Surprisingly, DISD Trustees Aren't Ruling Out Keeping (Some) Students in School Till July 26

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"If you're bad, you will stay in school longer!!!" Well, sure, maybe.
At yesterday's Dallas ISD board meeting, trustee Mike Morath had a fairly novel idea regarding the school calendar. Long story short, he said: Let's consider testing the merits of a radical school calendar change that would include more than 200 days of instruction. And, he told his fellow trustees, let's not completely write off the progressive, possibly controversial and potentially expensive change simply because it might not work ... or simply because it might not work immediately.

Let's think about launching a pilot program, he suggested to the board. At which point a collective murmur filled the room.

To recap: The board's looking at five options for the next school year, as we told you earlier in the week. One of those other options includes a post-Labor Day start date and 180 days of instruction with a shortened winter break, while a second option is similar but with the school year starting before Labor Day. A third option, the one mentioned above, includes 203 days of instruction and a start date after Labor day, and the fourth and fifth options include 182 instructional days, with 10 fewer for students who perform well according to standards to-be-determined.

The hope for the last two options is that students would be motivated to succeed if they knew they could finish school days earlier than their lesser-performing counterparts.

The suggestion to start a pilot program based on an updated version of the third option (with a significantly longer school year) followed much discussion on the subject -- more than an hour's worth.

"What's the advantage of starting before Labor Day?" asked trustee Eric Cowan. To which principals who attended to advise the board said: Five days of instruction before mandatory state testing could prove significant. Another said some students work summer jobs that don't end until Labor Day. School board president Lew Blackburn added that electricity costs at the very end of August for such a large district are astronomical. "We teach our students about conservation," he said.

Bernadette Nutall said she would like the school year to start before Labor Day so that parents don't have to worry about childcare. "You do not understand the problems that parents have finding secure places for their children in summer," she said, perhaps forgetting that years ago, DISD started the day after Labor Day.

Cowan said he helped to develop the option of going till July 26. "My concern is more days, more time with teachers and students," he said. The object of the plan would be to narrow the achievement gap. He said it would also give teachers more flexibility in their lessons and could potentially keep them from cramming.

"I echo that entirely," Morath said. "This is a substantial step in wrapping our arms around these kids a lot more than we have in the past," though logistically, there's no denying it creates "massive challenges." (Surprisingly, perhaps, reps from the teachers unions weren't in attendance to outline those challenges to the board.)

"I don't much like the idea of working teachers a whole lot more and not paying them more," Morath said, delving into the sentiment Blackburn had expressed earlier. But, he added, "Our first priority is to our students, and I think we've got to go in this direction." He suggested creating a version of the long school-year option that begins before Labor Day and includes incentives for high-performers.

The financial bottom line didn't go ignored.

"As we consider extending or expanding anything, you're talking about more in salaries, but you're also talking about money for additional resources," said Carla Ranger. "All that has to be considered when we're working with less money this year and next year ... I'd like to hear from teachers about this. I'd like to also hear from parents."

It was at that point Morath offered the option of piloting the extended school year in several schools -- in one as-yet-unnamed feeder pattern -- and seeing how it works while biding time for budget cuts to settle in. (Which raises numerous challenges for the district, we were told this morning, among them transportation and communications issues.)

Nutall had concerns for parents. "You've got to talk to the parents. They will start moving out of the district. ... You have to dialogue," she said.

The calendar changes also include extending school days from seven hours and 45 minutes to eight and a half hours. DISD administrators will revise the calendar options for December, and the board will vote to adopt an option in January.

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Tmclean
Tmclean

I am a DISD teacher who has young children in another school district. Yes, I am very concerned about what my children will be doing those weeks that I am teaching DISD's children. Yes, it will be a financial hardship. Most places won't take kids for only a few weeks, and if they do, they charge a registration fee.But it is not all about me. I am also concerned about how this plan will actually work -- nothing has been discussed about the details. Are all the teachers working the extra days? What if my high school students all pass my class, but fail another class? Will they still meet with me those two weeks? What are the teachers of seniors going to do? They already get to stop teaching earlier that everyone else, so will they stay with no students? I can't see how coming to band or art is going to help anyone an extra ten days. DISD is making decisions without asking for any feedback from teachers, and it may cost them some good ones.

Unless
Unless

Well, I think the district can start any time after that state required start date. That is the earliest a district can start.

On the rest of it - when are these districts going to stop running off teachers who put their heart and soul into their job, as well as back breaking hours and put the expectation where it should be THE STUDENTS!! Put some responsibility on the parents and students. You have teachers begging students to TRY and even attempt to learn. Some of them have NO interest or desire. Hold them back if they are not trying - quit spending money on year long saturday school and after school tutoring for kids who are behavior problems and have no desire to learn. Have high expectations for the students and stand by them!! Geez!!

