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APS Mother Asks: 'Extended Day - Why not?'

Writer says rather than APS expanding the extended day schedule program into all elementary schools, equity and money are reasons the district is looking to end the program at some local schools.

Author wites, "It seems unfortunate that in a time when schools must evolve to prepare students for the high-tech 21st century, the traditional 6.5 hours, 180 days, agricultural driven school day reigns in APS' elementary schools." Credit: morgueFile
Author wites, "It seems unfortunate that in a time when schools must evolve to prepare students for the high-tech 21st century, the traditional 6.5 hours, 180 days, agricultural driven school day reigns in APS' elementary schools." Credit: morgueFile
By Michelle Constantinides

Dear BOE members,

As the state's legislature ended this session and approved the FY15 budget, local school systems were finally given enough additional funding to restore their calendars to 180 days (as mandated) by ending furloughs. In the last seven years, the school calendars of at least 2/3 of the state's systems have not included 180 days. Now, finally, the crucial seat time needed by Georgia's students can be restored in FY15.  

At the same time, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is reviewing its budget for FY15, and determining that, rather than increasing seat time for all its students, it will cut seat time at two of its most successful elementary schools. Morningside Elementary School and Springdale Park Elementary School have operated on "an extended day schedule" for years. The schedule was implemented at Morningside, and carried over to Springdale Park when it was created, to act as a pilot program alongside numerous other schools, including Centennial Elementary which will be converting to a charter school next year. Over the years, data was not collected, and the remaining schools were dropped from extended day. Last year, the same proposal of elimination was in the budget and the three elementary schools worked hard to keep it. Now, the district is seeking to save roughly $385,000 by ending extended day rather than expanding the program. The two main reasons given are equity and money.

Yes, extended day should be in all APS elementary schools. That answers equity. 

Some board members point to equity in teacher's pay. The concern is either that elementary school teachers are over paid or that middle and high school teachers are underpaid. This is a personnel matter and therefore, not relevant to the question of extended day. What is relevant is when a group of teachers works more hours than their peers teaching the same grades, they should be compensated for that time.

So, if money is the other, where will we find the funds - APS FY15 Budget? Let's start with Employee Benefits (worker's compensation) up over $2.5M. Take a look at the value of the "Professional Services, Other Purchased Services and Supplies" up over $3.3M in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), as well as "Professional Services" in IT up close to $2M. Also, in Marketing and Communications, APS has 11 employees making over $920,000 in salaries and benefits with another 8 employees in External Affairs with close to $900,000 in salaries and benefits. How are these dollars benefiting schoolhouses and providing tangible supports to students?

It seems unfortunate that in a time when schools must evolve to prepare students for the high-tech 21st century, the traditional 6.5 hours, 180 days, agricultural driven school day reigns in APS' elementary schools.

With the implementation of Common Core and the proven use of data-driven assessments, adding a mere 30 minutes to each school day results in an additional 90 hours a year of valuable time to effectively manage clear objectives as outlined in the School's Continuous Improvement Plan. Ideally, certain identified schools would likely need to increase learning time by an additional 2 hours like those successfully implemented extended day programs in APS charters, Drew and KIPP, and basically in almost every high-performing charter network in the country. When are we going to use any best practice from these centers of innovation?

Think about it, 90 hours is almost double the time students receive in APS' Summer Academy with instruction coming from the teachers and staff who know the students the best in the environment that the student knows best.

Getting schools focused on how to use time with clear expectations, will accelerate achievement and eliminate opportunity gaps, and ultimately engage all stakeholders. Implementing an extended day design around scheduling, and instructional approaches with proper staff and training will ensure a successful outcome. Of course, this means having the appropriate resources and related services for interventions in RTI, SST and Special Education with those administrators also taking part of the day to deliver services to students and offer expertise to teachers.

Providing additional time for core instruction and differentiated support to reflect each student's needs which includes academic interventions or acceleration demands more time. If the time is given to ensure instruction and interventions, academic performance will rise and perhaps even prove that certain identified schools will need additional time in the day to deliver these expectations with fidelity. Additional time can meet the needs for our most at risk students while maintaining a well-rounded education with enrichment offerings for all students to ensure that the school day is enjoyable.

