Teachers today are focusing on impacting the education of every child instead of teaching to the class as a whole.
To do that effectively, according to a large number of educators, the teachers can’t work in isolation, but must communicate and combine their skills and efforts.
James Flynn, superintendent of Simpson County Schools, was quoted in the Kentucky Schools Advocate, “We have to deliver instruction very differently to meet children’s needs in very different ways. To do that with any kind of proficiency and effectiveness is going to take time and it can’t be one person trying to figure out how to solve it – we’ve got to collaborate.”
With that in mind, LaRue County Schools’ curriculum coordinating committee will recommend to the board of education that early release days, in which students will be released two hours before normal close of the school day, be built into next year’s calendar.
“This is meant as a time when teachers can work closely together, analyzing data, and doing other things that will lead to helping our students to improve and learn,” said Denise Skaggs, district instructional supervisor. “Because of conflicting schedules, it’s very hard for them to be able to meet as a group after school.”
The purpose of the release time is four-fold: Teaching - looking at what LaRue’s teachers are teaching, how they’re teaching the subject matter, and how they assess what they teach; Curriculum - assessing the curriculum and improving it; deciding when and how those curricular changes can best be implemented; Instruction - examining how LaRue’s teachers deliver instruction and how that instruction can be approved; and Assessment - analyzing student test data from common assessments to determine what needs to be taught to shore up weak areas and what strengths are found among the district’s students. Teachers will also analyze the validity (a test’s measuring what it’s supposed to measure) and reliability of assessments.
Throughout Kentucky, districts vary on their release time. Some have full-day sessions; others have two-hour release every week. Still others release students early once a month or six times a year.
The committee will survey the district’s teachers as well as non-instructional staff to obtain their input on two options - early release, once a week, every Wednesday or Friday, or every other Wednesday or Friday. Those results will determine what the committee recommends to the board.
“We will also have question boxes in each of the schools for parents’ input and will send out parent surveys,” Skaggs said. “We have studied other districts who use early release days in order to find what obstacles may lie ahead and how we can work around those.”
Childcare has been one of the most common concerns in districts considering release time. Skaggs said the committee will contact every childcare facility in the county, informing them of the proposal and asking them to provide fee lists so parents will know what child care is available and what it will cost.
“We’re also contacting dentists so they can block out those early-release periods of time for student appointments,” Skaggs said. “Organizations and churches also could block out afternoon activities.”
How will the teachers and other staff be held accountable and document their work?
“Instructional assistants will work alongside the teachers during this time,” said Skaggs. “Other classified workers will follow their regular schedule except for bus drivers and their major change will be an earlier afternoon bus run.”
Each principal will develop accountability procedures for respective schools. Skaggs said that in some districts with early release, each school submits evidence of its teachers’ collaboration, and LaRue will require the same.
“Each principal must submit to the central office the early-release agenda showing what their topic and focus of that week will be,” said Skaggs.
The committee hopes to have all surveys returned and examined by Nov. 30, meet on Dec. 2 and then present to the board of education at the Dec. 21 meeting their recommendations.
“We want to obtain the public’s input and support, making sure they see the value of these release days,” said Skaggs. “It’s all about meeting the needs of our students.”