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Don't hold back . Don't Beg Toss out . Learning isn't their Bag  the school isn't for them its dang sure not open mike night at the improve or a place to go and FIGHT.It is a free service ( PAID FOR by Taxpayers so its not free. )That always has to be said .Don't want it don't come.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

The kids aren't motivated and will not get on board with DISD's Everyone Can Go to Harvard! nonsense.

The kids themselves will tell you that since they are here illegally, they won't be able to translate that expensive college degree into any kind of high-paying traditional job.  If they weren't born here, they don't have the papers to be a lawyer or a doctor.

It makes no financial sense to them to pay for college.I can't argue with their logic.

Many kids WANT vocational training but DISD, choosing to ignore the reality of the economy and the finally-openly-debated value of many college degrees, continues to shove everyone into college prep classes the kids have no interest in.

If we offered vocational training, many kids would take an interest and pick up some things they didn't know along the way.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

"The object of the plan would be to narrow the achievement gap. He said it would also give teachers more flexibility in their lessons and could potentially keep them from cramming."

Right now the District is on a path of retraining teachers to re-write everything they do according to 'new' curriculum and teaching theories. None of it helps students, but it does give administrators a feeling of total control over teachers.

Now they are suggesting MORE school days to make up for the lack of instruction? How about getting OFF of teachers' backs and letting them TEACH?!!

I know, it's too revolutionary. DISD doesn't employ trained teachers, so the employees must be constantly re-trained in the latest adminstrative teaching fad. How has THAT worked out for us?

you got to be kidding
you got to be kidding

Didn't the state MANDATE when school starts and stops for ALL districts? Every district in Texas starts on the fourth Monday in August and must finish by some predetermined date at the end of the school year, and it's not in July. What am I missing here? There are so many problems with this, it makes my head hurt.

susi
susi

While we're considering radical changes, why not the one I want?  I think ALL parents of students in DISD should have to contribute 2 days a year working at the school.  Wiping tables at lunch, making copies, translating, perhaps just following their little Johnny or Jane around keeping them from mischief.  Yes, yes, I know that we'd have to get their records checked, but even those who should not be around children can work on something.

Just sayin'.  All parents should have to have some skin in the game!

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Okay, I will be speaking out on this, and it would be nice if others would show up at 3700 as well. Look at the calendars and tell me this: If we go to school through July 26th, will the State of Texas DELAY the STAAR tests? Nope. So, in fact, we will have the "end of course" tests more than SIX WEEKS before the actual END OF COURSE. We also have a HUGE contingent of Mexican-American kids whose parents WILL pull them out of school in June to go back to Mexico for the summer. They will not care what that does to our attendance rates. They have family commitments that they feel are important. What about teens with summer jobs? I would prefer that trustees and the public push the TEA for a WAIVER FOR SENIORS . Want to see incentives?  Show the underclassmen how you can get out three weeks early if you are a graduating senior. Graduate them on May 10th, the way we all used to do. Honestly, THAT is an incentive. The rest may actually INCREASE dropouts. Think about it. When do you have make ups, summer school, for those who failed?

I am sincerely asking all who read this to contact their DISD trustee. Ask them to keep our days the same, maybe extend a week at most, but CANCEL UNNECESSARY TESTING!!! THAT is where time is lost. Also, assemblies that take 45 minutes, and I hear that announcements on some campuses are routinely taking more than ten minutes per day--that is 50 minutes a week LOST.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Somehow I wonder if this is really for the students.   The point about teachers longer hours (over the new days) with out extra pay is a concern.   Somehow I wonder how I and others of my generation made it through (the DISD) to collage under the old structure of a school year that started after Labor Day and ended in May-- and with out all the electronic gizmos – oh yes our parents were on our backs to read, do our homework and pay attention in class.    It seems that the DISD is more of a glorified baby sitter for parents who have abrogated their parental responsibilities.   I too wonder what the financial incentive is in it for the school board administration?   Do they not get money from the state for each student that is in school regardless if they are learning or not?  Again this boils down to trust of the DISD administration a trait of which I am sorely lacking.  While I can’t name it how does the trustees and administration benefit from this?  I do not buy the line of extra scholastic time and attention and/or quality of education for the student of the DISD.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

