These days, much is written about the benefits of an extended student school day. It may appear odd then, that we’re cutting six different school days short this year. Through delayed openings and early dismissals we change students’ schedules, and we inconvenience parents. However, we wouldn’t schedule these opportunities if we did not believe wholeheartedly that this necessary time will improve opportunities for children.
The work of schools is much different than it was a generation or even a decade ago. The complexities associated with teaching and learning cannot be overstated. Further, the strategies teachers use, the attention they pay to individual learners, and the content they teach, is significantly more formal today. Meetings often take place at either the beginning or end of many school days when teachers and administrators discuss district initiatives. However, some of our improvement efforts require all teachers and administrators to be available at the same time. The delayed opening and early release times provide some of the necessary opportunities.
We use this time for teachers to advance initiatives related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. For example, some of our work last year resulted in college and career ready curriculum standards that elevate the complexity of course content. Also, the time has been used to discuss teaching models that better ensure individual student needs are met. The goal is to better address the ranges of abilities that always have existed in classrooms.
This year’s efforts are focused on literacy and mathematics content and instruction at the elementary school level, while the high school and middle school teachers are focused on common assessments that are aligned with the revised content of their courses. Additionally, elementary teachers are developing units of study that will further ensure consistency with revised standards and learning targets.
For the past few years we have completed a great deal of curriculum work during the summer weeks, but without the delayed openings and early dismissals we could not have the consistency we need across schools and throughout the grade levels. The time has been invaluable toward elevating our content and student expectations.
The units of study and the correlated assessment work will provide valuable understanding of student learning and allow us to adjust teaching accordingly. Some students will need additional help and more time to learn while others will have the curriculum content extended for them. The work done in collaboration with colleagues is the key to making all of this happen.
Our next steps include the use of data to find specific areas for improvement. The key is to continue the search for strategies that ensure our children’s success.
We are grateful for parent and community support of our efforts.