Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A "Balanced Calendar" for Schools

My school system is considering a balanced calendar for next year. That means that there would be two weeks between quarters during the school year, and then about eight weeks off during the summer. There would still be the same number of school days in the year as there are now.

It sounds like a great idea to me. During those two week breaks, children who are struggling would have the opportunity for additional help, other children could be involved in enrichment activities, families could take vacations during off-season times, and it would provide teachers with a little breathing room between quarters - breathing room that will undoubtedly be used by many teacher to help struggling learners and for further professional learning.

After polling the teachers and the parents, the results are almost tied. Elementary teachers and parents tended to be in favor of the balanced calendar. Middle school and high school teachers and parents tended to not want it. Here are the official numbers: 8,641 people polled were in favor of it, 8,962 were not in favor of it, and 1,657 were undecided or had no opinion. With those numbers, the balanced calendar most likely will not be implemented next year - at least not county-wide. There is some talk of trying it with clusters of schools. Discussions will resume after the holidays.

I am disappointed. People who have been in a district with a balanced calendar have told me that they like it - a lot! I haven't had the opportunity to talk with anyone who has experienced a balanced calendar who didn't like it. The second-hand arguments I've heard against it are that it interferes with high school athletics and band, and that it could possibly have a negative effect on college entrance exams.

I want to understand both sides from people who have actually experienced an alternative school calendar. My questions are: What do you think of a balanced calendar? Have you worked in a district that had such a calendar? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of a balanced calendar?

I've given my input to the calendar committee, and it will be interesting to see how this evenly-split issue is handled.

See THIS earlier post about the topic, and then a RESPONSE to that post. I also found THIS link that describes a study done this year on the pros and cons of the balanced calendar - very informative.

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