Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The 200-Day Calendar Initiative in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Three Schools' Decision to Break the Mold

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The 200-Day Calendar Initiative in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Three Schools' Decision to Break the Mold

Article excerpt

The question of school day expansion and calendar extension in improving student learning is part of the educational discourse across the nation (e.g., Johnson & Spradlin, 2007; Silva, 2007). Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized in his interview with Richard Stengel (2009) of TIME magazine, "I think the school day is too short, the school week is too short and the school year is too short." Duncan further states in the article, "You look at all the creative schools that are getting dramatically better results. The common denominator of all of them is they're spending more time, doing more after school, doing more on Saturdays, doing more over the summer. The other big issue is that ultimately if we don't do more time, our kids are at a competitive disadvantage."

Superintendent of Elementary Schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Kevin Baxter (2011) joins in that discourse by affirming Duncan's belief in a longer school year when he says:

   The way we educate will invariably change over the coming decades.
   We at the Department of Catholic Schools recognize this and have
   always stated that the extension of the school year was not meant
   to be a panacea to address all the issues and challenges we face.
   But we do think that moving toward an extended calendar, along with
   the integration of new technology and the natural shift in
   instruction and learning, will position elementary schools in the
   Archdiocese of Los Angeles to be among the key leaders in education
   for the twenty-first century. That benefits our students, as well
   as our schools. (p. 21)

On January 27, 2011, Cardinal Roger Mahony publically announced that all 210 elementary schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would meet the requirements of a 200-day calendar by the 2012-2013 academic year. All of the schools were encouraged to extend their calendars to 200 days for the 20112012 academic year as a trial experience. Cardinal Mahony stated in his press release:

The relationship between more substantive, effective time in an academic setting and increased student performance is clear, and the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are responding to this critical national issue in order that our students grow up to be successful leaders in the global workforce. (Tamberg, 2011)

Within seven days of Cardinal Mahony's announcement mandating the 200-day calendar initiative, the requirement was changed to a recommendation. Although there is no available research to support a definitive reason for the rapid alteration of the original mandate, it appears that negative reactions at some school sites from pastors, principals, and parents may have prompted a mitigating response from the Archdiocese. Therefore, the elementary schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided their own individual involvement in adopting or rejecting the 200-day calendar initiative. As reported by the Department of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, at the time of this study, approximately 60% of the elementary schools have adopted some form of an extended calendar for the 2011-2012 school year.

Given the autonomous nature of the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as verified when the initiative was changed from a requirement to a recommendation, the researchers were curious as to how and why some schools accepted the initiative and others did not. Therefore, this study represents an initial observation of three schools that immediately decided to break the mold of the traditional calendar utilized by the elementary schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and extend their calendar for the 2011-2012 school year from 180 to 200 instructional days.

The research was conducted qualitatively within the first five months of the calendar initiative announcement from the archdiocesan leadership. The study examined one school from high, middle, and low socioeconomic demographics, all located in one of the five pastoral regions of the archdiocese. …

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