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.

Maryland schools start planning for post-Labor Day start next year

Maryland schools will not be allowed to start before Labor Day next year. Here is a roundup of news and analysis on this issue:

Anne Arundel schools consider shortening spring break. Anne Arundel County school officials say they might reduce spring break and cut the day before Thanksgiving and several parent-teacher conference days to comply with Governor Larry Hogan’s order to start schools after Labor Day.

A Capital Gazette editorial notes that the mandate to start after Labor Day and end by June 15 or earlier means that school administrators will need to provide 10 more instructional days in the 2017-18 school year. Our say: Hogan must handle Ocean City Order’s fallout.

Other consequences go beyond the schedule squeeze. Schools will now have less time to help students recover from the annual “summer slide” and prepare for standardized exams that cannot be rescheduled. This may impair efforts to close the achievement gap. And many children will lose a couple of weeks of free- and reduced-price meals.

The Washington Post reports, Md. governor’s order for post-Labor Day school start leaves Democrats squirming.Extending summer vacation may boost the first-term Republican’s already high popularity, analysts say, given that polls show large majorities of Marylanders favor the move. The governor’s action also gives him a new opportunity to publicly battle with Democratic legislative leaders, who have killed past attempts to mandate a post-Labor Day return to school because of concerns from school officials and teachers unions about test prep, snow days and limiting summer learning loss.”

The heraldmailmedia.com reported that parents expressed opinions on both sides of the issue. Elizabeth Drachman of Fairfax County noted that Fairfax decided to start before Labor Day next year partly to be more consistent with Maryland.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Hogan’s order does not apply to private and religious schools.

Maryland law does dictate that non-public schools, which include religious and independent schools, must have at least 170 days of school. Those schools are also required to have a school calendar and to build in three to five additional days that schools can close for bad weather.

LoudounNow calls for earlier start to school year

A LoudounNow editorial says that local school systems should choose their own school year schedule.

Loudoun County schools opened Monday and the Virginia economy seemed to weather the storm just fine. It isn’t a pre-Labor Day class calendar that can be blamed for the state government’s under-performing revenue projections.

Students in three of Loudoun’s neighboring jurisdictions got a bigger head start. Students in Fauquier County and Jefferson County, WV, are in their third week of classes. Clarke County students got back to work a week ago. Prince William schools, like Loudoun’s, opened Monday. Only Fairfax County students are still enjoying their sleep-late summer schedule after their school board opted to maintain the traditional post-Labor Day start; however, they’re already on notice that next year’s classes will start earlier.

Each of those Virginia school districts is allowed to open before Labor Day this year only because they qualified for a weather-related exemption to the General Assembly’s Kings Dominion Law. Unless school districts rack up at least eight snow days during five of the past 10 years, they are prohibited from opening before the late summer holiday.

The editorial concluded: “Changing weather patterns may make the state’s restriction moot—at least for snow-prone Northern Virginia jurisdictions. However, there is no reason for either the whims of Mother Nature or the dictates of the General Assembly to control educational opportunities localities choose to offer to their students.”

Hogan’s directive on starting after Labor means there will be fewer vacation days

The Capital Gazette reports that Anne Arundel County school officials said they would have to cut vacation days to comply with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s order to start schools after Labor Day and end June 15 at the latest.

 Bob Mosier, spokesman for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said the system will have to convert 10 vacation days into school days to comply with Hogan’s order.

“It puts a python-like squeeze on our school calendar,” he said.

Maryland schools will not be allowed to start before Labor Day next year

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan orders Maryland schools to start after Labor Day beginning next year. The Washington Post reports that Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) criticized Hogan for not collaborating with the General Assembly, calling the governor’s action “extraordinary and legally questionable,” and saying he should have proposed the change as legislation.

Here is the press release from Hogan:

Governor Larry Hogan today signed an Executive Order that will require Maryland’s public schools to start classes after Labor Day, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. Citing the benefits of a post-Labor Day school start for families, students, teachers, and the economy, the governor made the announcement on the Ocean City Boardwalk, where he was joined by Comptroller Peter Franchot, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Senator James Mathias, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, education advocates, and other longtime supporters of a post-Labor Day school start.

“Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue – it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” said Governor Hogan. “Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”

The Executive Order signed today will require that Maryland’s public schools begin after Labor Day, complete the 180 days that are required under state law, and adjourn by June 15, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The executive order does permit for a waiver to be applied for with the Maryland State Department of Education to be exempt from the post-Labor Day start date. For the 2017-2018 school year and beyond, local school systems will have to apply annually for a waiver based on compelling justification. Furthermore, the State Department of Education will establish procedures and standards for school districts and individual schools seeking special waivers to accommodate non-traditional schedules. [Read more…]

Will Maryland schools start after Labor Day next year?

