School calendar panel: video conference, live chat, blog discussion

The April 24th 8 pm live video conference and live chat takes place here in this blog post.  The follow-up blog comment thread will also be attached to this post, with the discussion open till April 30, the date of the next community meeting. See my blog post from earlier this week for more details.

9 comments to  (Including One Discussion Thread)School calendar panel: video conference, live chat, blog discussion

  • Griff Wigley

    I’ve removed the chat window from the blog post above because we didn’t have anyone use it to submit questions during tonight’s video conference.

    The archived video of the panel discussion is now available. YouTube here

    Anyone can comment here about it or ask questions of the panelists from now till April 30, when the 3rd of 3 community meetings will be held at the high school.

  • Here’s a question someone asked me, for which I don’t myself have a good answer: If Northfield adopts a modified calendar of some kind (year-round, pre-Labor Day start, late June end, etc.), what would the impact be on interscholastic activities (sports, etc.)? And what about students who transfer between Northfield and other schools? In other words, if all Minnesota schools aren’t on roughly similar calendars, doesn’t it create logistical problems at some level?

  • Thank you to all panelists for your thoughts and insights. I wish we had more perspectives represented. I understand the motivation to close the achievement gap but shifting days to August simply ensures more students have two more weeks to get ready to jump through the MCA hoop. That’s not real achievement, it’s a cynical game. We haven’t shortened summer, we’ve shifted it — summer slide would still happen to the same extent, it just wouldn’t show up the same way on tests. Closing the achievement gap needs to happen but real achievement comes from real change – instruction that’s meaningful and contextualized, teachers who are pedagogy and content experts, time to explore topics deeply.

    • Kathie Galotti

      Michelle–great post. I agree.

    • Michelle: These things become kind of a blur, but I hope that’s what I was saying at some point last night. I think it’s true that the 174 days of the calendar can be arranged differently to shorten the summer vacation, but mere mechanical shifting of time is no substitute for quality pedagogy and student engagement.

      I just don’t want us to have a system of internal segregation in which some students are relegated to summer school while others have their summer vacation and come back to AP classes in the fall, and never the twain shall meet.

      For me, the achievement gap and the need to build community are the real central issues, and the calendar may be a side issue. If we think adopting a different calendar alone will address those deeper issues, we’re kidding ourselves.

    • Chris Richardson

      Michelle – Thanks for listening in and becoming involved in this discussion. Our April 30th Calendar conversation at the High School Upper Cafeteria will ask participants to weigh in on 7 concept or “skeletal” calendars that have different starting and ending dates, breaks, and length of summer breaks. Several of these start after Labor Day so August vacations and activities are not an issue. Participants will be generating lists of benefits and concerns with each concept calendar. Then we will ask all participants to tell us if any of the concept calendars deserves further development with date specifics. We would welcome your involvement.

      We are trying to consider all of the research in this area especially about instructional time on task and the summer slide or loss of proficiency and widening of the achievement gap over the summer. We also must acknowledge that while we believe that a much broader set of assessment measures would give us a better view of how students are progressing, both the State and Federal governments continue to look at MCA proficiency as the single measure of how a school or district is performing. The House Omnibus Education Bill just passed yesterday is focused on MCA proficiency to measure achievement gap reduction and 3rd grade literacy and plans to withhold up to 4% of a district’s state aid if a district is not making adequate progress.

      Hope that you can join us on April 30th.

  • Nicki Linder

    Interesting points made last night. Griff did a nice job as moderator. Is there a way to come up with a summer lesson plan on the ipads? I know it is only 6th grade and older but, it may be a way to help with summer slide in a cost free way. Thanks for putting the talk up on YouTube- it gave me the opportunity to view the entire discussion.

  • Kathie Galotti

    So, some further thoughts.

    As I read through all the comments, I hear very plaintive voices talking about how much family time, and summer evenings, and summer-only activities like 4-H and FFA mean to individuals. To lose those things, or to lose some of those things, would be a real, substantive sacrifice. A definite and specific cost.

    The ‘gain or benefit’, which is much less definitive, and much less certain, would be improved MCA scores which might let the district avoid a 4% cut, if I’m understanding Chris’ most recent post correctly. Of course, we don’t know that simply rearranging the calendar will do this, so the cost from many families may be incurred for no gain, or for very little gain.

    Moreover, as Michelle points out, test performance gaps might narrow, but summer slide will still occur later. So the ‘benefit’ goes to the district budget, not to the families who are incurring the costs. The kids who are behind will still be behind–it’s just that gaming the test calendar will mask the gap.

