Sunday, November 04, 2007

School Calendar crunch

Demands grow as options shrink

When the 1990 legislature scrambled education decision-making roles in Kentucky, it left district leaders in charge of setting the school calendar. Nearly 18 years later, school boards and superintendents are watching their options shrivel as pressures on their choices mount.

It’s frequently a tough balancing act between conflicting community priorities and the desire to maximize instructional days before critical assessment testing. And it can leave local leaders feeling boxed in.

"I’m furious about it. I’m just livid," said Bowling Green Independent board Vice Chairwoman Deborah Williams of a state education department directive to change the district’s traditional two-week spring break schedule. "In my opinion, they’ve overstepped their bounds again." ...

...The Department of Education lists 12 testing periods for 2007-08, starting in September for on-demand writing and running through the Kentucky Core Content tests next spring. But a 2006 state law requiring all high school juniors to take the ACT has created problems for a few districts, including Bowling Green.

In an e-mail to Superintendent Joe Tinius, interim Education Commissioner Kevin Noland noted that Kentucky was given only two days for ACT testing in 2008, adding that district assessment coordinators surveyed favored March 11 – right in the middle of Bowling Green’s traditional spring break.

"We implemented the alternative calendar about seven years ago. We surveyed our parents and it’s five to one who want the calendar with a two-week break in the fall, at Christmas and in the spring," said Williams, the board member. "During the extra week, we offer concentrated remedial courses for those who need it and enrichment for those who want that. That’s much better than staying an hour after school because you have a whole week of intense subject matter for those students who need it.

"This is a matter of local control. To tell us when to have school is just wrong." ...

...Silver Grove Independent Superintendent Danny Montgomery also sees calendar and test timing issues.

"The most important issue we face in developing our calendar is the number of instructional days available before the CATS testing window," said Montgomery. "It is imperative that we find a way to move the testing window into the first two weeks of May. For better or worse, it is much more difficult for everyone to have the same focus after the testing is completed." ...

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA.

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