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot, two of the state’s strongest advocates for starting the school year after Labor Day, say they will make a major announcement on the subject Wednesday.” the Washington Post reports.

In Virginia, schools start after Labor Day unless they get a waiver due to “good cause.” For instance, the waiver is allowed if a school division has been closed an average of eight days per year during any five of the least 10 years because of severe weather conditions, energy, shortages, power failures, or other emergency situations. Quite a few Virginia school districts start before Labor Day this year. Fairfax County will start school one week prior to Labor Day in 2017.

Some D.C. schools start today

For thousands of D.C. students, school starts early with new, year-round schedule. The Washington Post reports that 10 D.C. public schools will start a new, year-round academic calendar today. Their academic year will have 20 more days than other schools in the system, with shorter and more frequent breaks during a school year that runs 200 days through all 12 months. One additional elementary school began the extended schedule during the 2015-2016 school year.”

Fairfax asks parents and staff whether school should begin before Labor Day

The Fairfax County School Board is seeking input on starting school in 2017-18 prior to Labor Day. A survey has been sent to parents and staff to determine support. I am pleased to see that the explanation posted on the school system’s website is expressed in neutral terms, taking the time to mention community concerns about the proposal in addition to listing some benefits:

The calendar change is under consideration as Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is now eligible to waive the state’s post-Labor Day requirement for starting school.  FCPS qualifies for the waiver because, during five of the past 10 years, the district has averaged 8.4 days missed due to weather conditions and other events.  If school begins in August,  the school year would end earlier in June, and after the first year of implementation, summer break will be equally as long as summer break in the current calendar. The School Board has directed that only a change of one to two weeks prior to Labor Day will be considered.

FCPS qualifies for the waiver through school year 2019-20. In future years, dependent upon missed days, the waiver may be extended.

There is some community concern regarding the temporary nature of the waiver and the fact that, during its first year of implementation, the summer break will have fewer days. Also, some individuals have raised concerns about disrupting traditional summer vacation plans.

Starting the school year before Labor Day has some benefits that include: additional instructional time before winter break, and more school days to prepare for end-of-year exams including Standards of Learning (SOL) and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.  Many national tests, such as AP exams, are given on the same date around the country and currently other school systems in Virginia and around the nation have more time to prepare for exams because they start earlier than FCPS.  Additionally, an earlier start to the school year provides more flexibility for schools to report seventh semester grades to colleges and universities.

Each year, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) develops a school year calendar that aims to maximize instruction for students while at the same time schedules planning time and professional development days for teachers. The Fairfax County School Board is responsible for approving the school year calendar.

Reston Now has posted a news article about this survey.

 

Hillary Clinton supports expanding school day and year

At the CNN Democratic Town Hall on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said she supports expanding the school day and year, particularly for disadvantaged students. During the question and answer session, John Loveday, the principal of a charter school that offers 230 instructional days, noted that countries like India and China require their high school students to attend 220 days on average, 40 days more than our high school students. “Do you think that puts our students at a disadvantage?” he asked. “And if so, would you work with states to help modernize that policy?”

Here is Clinton’s answer:

Here’s what I think it does — and thank you for being involved in education. It’s so critically important. I think we need to focus on disadvantaged kids, low-income kids, kids with learning difficulties, because they do need more time on task. Others could also benefit from it, but we understand — and you do, I’m sure, from the research — that the more time that kids who need that time have, the more likely they will make gains in their learning.

In fact, there’s a lot of research which shows that, you know, for most middle-class or, you know, well-off kids, they get out of school in the spring or early summer, having gone to 180, 185, whatever the days are in their state, and then they do things over the summer that keep them learning, where a lot of disadvantaged kids get out and they actually lose some of the learning that they’ve gained during the year.

So I want very much to expand the school day and the school year and provide more structure, starting with kids who would be most benefited from it. But I am in favor of states looking at how they might do that for every student. But I’m most concerned about the kids who are left out and left behind and need more time on task.

The research on this is very clear. In fact, you know, I have said I want to be a good partner for educators and teachers, but I want to help them do what they know they’re supposed to do. We need better and fewer tests, not more tests. We need more support in the classroom, because a lot of kids come with needs. And as the reverend was saying, a lot of kids who have challenges at home, you know, the school is the only place other than the family where they might get some additional assistance.

So we need to look at this from a broader perspective. And you’re right, more days, more hours actually does produce results, particularly for kids who need that kind of structure and support.

Source: CNN.com – Transcripts