There is no financial incentive.  It will cost additional dollars.  Although the last 10 years of DISD leadership has been a disaster,  the majority of the current Trustees, especially newer trustees  Parrott, Cowan, Nutall and Morath, are dedicated to cleaning up the cronyism and nepotism prevalent in the district; changing the corporate culture; putting the power back into the hands of the principals and teachers; fostering transparency at every turn; and making the children the focus of every decision.  All this in the midst of a financial crisis that has the fortunate effect of forcing the district to properly budget and take stock of the effectiveness of programs and vendor contracts to ascertain if they move the needle on student achievement.  The trustees and financial crisis may the catalyst but the internal leadership of Alan King as CFO and Interim Superintendent (working closely with the Trustees) is the driving force. I am guardedly optimistic (with a healthy dose of skepticism) that we are headed in the right direction but much needs to be done and we need to continue to hold our Trustee's feet to the fire.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Teach them to read write and do paycheck Math. Then show them the door. End of 2nd grade is about right.

After that let those that want to stay Earn the right to stay .Taxpayer funded Education should be a privilege not a right.Don't want what is freely  offered don't bother those who do !

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

I have two kids getting an excellent education at DISD, and this proposal makes some sense to me. If there are some kids who could benefit from a little extra time,--this would give it to them,--without forcing the kids who are already doing well to sit-around bored.  I'm not (quite) complaining, but there is already quite a bit of slack time during the school year for the kids who are "getting it" a little quicker.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

But do you want to see teachers work an extra month (of school days) without extra pay?  This is the crux of the issue.*

Is that how you would want to see the good teachers who work hard treated?*

I ask bc I'm pretty sure the trustees will not be upfront with the Dallas public--a generous group of neighbors if there ever was one--that this will be done at the expense of teachers and teachers' families.

3700 will keep churning out the tests and the job titles and the $57 million spent on Chick Fil A and Dallas hotel rooms for Dallas residents, all the while telling everyone that the kids need more learning time.

I don't pay childcare; my children are not young.  But when news of this hit my campus, teachers were stunned.  How will they pay for the extra childcare on the same pay?   I hadn't even thought of this detail, but so many of my coworkers did immediately.  Because it is their reality.   

*It's hard to convey tone in a post; I am not meaning to lash out at you personally.  I am truly interested to know how the public and parents feel about the school board treating teachers with such little regard.  

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

I feel very confident that the teachers union will agree with you that the "crux of the issue" is the teachers and not the kids, so I'm not especially worried that the teachers won't be compensated.  

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

The crux of the issue is how the DISD trustees view and treat teachers, not pay.  Do we live in a city where people decide it's okay to whip teachers like rented mules while the administrators blow $57 million on food, hotels, and vendors?Unions have zero power in Texas.  The most they can do is force the districts to adhere to the contracts the districts themselves wrote.  Whether or not it goes through, the fact that trustees would suggest what amounts to a pay decrease for teachers in war-zone schools reveals the mindset that is responsible for the flight of the middle class out of Dallas.

Educated Dad
Educated Dad

Teacher,

I think you make a good argument about teacher childcare.  This is a serious consideration that should not be overlooked.  I'll get to that in a moment.

On the other side, no one has commented about the economic affect to the city if thousands of elementary school parents do not have to pay for childcare during the summer.  The price of non-public preschool is very shocking to new parents.  I don't know how low-income parents do it.  But that repeats every summer (and winter) when school is out.  The other option for most parents is for their children to remain how alone or some other unsafe environment.  That's what DISD should consider every time school is closed. 

Teacher childcare will affect teachers with younger-than-school-age children.  A small number, but again, it should not be ignored.  One suggestion would be to automatically accept children of district teachers into PreK-4 and PreK-3 programs.  That doesn't eliminate the issue, but it would reduce the number of people affected.

There are many considerations for this decision.  How will teachers be paid?  How to pay for additional operations?  How to arrange schedules (when would students graduate)?

I'm just glad DISD is having this discussion.  The other districts will be waiting to see what we decide.  If DISD does it, surrounding school districts will soon try to do it as well.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

The majority of DISD kids are bright and from responsible families and could go toe-to-toe with any child from any private school.  Many of my students are so very sharp and smart it takes my breath away.

The intentional non-learners are the problem--you're right about that.It is those kids and the constant deferring to them that has driven the middle class out of DISD.More days of school are not going to "fix" these kids.Poverty is not the cause of intentional non-learners.Race is not the cause of intentional non-learners.And yet, all students are subjected to the invalidated methods meant to address the intentional non learner.

They have deep problems that require counseling, not another  6 weeks of Algebra I.

The quality of most DISD kids is NOT the problem.The problem is "leadership" so stupid and clueless that it can't recognize intentional non-learners and deal with them.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

That was their point---DISD encourages mediocre results with "maximum failure rates," endless days  of unnecessary testing, etc... Now, they want Social Studies teachers, like me, to teach WRITING in addition to, history...with with no added days. If the state tests are how we are all valued, wel....

