School boards across the Chittenden South Supervisory Union are voting on April 26 on a proposed school day schedule change that could take effect with the 2016-17 school year. The change, which is called the early release-late start professional development/educational improvement model, is intended to optimize the benefits of teachers’ professional development time.
Currently, teachers have seven full inservice days scheduled into the school calendar in August, November, February, and June. During these work periods, students are not in school. The new model would remove those days from the calendar altogether and swap them for an hour of professional development time each week. Four full days would be added to the students’ academic calendar for the year.
That extra hour of teacher work time, without students, would occur at the end of the school day on Tuesdays for elementary and middle school students, which means their dismissal time would be one hour earlier on Tuesday afternoons, and Wednesday morning for high school students, which means Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) students would start the day at 9:15 once a week.
Tuesdays were chosen for the younger grade dismissal change because faculty meetings are already held on those days, and teachers will be able to use this time to collaborate with each other and blend their professional development time naturally with their weekly meeting. High school students will have a morning time adjustment because research shows that teens show academic, social, and emotional benefits from starting school later in the morning.
The intent of professional development time is to allow teachers to adjust the instruction in their classroom based on what students need; communication emailed to parents from the CSSU this week said, “Professional development provides the training, resources, and practice to ensure that our educators offer the highest quality of instruction, assessment, and curriculum for our learners.”
The rationale for the schedule change is that making this time weekly, rather than sporadically, means that teachers will be able to work more effectively to make instructional adjustments and incorporate new learning into their classroom more quickly. The school district’s email said, “Teachers are being asked to develop learning targets aligned with national standards, personalize instruction, and explore flexible pathways for all students. This important work requires focus and continual reflection, best done in weekly sessions, not in sporadic full-day workshops.”
Professional development is required by the Vermont Agency of Education for all teachers.
After-school programs in the area will likely adjust to the new schedule, changing their hours of coverage to coincide with the adjusted school hours; aftercare programs affiliated with schools are already prepared to offer full after-school care. In addition, students who do not regularly attend aftercare programs might have the opportunity to only attend on Tuesdays.
Parent concerns about the schedule change focus on the availability and convenience of after-school child care, transportation to school for high school children whose parents must leave earlier than the bus for work, and the loss of several three-day weekends over the school year that many families use for travel opportunities.
All four school districts within the CSSU must approve of the schedule change for it to take effect; during the April 26 meetings, school boards will consider public opinion prior to making their decision about whether or not to adopt the new schedule.