Extending school day or year won’t be mandatory, Wichita school district officials say

05/01/2013 8:46 AM

05/01/2013 7:56 PM

Measures to increase learning time at Wichita schools likely will include optional programs such as after-school tutoring, Saturday school and summer school, not mandating a longer school day or school year for all students, district officials said Wednesday.

“As a priority school, we’ve got to meet our kids’ needs not only the traditional way but also outside the box,” Terrell Davis, principal at Truesdell Middle School, said during a contract negotiation session.

Truesdell offers a before-school program called Pump It Up, where students can get extra help from 7 to 7:50 a.m. each school day, Davis said. The school also plans to offer summer school this June and July from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“We have targeted some kids who really need that extra intervention, but it’s open to the entire student body,” he said.

As part of its waiver from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, Kansas identified 33 of its lowest-performing Title 1 schools – 13 in Wichita – as “priority schools.”

The schools must submit plans by June 30 that detail how they plan to address seven “turnaround principles” intended to boost student performance.

Most already offer before- or after-school tutoring. Some offer remedial help or enrichment on certain Saturdays during the school year. At least nine plan to hold free classes or tutoring sessions over the summer.

Tom Powell, general counsel and lead negotiator for the district, told union representatives Wednesday that schools aren’t yet clear on the specifics of the extended-day and extended-year options but that they likely wouldn’t alter the current 190-day teachers contract.

Teachers who choose to participate in the programs receive supplemental pay from funds targeted to those schools, Powell said.

“I don’t think we have all the answers or know what we’re fully going to be required to do at this time,” he said.

But “we weren’t talking about an extended year for the entire student population … and we weren’t talking about an extended day for all students.”

Chris Wendt, principal at Cloud Elementary, said his school has expanded its after-school tutoring program from two to three days a week this year and could add another day next year. His staff also is considering offering summer programs.

“I’ve had several people respond that they would be interested in doing it,” Wendt said. “We just need to meet together, come up with some ways we want to make that happen and roll that out to our parents and students.”

Also during Wednesday’s session, the teams discussed a district proposal that would require teachers to keep written, detailed lesson plans.

The proposal, which echoes one floated last year, would require daily plans that at a minimum include content objectives, literacy objectives, components of the district’s instructional model (for example, an opening, work time and closing) and references to pacing guides or standards.

Currently, lesson plans are “required only in sufficient detail to provide guidance to the teacher.” Teachers also must make lesson plans and any other teaching materials available to their principals upon request.

Shirley Rose, a science teacher at Christa McAuliffe Academy, asked: “As the board was looking at … having more detailed lesson plans, did they look at ways to provide teachers with adequate plan time to actually accomplish this, in addition to everything else?”

Powell said current funding levels likely won’t allow the district to add planning time.

“The problem is, that costs money. … And then we look at the state to fund it, and that’s not happening,” Powell said. “So, yeah, the board’s considering that. That’s one of the reasons the board is involved in the Schools for Fair Funding lawsuit.”

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