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Maybe the Chatham school board should have considered the timing of the AP exams

By Mia Munn
Posted Sunday, August 8, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - The school administration presented a draft calendar at the January 11 board meeting.

From the agenda item:

A broad-based committee comprised of an administrator, a teacher, a classified employee and a parent from each school met in December to create a draft 2010-2011 calendar. Due to the restrictions placed upon districts by House Bill 1464 and the General Statute115C-84.2, the committee created and reached consensus on one draft. The restrictions include: 180 student days; 215 calendar days; begin no sooner than August 25 and end no later than June 10 for students; not have Veteran's Day as an instructional or staff workday, and five protected workdays for teachers, one at the beginning of the school year and one after each academic quarter to allow teachers opportunities to complete instructional and classroom administrative duties. Additionally, the calendar must have the same or equivalent number of holidays as designated by the State Personnel Commission. The Board of elections has also requested that we schedule a workday on the first Tuesday in November when possible. The committee was further charged to include at least five (5) inclement weather days and six (6) Early release Staff Development Days. The consensus draft which is attached for comparison purposes was distributed to schools for feedback.

The BOE draft calendar for your review is also attached and includes recommendations made by schools when the recommendations were in keeping with the requirements. The calendar meets all of the requirements and necessary considerations. In an attempt to meet the request of the Board of Elections, include 180 student days and address staff development needs, the first Tuesday in November is designated as an Early Release Staff Development day. The Early Release Staff Development Days are generally scheduled on Wednesdays as requested by the committee. The differences in the two calendars include: September 6 was changed from an optional day to a holiday; the optional day was moved to Memorial Day; six weeks grading period in April was moved from April 18 to April 19 so that each period can have 31 days. December 20 was changed to a required annual leave day and December 22nd a holiday to accommodate 12 month employees. With recommended changes from the board, the draft calendar will be sent to schools and posted on the website to solicit feedback for thirty days. The draft calendar will be brought back to the board on February 15, 2010 for approval.

I made this comment in Chatlist #3624:

The draft 2010/2011 calendar will be posted on the district website and at the schools until the Feb 15 board meeting, at which time the calendar will be voted on for next year. There is very little flexibility in the calendar because of state requirements. The key issue is that Easter if very late. If spring break is Good Friday through the week after Easter, then AP exams will start the first day back, May 2. An alternative favored by staff of only two of the 16 schools is to have spring break the week before Easter through Easter Monday, giving the kids four school days before AP exams start. If you have an opinion, weigh in before Feb 15.

The calendar (the first of the two in the agenda item) was posted on the district website for more than 30 days. I don't know if anyone gave their feedback to the board during that time, but no one spoke at the two board meetings where they could have made public comments on this.

From the Feb 15 school board agenda item:

The draft 2010-2011 calendar is presented for approval for the upcoming school year. The draft has remained on-line and in the schools for more than 30 days for review and comment by staff and public. School-based administrators were asked to seek feedback from their staffs and parent communities. Additionally, an electronic survey was sent to all users for individual feedback (see attached survey results). From the survey, 652 responses were received, a return rate of 63.36% (statistically reliable). Four options werepresented and the respondents were given an opportunity to submit comments. 337 or 51.69% of the respondents selected the recommended draft which includes the optional and inclement weather days as April 22 and May 30. 46.32% chose attending school on Saturdays in lieu of April 22 and May 30. Additionally, 43.40% preferred that Spring Break remain during the week of April 25-29 as opposed to 42.18% for the week of April 18-22. 12.88 % preferred the observance of Spring Break in March. Other feedback received included: starting school earlier, administering exams prior to the Winter Break, moving the protected workday closer to the end of the 6 or 9 weeks grading period, observing one grading period and observing Spring Break in March. Starting school earlier is not an option; therefore, exams cannot occur prior to the Winter Break. The protected workday is placed as close to midway points of the two grading periods as possible. For example, if the protected day occurs immediately after the six weeks period, then it will occur three weeks before the end of the nine weeks period for K-8 schools. Moving to one grading period is a decision that has to be made prior to the development of a calendar and the question from a parent regarding moving Spring Break to March was included in the survey. Based on the feedback and the survey results, CCS Calendar Committee's recommendation or the draft calendar presented at the January 11, 2010 BOE meeting is submitted for your approval.

I think the board should have considered the timing of the AP exams more - there was a little discussion, but the board unanimously decided to go with this calendar because the administration recommended it and the plurality of survey respondents chose it. (That detail isn't in the minutes, but I was at the meeting and remember the discussion.) As the mother of sons who took many AP exams, I understand that this is a bad idea - I would have moved spring break a week earlier. (I am also not a fan of pure block schedules because of AP exams, as well as the effect on math and foreign language.)

In November/December, school committees will develop the 2011-12 calendar. If you are concerned, ask your principal if you can participate. At the January 10, 2011 school board meeting (6pm, Central Office in Pittsboro), the 2011-12 draft calendar will be presented.If you are concerned, come to the Jan 10 meeting or to the February 14, 2011 board meeting (6:30pm Central Office in Pittsboro) and make your comments.

Mia Munn is a former educator who ran for the Chatham County school board in 2008.

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Maybe the Chatham school board should have considered the timing of the AP exams

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