Friday, September 21, 2012

Too many early release days?

By request, a new thread to discuss the very high number of early release days at some schools this year (Hamilton apparently has 20).


L@L said...

Makes no sense given how important those two (useless) days of school added at year-end were to the Board. Instructional time was so important that SPS spent ~$600k to keep the doors open for our kids to have numerous popsicle parties and free-choice?

Anonymous said...

Here are my issues with 20 early release days:

There is vague information as to why they need an additional 15 early releases totaling 30 hours other than to work with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). I think it is fair to ask Ms. Watters to communicate the problems they are addressing and the goals they are looking to accomplish to give the entire community a benchmark.
November in particular is troubling. November 12 (Monday) is a holiday followed by an early release on Wednesday. The following week there is no school on the 21, 22, and 23. So over a two week period students are only in school five full days. There is then another early release on November 28th. How can any educator believe this is in the best interests of middle school students?

When we come to February students have Friday and Monday for Presidents Day break, back for a day then 1/2 day on Wed. Why not have the early release on Thursday before the break? Does anybody care that Wednesday is the “chosen” day? I don’t.

I would also like to know how all the testing fits in around the early dismissal days in April and May. Last year there was MSP and MAPs in early May. They have students released every Wed for three weeks straight beginning April, ending May 15.

I am sure testing will fall in this time slot. When we get to April/May I think the lost learning from November will pale in comparison.

Most concerning to me is that those 20 early release days are such as waste; given that the bell rings every 20 minutes. So I feel as though my student has lost an additional 15 days of learning time.

I know parents have communicated concerns. My hope is that Ms. Watters revisits this plan and comes up with an alternative.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know how many early release days for professional development take place at Eckstine, McClure, Whitman, etc?

HIMS Parent said...

From the Save the School blog:

Here's a list of 2-hr early release days across the district (For middle schools, based on the school's posted calendars):

The district has 5 scheduled 2-hr early release days, which are included in the totals. 1-hr early release days are not included in the total.

Denny: 5
Eckstein: 9
HIMS: 20
Aki (no info)
Madison: 5
McClure: 5
Mercer: 5
Washington: 12
Whitman: 7

Eckstein, Washington, and Whitman all have extra school based early release days, but no school has as many as HIMS. Even Washington (which perhaps is doing some PD with HIMS) has only 7 extra days compared to HIMS 15.

HIMS Parent said...

In looking at the number of early release days against other middle schools - it kinda makes you wonder what is so broken at HIMS that staff needs so much PD time?

Anonymous said...

anonymous said "it kinda makes you wonder what is so broken at HIMS that staff needs so much PD time?"

There aren't enough PD hours in the world that could fix what's broken at HIMS: the handful of terrible teachers. Everyone knows who they are.

Hope Watters cleans house. SHe certainly isn't making a good impression by sticking by a bad decision, though...

Anonymous said...

IMHO Ms Watters will clean the house only after she provides the tools and time for improvement and can prove that for those "terrible" teachers it didn't really matter.
HIMS parent

Shannon said...

I am not concerned about the early release days. Really. I would like them to be carefully chosen to block with other days off so we can do interesting things with our time rather than have odd early days thrown in but its just not a big issue for me.

I like Ms Watters and hope she figures out what to do with the weak teachers.

Anonymous said...

From today's newsletter. Looks like Ms Watters got a lot of feedback on the early release, but no changes forthcoming. It stands.

"I know there were many questions about our early dismissal schedule. As a school, we are committed to being good stewards of our resources (both time and fiscal resources). To that end, we have high expectations for the use of instructional time and will be working hard to ensure students are provided thoughtful and intentional learning experiences every day. In addition, I will be regularly reporting out our progress as a staff and we will do a midyear evaluation to see how we are progressing towards our own professional learning goals."


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you, if you look at the participation at the meeting last week, you will understand. For more than 90% of the population at HIMS the added early release days are just fine. Really. As Shannon said before.
So why would they change anything? Maybe they should add even more (sarcasm).
But I feel as the early release days are just starting this week, as soon as the parents will feel the effect of every single short Wednesday (and consequently very little learning on those days), maybe more of them will stand up.
Only hope

Anonymous said...

That is true. Also first time middle school parents don't understand that 20 minute classes translates into zero learning. Once they start getting reports each week that their student did nothing that day more will speak up.


Anonymous said...

"For more than 90% of the population at HIMS the added early release days are just fine. Really."

You are being sarcastic, right?! So many parents protested...seemed to be an issue for many.

Anonymous said...

"You are being sarcastic, right?! So many parents protested...seemed to be an issue for many".

Last week, at the PTSA meeting on Wednesday, which was right after when HIMS announced the additional 15 early release days (total of 20 for this school year), there were about 80 people. Out of those about 25 spoke up. Let just say, maybe another 50 wrote a letter. When the school population is more than 950 students.
What do you think, am I sarcastic or disappointed here?
Only hope

dw said...

For more than 90% of the population at HIMS the added early release days are just fine. Really.

As the other commenter, I also read your comment as sarcastic, but I can't really tell now.

