The Board of Trustees has approved a new school calendar for 2013-2014 that includes a late start Monday. The calendar changes will help the district meet its goal of increasing student achievement by providing teachers with an hour of dedicated time each week to work together to help students excel.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why change the calendar?
The calendar changes are being made as part of the district's ongoing efforts to increase student achievement. The changes will provide teachers with an hour of dedicated time each week to work together to help increase student achievement district wide.
Why do teachers need more planning time?
Teachers will not use this additional hour each week as a planning period. They will use the time to study student achievement in a directed and focused manner, and then collaborate on instructional strategies that will help students succeed.
How will teachers use the time?
Teachers will use this time to study student achievement data; review and implement the new curriculum that has been developed to meet the new Idaho Core Standards; and discuss teaching strategies, best practices and interventions that will address students' specific learning needs. So, for example, teachers working together may identify one kind of instruction to help a struggling student gain proficiency in a particular subject area and another kind of instruction to help advanced students deepen their knowledge and understanding of that subject.
How will teachers work together?
Teachers will be organized in groups called professional learning communities, which will work to accomplish specific goals during the year.
What is a Professional Learning Community?
A professional learning community or PLC provides a structured way for teachers to collaborate and ensure high levels of learning for all students.
How do Professional Learning Communities work?
Teachers will be divided into groups or PLCs that will identify specific goals and then work to achieve those goals. Part of this work will involve a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. Learn More. This focus on learning is shaped by four critical questions:*
- What do we want students to learn? What should each student know and be able to do as a result of each unit, grade level, and/or course?
- How will we know if they have learned? Are we monitoring each student's learning on a timely basis?
- What will we do if they don't learn? What systematic process is in place to provide additional time and support for students who are experiencing difficulty?
- What will we do if they already know it?
* What Is A PLC, www.solution-tree.com
Is there any research that shows this new calendar will really have an impact on student achievement?
There is extensive research about the benefits of teacher collaboration and PLCs. School districts around the country and around the state have implemented similar calendars and seen good results. Several schools in Idaho Falls School District 91 used these strategies in 2012-2013, and saw significant improvements in student achievement.
Why can't teachers do this kind of work after school?
District administrators reviewed a number of calendar options, including calendars providing time for after-school collaboration. However, that option was not selected because teachers already have many after-school obligations such as staff meetings, meetings with students and parents, extra-curricular activities, department meetings and more. These conflicts and commitments would make it impossible for teachers to work together on a consistent basis.
Aren't students going to lose valuable instruction time with the new calendar? Wouldn't students be better off just spending more time in school?
Research shows an effective teacher has the greatest impact on student achievement. The goal of this new calendar, along with the accompanying staff development plan, is to make our teachers more effective in the classroom by providing them with the tools, resources and support they need to be successful. Research shows that professional development is most effective when it is provided in an ongoing and sustained manner rather than sporadic such as teachers attending conferences or classes. For professional development to have a positive impact in the classroom, it must be embedded in the teacher's day-to-day job responsibilities, tied to the goals set by the school and the district, and focused on results.
This calendar is going to be very disruptive for families. How is the district going to address that?
We understand this calendar will impact families, but we believe it is an essential step in accomplishing our goal of increased student achievement. We need to do something different if we are going to ensure all students graduate with the skills, knowledge and attributes they need to be successful in today's world The district is looking at ways to support families as we transition to the new calendar. We recognize the greatest impact will be on families with working parents and elementary school children. The hope is that neighbors would join together and help each other out or that older siblings could help. Schools will work individually with families in extenuating circumstances. Need help? Let us know.
What changes were made to the new calendar?
The calendar changes include:
- Late start every Monday, which means all schools in Idaho Falls School District 91 will start an hour later on Monday than every other day of the week. So, middle schools and high schools will start at 9:30 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. An elementary school that usually starts at 8 a.m. will start at 9 a.m. on Mondays.
- Five minutes will be added to the elementary school day every day.
- Schools will be in session on Thursday, Oct. 3. (Traditionally, students have this day off for district inservice.)
- The last day of school will be Friday, June 6, 2014.
- There will be no more early release on Wednesdays for Theresa Bunker, Dora Erickson, Linden Park and Hawthorne elementary schools.