There is a thought out there in edu-land that we need to go back to the day sof blue-birds, red-birds grouping. Ability grouping would ensure that those behind can get caught up, and those ahead are not bored.

Instead, the mere thought of adding days in this fiscal crisis is silly.

Guest
Guest

If you're a DISD teacher, you must realize that private schools aren't dealing with *all* kids.  Anys kids they don't want to accept, they don't.  Or, if they're behavior problems, they kick them out.

So, you can't make comparisons between the results of private and public schools.  It's like comparing apples and broccil.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

Great. Now DISD's most important contribution to the public welfare is not education, but free childcare.Have you ever considered that childcare is the parent's responsibility and not the schools?

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

ok. this is not something that should be done on the backs of teachers! Good God. Is the school board really considering this. STOP. You will KILL the moral of teachers and they WILL figure out a way to quit, if you require them to work more hours for no extra pay. I hear you DISD teacher and I return the respect for what you do. this is exactly right, it's not the money, it's the disrespect. Look, DISD, want to be innovative. Spend money on early childhood development. You can take kids who don't want to learn and send them to Saturday School and Summer school and 24 hour a day school and guess what they won't learn. 

The problem is NOT the number of hours, it's what you do with the hours of instruction. LISTEN to DISD teacher, quit the curriculum tied to testing and Let our Teachers teach. You don't even have to pay them more. You  just need to let them do, what they are passionate to do, TEACH KIDS>

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I don't like the idea of DISD teachers taking the financial hit so everyone else can save money on their childcare.

It just seems that DISD teachers are expected to take hit after hit after hit.

Private schools turn out thousands of college-ready kids every year with the current calendar.  Why is that?  Obviously it is more than possible to get kids college-ready in less than 200 days.

DISD leadership is the problem.More days of crappy curric will not help.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

-I absolutely LOVE the early release incentive idea.  Reward the kids who work and are on-level; keep the rest for remediation.  -Kids who have mastered the content but who are behavior problems can stay late in another room and complete behavior management exercises.  We cannot mix behavior problems with struggling learners, though.  DISD has ignored this truth for years and this is what has driven the middle class out of the district.

-Teachers who have young children will have to pay for extra days of childcare if the year is extended.  Morath's idea that teachers shouldn't be paid extra will drive the strong teachers to other districts.  The no-one-else-will-hire-them teachers will be left behind.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

As always! So many short-sighted policies drive teachers and families somewhere else.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Even if you can persuade teachers to work longer hours for the same pay, where's the money to pay for operating the buildings, supplies, etc. going to come from?

I realize this is very much the preliminary stage, but that seems to be the standard MO at 3700 Ross.  Implement a policy, then worry about if we can actually pay for it, then find out we're short, say, $87 million.

Sia_99_98
Sia_99_98

Yep.  Exactly, Where will the money come from to pay the electric bills?

And does anybody really think teachers will work 6 more weeks for the same pay?  Or do their contracts include a longer school year? And when are the teachers supposed to go to school for continuing ed? 

East Dallasite
East Dallasite

"Surprisingly, perhaps, reps from the teachers unions weren't in attendance to outline those challenges to the board."

This is incorrect. We were there for the entire meeting from beginning to end although we had to start the meeting in the overflow room because the briefing room was full.

Adam from East Dallas
Adam from East Dallas

Wait. When are we supposed to put our kids to work in the fields?  Who is going to harvest the hay and feed the cattle during the summer?

Guest
Guest

I like the concept.  I think we all understand that true education reform includes fewer "days off" for students.  And we all know that the current calendar is outdated.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

More school days sound good to me as well.

Only a fool would believe they can pull this off without raising taxes, though. 

I would prefer that we eliminate the 20+ days of testing the kids currently endure.  The tests are not required by the state; they are required bc adults in DISD want jobs writing DISD tests.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

"I don't much like the idea of working teachers a whole lot more and not paying them more"Yeah, can't think of another way to put it, NO SHIT! Let's pile more work on teachers and not compensate them.  This is already and incredibly difficult job. Teachers already work 12 hour days. They already work every weekend. They already spend hundreds of dollars out of their pocket every year. 

this is wrong.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

If my views ever differed with yours, I would change my views to match yours.You are unfailingly kind, considerate, and fair.

Most teachers aren't greedy about money; we'd like less testing and more time to teach vs. more pay.  But teachers who have to pay for more days of childcare without any sort of increase in compensation will suffer the most. 

Good teachers will get out; kids will be left at the mercy of the ones who couldn't get out.  That's immoral.

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