school calendar for graduation. Chief of Staff Marty Smith explained that graduation is scheduled seven days prior to the last day of school.

Carroll County considers two calendars for next year

The Carroll County Times advises the local Board of Education to go ahead and choose the proposed calendar for the 2017-18 school year that would start after Labor Day. Although there might be a legal challenge to Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order to start schools after Labor Day that year, “there is no requirement that schools must start before Labor Day if Hogan’s order is overturned in court or in the State House.”

Last week, Carroll County Public School’s introduced two possible calendars for 2017-18 school year — one that fits the requirements of the governor’s executive order to start class after Labor Day on Sept. 5 and wrap up by June 15; another in which school begins Aug. 29, finishes a day earlier and includes longer spring and winter breaks. The Board of Education is expected to approve both calendars at its November meeting after soliciting feedback from the public, and then decide which to use after the dust settles on the legality of Hogan’s order.

The Times says, “we think they should just adopt the post-Labor Day calendar later this fall and see how it works out, regardless of what might happen with the executive order. “

Legality of Hogan’s order on starting school after Labor Day is questioned

Hogan may have exceeded authority with order on school start. According to a lawyer in the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), “I can not say unequivocally that the Labor Day executive order exceeds the Governor’s authority, but I believe it likely that a reviewing court, if presented with the issue, would conclude that it does.”

According to the Washington Post, “The review from Frosh’s office comes more than two weeks after Hogan ordered the state’s 24 school systems to start after Labor Day and to end by June 15 starting next year. Systems may petition the state Board of Education to be exempt from the order.”

Critics cite negative effects of a post-Labor Day start for schools

In response to Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order that schools must start after Labor Day, the Baltimore Sun reports that Democrats are saying that that local decisions are best left to local officials while Republicans are supporting the decision.

During the first Board of Public Works meeting since he announced the order last week, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp turned to Hogan on Wednesday morning and flatly called the move an “abuse of executive power.”

“It was a misuse of authority,” said Kopp, a Democrat who serves on the three-member panel with the Republican governor. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

She said she was awaiting Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s formal opinion on the matter.

Could a late school start mean an end to spring break? The Washington Post notes that some school districts might end school breaks or cut teacher work days or certain holidays. The Post reports local needs weigh heavily on how school years are designed.

Snow, for example, is a big factor in the school calendar for Garrett County, home to Deep Creek Lake and Wisp ski resort. The school district has a calendar that is already “down to the bone,” said Jim Morris, a school system spokesman. A few years ago, 20 days were lost to snow, he said.

Morris said the greatest concern is if the new state mandate means that, when snow days pile up, school years get cut short of their required 180 days. “That would give our kids an instructional disadvantage,” he said.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Jennifer L. Steele  says the big question is how the order will affect student learning:

Decades of research have shown that students forget some of their learning during the summer, especially in math — a phenomenon known as summer slide. Worse, the size of the slide depends on students’ socioeconomic backgrounds, with those from low-income backgrounds losing more ground, especially in reading. Why? One factor may be that wealthier students have greater access to enriching summer activities — camps, travel and internships. They may also spend more time on literacy-related tasks.

Steele noted that the executive order could end up slashing teacher planning days and midyear breaks. “Though the research on compressing vs. expanding the instructional calendar is mixed, there is at least some evidence that distributing breaks at regular intervals across the year may benefit the lowest-income students.”

 

 

 

 

 

News of the new school year in the Washington area

The Washington Post summarizes the changes in local school districts this year. A new school year begins with changes, innovations, new facilities.

Two schedule changes were mentioned:

District of Columbia—Ten schools started a year-round schedule aimed at boosting academics at low-performing schools.

Montgomery County—School is closed for students on September 12. This was designed to be close to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

According to When-Is.com, Eid al-Adha is on Sunday, September 11. “Based on sightability in North America, in 2016 Eid al-Adha will start in North America a day later—on Monday, the 12th of September.”

According to timeanddate.com, Eid al-Adha in the United States this year is on September 13.