TPS exploring districtwide changes to school calendar
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
11/14/12 at 7:13 AM
Tulsa Public Schools is launching district-wide teacher and principal surveys this week as part of a study into the continuous learning calendar concept.
Officials say parent surveys will be the next step in what they promise will be an exhaustive inquiry into the merits of spreading the same number of mandatory school days out over the year to shorten the length of summer break.
Superintendent Keith Ballard, who initiated the study to see if a calendar change could help address academic deficiencies, has said it would be January at the earliest before any final recommendations could be made.
While saying it is unlikely that districtwide calendar changes could be made for 2013-14, he hasn't ruled anything out. The school district already has a handful of continuous learning calendar schools, and Ballard has said a number of other schools could make the switch as part of a pilot program.
"We currently have six CLC (continuous learning calendar) schools at TPS, so we are interested in gathering the opinions of those who already work in a CLC school, as well as those who have not yet experienced it," Ballard wrote in the survey being distributed to instructional staff. "Only if there is compelling evidence and community support for CLC will we look at a possible district-wide implementation."
Continuous learning calendar schools are in session for the same number of required instructional days as traditional schools, but the days are spread out so that students' summer break is shorter. Chouteau, Eugene Field, Gilcrease, Kendall-Whittier, Mark Twain and Marshall elementary schools in Tulsa, as well as the entire Oklahoma City school district, are already on that schedule.
It allows those schools to offer an additional eight weeks of remedial instruction for students during midyear breaks, called intersessions, but attendance in those is voluntary.
Funding is a significant concern in calendar changes, and Ballard has said efforts to improve remedial programs and technology access are also high on his list of priorities.
Amy Nail, who is in her first year of teaching at Gilcrease, had never worked at or had either of her children attend a continuous learning calendar school before.
But she said the shift has been rewarding, both personally and professionally.
"Because the class sizes (during intersession) are so small, it gives you the ability to focus on students that really need the one-on-one help," Nail said. "I worked one week of intersession and took the other week off, and that allowed me to be at home to help my own children and to go to their schools and check up on what's going on, so it really has been a blessing."
Principal Tasha Johnson said Gilcrease first seeks out the students who need the extra time in reading and math fundamentals and then offers any other available student slots in intersession on a first-come, first-served basis.
Nail said all it took to sign up her students whose test scores indicated they were in the most need of help was a quick phone call to their homes.
"Most parents do what's best for their children. When we offer it for free and at a place they feel comfortable with, it's an easy sell," she said.
Lynn Stockley, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, said she is eager to see the results of the teacher survey because she has heard such a variety of opinions about the idea.
"That's why I think it would be really important if the district is going to add schools to the CLC that a decision be made as soon as possible and for teachers to know very soon so they could be given the option of going someplace else," she said.
Stockley said most teachers who are opposed to changing academic calendars are concerned because their own children attend school in other districts or because it would conflict with summer jobs.
"With our salaries being what they are, a lot of teachers have summer jobs, and some have families that really depend on that income," she said. "Still, I've had people at some schools say they want to be a CLC school, even some at high schools.
"The majority of teachers who have taught in that situation have said even if it doesn't reflect in higher test scores, the time not lost over the summer is an extremely valuable thing, especially for those kids who don't have academic things that enrich their minds during the summer, such as going to a library or a museum."
How the continuous learning calendar works
Students are required to attend the same number of days as in a traditional calendar, but attendance-optional "intersessions" built into the continuous learning calendar offer remedial and enrichment activities for students.
Comparison of Tulsa Public Schools' current calendars
|Last day ................................
Continuous learning calendar
||Oct. 22-Nov. 2
|Spring intersession ....
||March 11-15, 25-29
Parent-teacher conference dates differ, but holidays and winter and spring breaks are the same for both.
*Last days of school can change depending on number of snow days used.
Original Print Headline: Considering change
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Kortney Henson, a second-grader, works on a math assignment in class at Mark Twain Elementary, a continuous learning school, on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Students leave for the day after classes at Mark Twain Elementary School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Second-grader Tatiana Pryor counts her fingers while working on a math assignment with teacher Elizabeth Clarke at Mark Twain on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Kaylee Kelley, a Mark Twain Elementary School second-grader, works on an assignment in class Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Principal Angie Teas talks to kindergartners as they line up to leave Mark Twain Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World