Education Week - September 18, 2013 - (Page 10)

10 EDUCATION WEEK n SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 n Iowa District Reimagines the Five-Day School Week Fridays Set Aside For PD, Enrichment By Alyssa Morones As more districts adopt four- day weeks to cope with budget crunches, one rural Iowa district says it is embracing the practice for a different reason: to squeeze more time out of the school calendar for student enrichment and teachers’ professional development. Starting this school year, students in the 550-student WACO community school district will attend school Monday through Thursday, spending an hour longer in class each day so that no classes will need to be held on Fridays. Students in the district— which serves the communities of Wayland, Crawfordsville, and Olds—have the option of attending remedial or enrichment classes every other Friday or to enroll in college-level classes. This new plan for the school year follows the June 2013 passage of Iowa’s House File 215, which officially defines the state’s school year length requirements in both days and hours. Under the new law, a full school year is defined as having at least 1,080 hours, or an equivalent 180 days, of instruction, but it’s up to districts to inform the state of which metric they will use to measure their school year—in hours or days. Iowa isn’t alone in this shift. More states nationwide are altering their definitions of the school year from days to hours to allow more scheduling flexibility, according to Kathy Christie, the chief of staff at the Education Commission of the States, based in Denver. More than 20 states have districts operating on four-day weeks, according to the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University Bloomington. Cost-Cutting Measure? According to Ms. Christie, districts—especially those in rural areas—are typically lured to the four-day week as a possible form of relief from budget woes. They see the condensed schedule as a way to reduce costs associated with busing and utilities. In rural southern Idaho, for example, officials of the Wendell school district say budget concerns are driving their district’s move to a four-day week this academic year. The 1,200-student district hopes that the new schedule will cut down on transportation and utility costs and on student absences, since schools receive much of their funding based on how many students attend. Superintendent Gregory Lowe said: “With the cuts we had here in Idaho, we thought this would lead SHORTENING THE SCHEDULE: PROS AND CONS Reducing the school week from five days to four doesn’t automatically translate to big savings, according to analysts. Potential Benefits Potential Drawbacks n Increased attendance rates for teachers and students n Boosts morale among teachers and students n Additional time available for professional development and teacher planning n Savings on transportation and heating and cooling costs n Decreased need for substitute teachers; savings in substituteteacher wages n More efficient use of classroom time n Fewer discipline problems SOURCE: Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University Bloomington to savings for our struggling budget, but we also felt like it was a good thing for students.” However, like Iowa’s WACO dis- trict, Wendell isn’t planning on letting its Fridays go to waste. It will use those days for teacher professional development, to provide extra help for students through a program called the Success Alliance, or for enrichment activities, depending on the week. The Fridays set aside for professional development will be focused on instructional strategies for the Common Core State Standards. Results in Practice Meanwhile, another rural dis- trict, the MACCRAY school system, which serves Maynard, Clara City, and Raymond in Minnesota, is entering its fifth school year with a four-day week. For the most part, community feedback on the switch has been positive, accord- ing to the 650-student district. “Parents really like it,” said Gary Simms, the principal of MACCRAY Senior High School, “and because we have one less day, we save on busing, on utilities, on maintenance time. We save a bit on food service.” The district decided to cut Mon- day out of its school week to reduce absenteeism as well, since parents can now schedule doctor or other appointments for their children on that day, and now absenteeism rates are “maybe a little better than "We,re Generation Ready. Are You?" Our nation requires – and young people deserve – education geared to the demands of today’s real world. Generation Ready helps teachers and school leaders create a stronger, more vibrant generation of Americans – one that is ready for career and college. Stronger teachers, stronger schools, stronger students. We’re Generation Ready. Are you? Visit n Difficulty finding child care on fifth day n Actual savings often less than anticipated savings n May have negative effects on at-risk students and those with special needs n May be difficult for younger students n Decreased wages for cafeteria workers and bus drivers, who lose one day of work per week Unknowns n Effectiveness and appropriateness in large/urban school districts n Impact on student achievement GenReady_halfpg_EdWeek.indd 1 7/18/13 4:53 PM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 18, 2013

Education Week - September 18, 2013
Calif. Testing Move Hits Federal Nerve
Teacher-Review Tool: Classroom Portfolios
TFA Educators Found to Boost Math Learning
Assessment Group Sets Accommodations Policy
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Spoken-Word Poets Bring Words to Life for Students
Partnership in Bronx Aims to Build Skills On Behalf of Parents
National-Board Certification to Be Cheaper, Smoother
Iowa District Reimagines the Five-Day School Week
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Consumer Demand for Digital Ed. Games Seen Rising
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept., Arizona in Clash Over Waiver
Congress Gears Up for Higher Ed. Law Renewal
Policy Brief
Louisiana Vouchers, Desegregation Case Prove Volatile Mix
House Panelists Question Relevancy of Education Dept. Research
Why the New Teacher Ed. Standards Matter
Unfairly Fired Teachers Deserve Court Protection
A Sandy Hook Parent’s Letter to Teachers
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Encouraging Courage

Education Week - September 18, 2013