Providing additional time offers opportunities for teacher collaboration to strengthen instruction and improve achievement focused on data-informed instruction, and when aligned with school-wide priorities, builds a collective and collaborative culture and environment. 
 
Providing additional time enhances the school culture to build high academics and behavioral expectations for all students and a culture of professionalism for all adults.

The District's responsibility is to provide support, leadership, strategic planning and creative problem solving for each school based on school-wide priorities. Consider taking the C&I expertise on the road and placing a team or mentor in each elementary school to ensure fidelity of learning for all students.

Our goal should be to broaden opportunities for all students! It should be obvious that more than 6.5 hours in a school day is needed. If it is not, then strong consideration should be given to pair the current two elementary schools with two of the lowest performing schools and pilot a program, collecting data this go around, that is good time spent in over 1,000 schools in our nation.

Sincerely,

Michelle Constantinides


Constantinides is a Morningside resident with 3 children in APS; one at Inman Middle School and two at Morningside Elementary.

janh999 March 26, 2014 at 08:10 AM
I could balance your budget and put the state in the black with just a few steps. You can eliminate Common Core! The non-essential assessments take to much time, money and effort away from REAL LEARNING to focus on DATA GATHERING. Next you can slash administrators pay by 10% (they do very little for the exorbitant amount that they make) and give teachers a 5% increase in their salaries because they're the ones doing all the work. Then you can eliminate at least 10% of the administrators (which in most cases outnumber the amount of teachers, which is outlandish) and let's face it most of them are unnecessary family & friend created positions. And finally, stop spending money like its a blank check. Your pens shouldn't cost as much as a pair of pants. Open buying of supplies & other necessities to discount stores & not from a specific contracted businesses that charge double or triple. Its not free money, Its tax payer money & should be budgeted as if it were your grandmother's fixed income social security check.
Meagan Ann Boeff March 26, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Why not have extended day for elementary schools? Because you are talking about 5-10 year old children. If our elementary school children attend school 8 hours per day, the same number of hours an adult works a job, what makes school different from child labor? Of course a child in school longer will learn more testable skills. But at some point, we need to support the parts of learning that aren't testable and happen outside of the classroom. We are talking about 5-10 year old children after all.
Susie Fellows March 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Speaking as a teacher who has been an APS teacher at a school with extended day for five years, I would like to offer some insight for those of you who are not teachers. Commenting on how "elementary school teachers are over paid... This is a personnel matter and therefore, not relevant to the question of extended day" I actually beg to differ. I just signed my contract for my 6th year of teaching and am making less than I did my first year of teaching (because of pay freezes and furlough days). I work three different jobs after school every day and on the weekends just so that I can continue to have teaching as my main profession. I live in someone's basement and have a very simple lifestyle because of my unfortunate salary. If you think $30,000 take-home pay a year is enough to live off of without any other jobs to supplement, I would love for someone to come live a week in my life and see if they aren't frustrated with the salary of an elementary school teacher. How are salary and extended day related? As much as I love my job, I could be making so much more money at any of my other jobs. So being underpaid and knowing I could make more elsewhere often tempts me to look at other professions where the time put in yields the appropriate monetary output. Will I continue to teach for as long as I can financially keep things afloat? Yes. Is it a huge sacrifice that every teacher wants to make? No. I know many parents love extended day, but I would also ask any of these parents if they've ever seen a classroom of children at 2:30 P.M. As much as I can conduct a song and dance to keep their attention for almost 8 hours, the amount of learning actually taking place starts to rapidly decline after 2:00 P.M. The concept of extended day might be more appropriate for middle and high schools, but children ages 5-11 cannot developmentally handle that long of a school day. I just wanted to offer another point of view, as many teachers wouldn't be as up front as I have been about how they really feel. As you're fighting the good fight for extended day, think about who's actually going to be doing the work and how that will affect their lives.
janh999 March 27, 2014 at 08:18 AM
I am not in favor of extended day & Im sorry if I made that impression. I am in favor of the administration using their heads & common sense to figure out their budget. We don't need the money going to unnecessary things, common core assessments or to extended days for younger children & Yes, teachers deserve more money. That's why I said cut administrators pay & increase teacher's pay.

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