Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Release Likely at Schools; Board to Vote on Plan to Shorten 16 Wednesdays

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Release Likely at Schools; Board to Vote on Plan to Shorten 16 Wednesdays

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK, The Times-Union

After rejecting a similar proposal two years ago, the Duval County School Board appears poised to approve a plan that would end school early every other week so teachers could plan lessons, learn new skills and talk about individual students' performance.

The board will consider the proposal at its meeting tonight.

Under the plan, students would leave school 75 minutes early on 16 Wednesdays throughout the school year, or about every other week during the school year. Teachers would use that time for professional development activities. The plan has support from the administration and the Duval Teachers United.

"Every school is required to have a plan," union president Terrie Brady said. "Everything has to be focused in on student learning."

Administrators modeled the proposal after a pilot program at Fletcher High School used for the past three semesters.

At Fletcher, Principal Helene Kirkpatrick met with a small group of teacher leaders the Monday before early-release day to go over plans for the session. Teachers have used the time to talk about student work, plan new units of study and learn skills such as how to use the latest model graphing calculator, she said. Teachers also worked across grades and disciplines. In one case, Kirkpatrick said math teachers met with middle school math teachers to examine curriculum.

After the session, the group submits a written reflection and teachers sign it.

Regional Superintendent Mary Brown said the school system would focus on accountability. Each school would submit professional development plans and superintendents in the five regions would monitor their results.

But the vote comes before the School Board members before they know if Fletcher's program actually worked to improve the school's grade, a major reason behind the program. The school has stayed at a C grade on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and Fletcher won't learn its grade until later this month.

Kirkpatrick said early indications show FCAT scores have improved and the school system estimates the school will move to a B.

Brown said the board had to act now to give parents enough time to make day-care arrangements, and informing the parents took precedence over evidence the program works to boost student performance. Waiting for school grades would push the board's decision to a July meeting, and with school starting in August, Brown said that would not be enough time for parents to make arrangements. …

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