    Now, add to this that families are already paying a cost, and one that looms large for some, in terms of the late start Wednesdays. Several (10, by my count) spontaneously commented in the straw poll about how disruptive these are , and how little tangible benefit they are seeing in their own children’s educational experiences.

    I think this is due in large part to the district not following up or following through on PLCs. Some PLCs are accomplishing things–and we hear about those at school board meetings. But many more PLCs (especially at the high school) are doing little that is showing up anywhere–either on improved test scores OR on kids reporting better experiences OR in parents noticing improvement in pedagogy.

    The evidence of practice reports vary a lot in quality, and MANY of the ones from the high school teams are of poor quality. Indeed, if you read the overall NHS site goals for the year they aren’t SMART goals at all! Seven years after ‘continuous improvement” policies were put into place!! Worse still, the administrators in charge of PLCs smile and shrug when these deficiencies are brought up. Then they smile nervously and try to change the subject. What they don’t do is sit some of those staff down and start making needed changes.

    The costs families have incurred and continue to incur with late starts have, with some exceptions, not yielded the widespread benefits we were promised 4 years ago. The teachers who aren’t getting on board with the PLC model aren’t being told to start using this precious resource of time more appropriately. Kids’ education is being short-changed, and the top administrators in the district don’t seem to care. Nor do the majority of the school board members, who vapidly seem to hope that real change will come by our just waiting for change.

    So now, when the district comes to us with another proposal where the costs rest on the shoulders of family, and the benefits accrue really to the reputation of the district (and not to the specific individual experiences of kids), is it really a surprise that families are fed up, and cynical about promises of ‘better education’?

    If the district wants to improve educational outcomes, let’s start by getting ALL staff members to follow best practices and to ‘deliver educational excellence’ as promised. Let’s start weeding out those few who don’t teach well, or who don’t want to use data to inform their practice, or who want to continue doing what they’ve done before solely because ‘that’s the way I’ve always done it.’

    Do that first, then come talk to families about further sacrifices you want them to bear.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Kathleen and Michelle,

    You have captured exactly my sentiments. I am not prepared to give up very real benefits to my children and our family for unclear benefits to students. I too would like to see across the board improvements in pedagogy at all our schools. Simply adding more of a sometimes average or less than average experience does not spell progress in my book. Thank you.

