Thursday, January 15, 2015

Answers to Wake County BOE Year-Round High Schools responses

Yesterday’s column included responses from members of the Wake County Public Schools System Board of Education about the idea of year-round high schools. Today, answers to the responses:

Christine Kushner, Chairperson of the BOE:We have had discussions with staff on this idea, and I will be glad to forward to facilities and academic folks to consider.”  A request was made for the notes coming from the discussions with staff. No response as of this date but hope to receive soon. This falls under Freedom of Information Act request.

Bill Fletcher, member BOE:
  • One of the challenges of having multiple calendars is the lack of alignment across grade configurations.  Any trimester strategy would need to have K-12 application.  And then there is the concern about alignment with college calendars.  So, what’s the problem with aligning the calendars, staring the year August 1 for all schools? This is an issue that can be overcome.
  • Companion question is the employment schedule for teachers.  Will teachers work two trimesters, or all three trimesters?  Do they get vacation or time for professional development?  All of the above can apply. Being flexible is important. These are not issues too difficult to overcome. It’s possible that teachers will have at least one two-hour period of not teaching a class, so that time can be used for professional development.
  • Could students go to all three trimesters?  If so, capacity gains evaporate. Preferably students would attend only two of three, but, depending on the desired maximum capacity and if desired courses are available, yes.
  • There is movement to provide "credit by demonstrated mastery" for high school students, so seat time could become less relevant for some students. “Credit by demonstrated mastery” was tried at UNC-CH with the AFAM courses and with horrific consequences. Actually, this doesn’t have any relationship to year-round high schools. But good try, Bill.
  • Observers of our typical student assignment discussions will point to the extreme difficulty of changing a calendar, even a modest change from traditional to an existing year round track. Thinking and living outside the box is key to better education. Those who stick with traditional year-round schedules are stuck in the mud. Reduction in building new high schools will be for at least 10 years. Enrollment goes down 33%. Instead of spending money on new buildings, invest in the current facilities, in the resources for the teachers and students, and in teacher salaries.
  • Would such a dramatic change in schedule improve educational outcomes for kids? That is ultimately the bottom line. Yes, no doubt. Three core courses per trimester will allow for more intensive study on those subjects, giving the students a better learning opportunity. Teachers will have a chance to be more creative with instruction. Teachers will probably have fewer papers to grade each trimester. School environment will be better with fewer class changes and less chaos.

Tom Benton, Vice Chair, BOE: “Do present calendar laws allow for these types of calendar changes?” Tom, you’re on the BOE and can determine that yourself with a call to your staff, or was that a rhetorical question? If not on the question, change the law!

These three members of the Wake County Schools BOE are offering objections without full thought, consideration, research and investigation. Maybe naming new schools, renaming existing schools, moving students each year, planning to build new schools and running for reelection are getting in the way of broader and innovative thinking. Additional questions and comments are encouraged.
-------------------- word of the day
mackle (verb) [mak-uh l]: to blur
mackle (noun) [mak-uh l]: a blur

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