Monday, April 12, 2010

The End

I've been quite cranky lately (just ask my husband). I blamed it on a bad night's sleep Saturday night, I blamed it on feeling overloaded with some last minute things, I blamed it on crazy children, and who knows what else.

Today, I finally figured out the real cause. Today is the last day of our last intersession.

Due to serious budget cuts everywhere, our school is losing our modified calendar status. Next year we'll go back to being like everyone else. This saddens me (and obviously makes me cranky) for numerous reasons.
  1. Many of our kids will lose a lot over a long summer. Especially our beginning readers in kindergarten and first grade. Many will not speak English for the entire summer, much less have opportunities to practice their reading.
  2. Intersessions offer our students myriad opportunities to learn about different things. This is a perfect chance for us to help expand their background knowledge. They learn about different sports, foods, hobbies, etc. all through skills they need. Losing that is going to hurt them in reading, writing, and being able to make bigger connections in their learning.
  3. These times build significant community in our school. We have over 800 students and there is no way to get to know them all. However, we get to know other kids during intersession and that is good for everyone. We can share our thoughts with other teachers, offering a fresh eye on their students. We can greet those students throughout the year and continue to build relationships.
  4. As our old principal used to say, "We are running sprints instead of running a marathon." If a teacher needs a break s/he doesn't have to teach intersession. If families want (and are able) to keep kids home or to travel during that time they can. It gives us fresh starts throughout the year rather than running ourselves ragged by March (or December some years).
  5. Personally it gives me a chance to clean some things up. Intersession is less intense than the rest of the year and kids can work on projects or activities while I spend a bit of time cleaning out some of my teacher closet or a filing cabinet drawer or just sorting through the piles that grow on my desk in no time.
It doesn't seem that our test scores have reflected any positive impact from our modified calendar. I find that both hard to believe and not surprising. It's hard to believe because the benefits to kids seem so clear to me. It's not surprising because we have a 40% mobility rate and we've nearly doubled our population since we began on this calendar. It's hard to get meaningful test scores when the kids are different all the time.

As I write this our intersession coordinator is beginning the final dismissal process. The students are wrapping up their last big art project created out of repeating, growing, and number patterns. And I'm ready to cry.

(Some of us did make an effort back in the fall to gather DRA, Developmental Reading Assessment, scores for first and second graders. In previous years we have not done this assessment in the fall, we have simply used the spring assessment from just a few weeks before. We gathered the data this year in order to compare it to next fall when the students will have had a much longer summer. It will be interesting to see if this gives us a smidgen of hard data to show our district.)


Blink said...

Your post should be read by anyone who makes the decisions to eliminate this extra time in school. It has been a schedule that has made sense for our kids, our community, and our staff who were the ones who voted by quorum for this schedule in the first place. The three year process to initiate "year round" school was thoughtful, inclusive, and based on good research. Ironic that same process was really not considered, nor the data taken (DRA's, parent surveys, staff input) when the decision was made to take the extra time in school away.

I mourn with you!

The Science Goddess said...

My condolences to you and others on your staff. I have loved to read about your explorations during intersession and the community you built for your students.

Scott said...

"It doesn't seem that our test scores have reflected any positive impact from our modified calendar."

So many times positive impact cannot be simply measured by test scores. It bothers me that so much is evaluated by test scores and not a more complete picture.

I'm sorry.

Launa Hall said...

This a great list of benefits. You gave me a lot to think about (as always). I wish the decision was yours to make (as it should be)--you've got the evidence!

Sarah said...

This sucks! It sure sounds like you guys had a great thing going with the modified calendar... and once again someone with a lot less classroom experience is making a bad decision!