Current/upcoming engagement activities

Recent Comments

  • School board approves a traditional calendar for 2014-15; plans a July 8 work session on the achievement gap and ‘summer slide’ (2)
    • Kathie Galotti: I watched the video, and I was pleased to see an open, thoughtful discussion among all the board members. They weren’t waiting to take their cues from the Superintendent–they were thinking for themselves. I think...
    • Griff Wigley: Northfield News: Northfield school board puts new calendar discussions to rest
  • Vote now on the seven school calendar concepts (8)
    • Rebecca Bliss: I agree with Kathie, 100%. There could have been a thoughtful discussion about change…but the process (in Dec/Jan) showed a glaring lack of respect for parents, teachers, other community members. And now stakeholders are upset...
    • Kathie Galotti: Griff, The comments here seem to echo those from the earlier straw poll. Although the process for gathering parental input wasn’t perfect and often happened at the last minute, I do think that anyone who cared about this...
    • Griff Wigley: Kurt and P: The results of the online straw poll are now posted at: http://northfieldschools.org/c alendarconversation/2013/05/on line-straw-poll-results-seven- calendar-concepts/ Like any straw poll, it’s not a scientific...
    • P. Robinson: I think parents have a right to have this information sooner rather than later. Perhaps someone with children in the system should handle these matters since parents/children in the system are the ones impacted the most by these...
    • kurt larson: Griff, We too are disappointed on the 4:30 pm e-mail. I believe many voices will now not be heard. I am going to suggest re-sending the poll, by the district contact list again. Even if is causes a delay with the presentation of...
  • Results of Calendar Conversation process and next steps proposed by the School Board (4)
    • Nicki Linder: John Fossum had stated in the meeting to make the calendar discussion an issue for the school board election. This seems reasonable. It is our right in the democratic process to know how our candidates stand on certain issues. Chris...
    • Kathie Galotti: Rob Hardy has a very interesting commentary on some relevant research. I posted this comment there, but I hope it’s ok to repeat it here: I think it’s time to move on from the idea of making calendar changes. That ship has...
    • Nicki Linder: Noel Stratmoen did not want to commit to a traditional calendar because 40 people that showed up to the meeting wanted him to. That is inaccurate. It is also the people that participated in the straw polls, signed the petition and...
    • Nicki Linder: Griff, thanks for posting. I listened to the school board meeting. I heard all the board member comments. I am very offended and feel totally belittled by Anne Maple’s comments. She said she wants the modified calendar and the...
  • School calendar panel: video conference, live chat, blog discussion (9)
    • Chris Sullivan: Kathleen and Michelle, You have captured exactly my sentiments. I am not prepared to give up very real benefits to my children and our family for unclear benefits to students. I too would like to see across the board improvements...
    • Kathie Galotti: So, some further thoughts. As I read through all the comments, I hear very plaintive voices talking about how much family time, and summer evenings, and summer-only activities like 4-H and FFA mean to individuals. To lose those...
    • Nicki Linder: Interesting points made last night. Griff did a nice job as moderator. Is there a way to come up with a summer lesson plan on the ipads? I know it is only 6th grade and older but, it may be a way to help with summer slide in a cost...
    • Chris Richardson: Michelle – Thanks for listening in and becoming involved in this discussion. Our April 30th Calendar conversation at the High School Upper Cafeteria will ask participants to weigh in on 7 concept or “skeletal”...
    • Rob Hardy: Michelle: These things become kind of a blur, but I hope that’s what I was saying at some point last night. I think it’s true that the 174 days of the calendar can be arranged differently to shorten the summer vacation, but...
  • Northfield Schools Calendar Conversation Apr. 30 meeting results: benefits, concerns, votes (1)
    • Griff Wigley: I have a draft of a new straw poll for the calendar concepts. I’d like to put up the real thing later today/early tomorrow so I’d appreciate any feedback/suggestions.
  • Results: Northfield school calendar conversation straw poll (2)
    • Griff Wigley: Kathie, I think your summary is fair. Again, my strategy with a straw poll is to primarily get people thinking about the issue, and not so much to gather input that would help direct policy-making. Plus, I think it helps some for...
    • Kathie Galotti: I’ve read through the comments and I’m not sure that they point us in a single direction. There’s a lot of anger in many, which doesn’t surprise me, given the poor process that initially occurred with the...
  • Take the Northfield school calendar conversation straw poll (13)
    • Griff Wigley: The straw poll is now closed. 358 responses. I’m hoping to have the results posted by tomorrow.
    • Griff Wigley: Nicki, here are two PDFs from Matt Hillman with more details on yesterday’s email from the District. Let me know if you have questions. Gmail screenshot Email report
    • Griff Wigley: Nicki, I think you probably got an email reply from Chris but I’m posting it here for the benefit of everyone. Thanks for taking the time to make the suggestion. Chris wrote yesterday via email: Dear Nicole, Schools send out...
    • Nicki Linder: Griff, could you send the link to the straw poll to the individual schools to send home in the weekly school newsletter? That would help you to get higher numbers filling out the poll. Lots of people don’t know about it. They...
    • Kathie Galotti: The statistical summaries you provided were interesting, Griff, but it’s the comments where I think the really useful info is. At least in terms of provoking thought/discussion.
  • Northfield News article: Northfield Public Schools holds second school calendar meeting (1)
    • D. Moore: The suggested changes to the calendar mess up all of our LIFE PLANS with our children during the summer. In case the school needs a reminder, LIFE PLANS are more important than scoring higher on some stupid test that nobody really cares...
  • Photos and summary: March 7 calendar conversation meeting (9)
    • Griff Wigley: Okay, duly noted! I’m not likely to be part of the summer group but for those who are, don’t hesitate to raise this concern.
    • Kathie Galotti: That would work. I just resist having a Northfield school district employee assigned to each subgroup to “manage” members and the discussion. Let the school district employees all work together if they want to.
    • Griff Wigley: Kathie, my apologies for the delay in replying to you. My impressions of the process at this early stage is that it’s designed to get people more informed through BOTH the presentation of info and then discussion. Once these...
    • Griff Wigley: Here’s the link to the results of the Northfield News school calendar straw poll.
    • Kathie Galotti: Griff, I can’t. I am dreading the April 2 presentation of “research evidence” as in the past, the administrators of the school district have cherry picked random studies to support their points of view–a...
  • Help us design the Calendar Conversation straw poll (1)
    • Griff Wigley: We’ve gotten one response via our Contact Us form: I’d like to see you add an open-response item saying something along the lines of: What would an ideal calendar look like to you? What makes this ideal and why?