In any case, for as many people to complain as did and continue to do, there is obviously a lot of dissatisfaction. Most people do not speak up, that's just the nature of any situation. If there were indeed 50 people actively complaining (speculation), either at that meeting or otherwise, that's HUGE. It would represent a lot more folks that are unhappy but unlikely to speak up.

I think Ms. Watters is in a tough position in many ways, not just with these early release days. She is stepping into a building that has been pretty dysfunctional for the past few years, and she can't go crazy making too many changes that disregard previous promises. That said, I'm disappointed with the extremely high number of early release days, and I hope they will decide to cut back on at least a few of them.

Anonymous said...

This is happening so lets give it a chance. The early release days are an inconvenience and may initially seem like less learning time for kids, but i feel like i spend/spent too much energy monitoring and sometimes dealing with unprofessional behaviour or inadequate/ineffective teaching from HIMS teachers. I'd like to know more about the specific use of the PD time, and at this pt I am trusting Ms Watters to communicate that to us. SHe has used the word "transparency" a lot and I think its important to her. If our kids end up with better teachers, this will be well worth it to me. If the school benefits as a whole, we will see more learning in the long and probably short run as well.
- involved parent
PS - these captchas are impossible to read! Its very frustrating, Greg can you do anything about this?

Anonymous said...

I am very happy with the early release days. As several folks have already mentioned. The building is very dysfunctional and I am delighted to see some leadership.

As for too little learning. It is too little seat time and that is a different issue. Too little learning was already an issue.

As as for the unhappy folks unlikely to speak, I don't think so. I was genuinely unwilling to speak in favor of the PD time in front of that audience.

It is one year. I am really happy to give Ms. Watters a chance.

Anonymous said...

I was initially shocked by the unusually high number of early release days, and still think the number is too high, yet I've come to a level of acceptance about them. If the PD brings about improvements school wide, it is worth the sacrifice of less seat time.

After years of parental complaints with no discernable improvements, the extra early release days provide some hope for improvement. After some truly awful experiences in 6th grade, I will support an administrator willing to deal with the issues at Hamilton. I don't want to spend another year in defense mode.

This is a perfect opportunity to share your thoughts with the new principal - both what didn't work last year and what improvements you hope to see this year.

dw said...

If the PD brings about improvements school wide, it is worth the sacrifice of less seat time.

What leads you to believe this is going to be the result?!

It's quite possible that a change in leadership at the building will bring some positive changes, but I'm not convinced having 20 days of early release and PD is better than, say, 15.

Anonymous said...

Yes, DW, I agree fully.

We know nothing about what will happen with the PD time, or how it is supposed to improve things. Ms Watters provided vague info about how teachers would talk together and do similar quizes in their classes and compare their results. What about the ineffective math teacher who is on her own? There is no one to compare results with because no one else teaches HH math. How will this teacher be dealt with under this system?

I am also skeptical that a couple hours of talking per week can really improve the critically weak teachers at the school.

-major skeptic

Anonymous said...

I have heard that PLCs come with a lot of paper work that need to be completed to prove that you collaborated with a peer.

And unless HIMS is collarborating with WMS APP to align across sites not sure I see the value in any of this, from the APP perpective.

From a schoolwide perpective, not sure?

Anonymous said...

Having some level of consistency and cooperation between classes is a huge improvement over last year. "Copy mistakes" are less likely. I would be more supportive if some of the time would be spent aligning with Washington, so more details from the principal would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

At a recent PTA Board meeting, Principal Watters (on her own - nobody asked) mentioned the increase in APP students as segment of the HIMS population, and brought up the plan to provide PD time for APP teachers at HIMS to align curriculum with WMS. In fact she used this as an example of important planning time that teachers simply do not have at this pt. So I think she has a lot of good and valuable intentions for this planning time. However I suggest that we parents email her and let her know these thoughts about the PD time - as some of these intentions could go by the wayside once the year is underway. There are many good thoughts on this thread about how the PD time should be used and how to communicate to parents that its being effective, as the year progresses. I find the new principal to be very open to communication from parents, thats why I'm encouraging all to share these thoughts. Its interesting to discuss amongst ourselves, but I think we can be most effective if we share with the Hamilton administration any reasonable suggestion for goals from all this additonal early release time; for being productive in the shorter class days; and for communicating results to parents.
- Hamilton mom

Linh-Co said...

It would be far more productive for the teachers who need mentoring to be released during school to observe the good "teachers" in action with real students. Ms. Watters could provide this by going into those clasrroms for the period or providing some subs who can relieve those teachers of their duties. The PDs after school are a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Latest news from HIMS:
"In addition to the five district directed early dismissal days, H.I.M.S. will have an additional four early release days. This move will allow us to have approximately one early release day per month."

Thank you (for everyone who supported this action)

Anonymous said...

Thank god! People who supported this decision believe that more PD time will equal better teaching, but every teacher knows that PD is a big, unproductive joke. Also, all the HIMS teachers who really need to improve are teachers with 10-30 years worth of experience. What's going to turn them around that 25 years' teaching has not?

But more to the point, it's great that so many parents at HIMS can manage to take off work for 15 more afternoons this school year, (on top of all the other days off!)but I cannot. Imagine that.