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Prairie City News

Op-Ed

The 2018-19 school calendar was shared with the PCM school board at the January board meeting. The school district is proposing a 90-minute late start time for Mondays.

I recently read an article in “Education Weekly” that highlighted the fact that very little time is given to teachers to collaborate, reflect on teaching strategies and analyze student learning. The article points out teachers in the United States spend approximately 27 hours per week instructing, while in higher performing nations typically spend less time on instruction, but more time on collaboration, reflecting and analyzing student work to hone their professional craft as teachers.

As a school district PCM has been studying Professional Learning Communities and the positive impact collaborative teamwork has on student learning. Research indicates there is a strong correlation of increased learning outcomes for students when teachers have time to collaborate, reflect and analyze student work.

Since the proposed calendar has become public, I have received questions asking why a late start in the mornings and not early out in the afternoons. This is a legitimate question since the school district has been used to having intermittent early outs in the afternoons. Below is a list of reasons for the late starts:

• Professional development is embedded into the daily routine for teachers and staff.

• Provides a consistent, dedicated and protected time for professional development throughout the school district.

• Having professional development weekly will allow teachers to intervene or provide extensions to students in a more timely manner for improved learning outcomes.

• Having professional development on a regular basis helps teachers/students/families more easily find a routine.

• Easier to get support from outside agencies (speakers, Heartland AEA support, etc.) when we’re not competing with the majority of Central Iowa schools that have Wednesday afternoon professional development structure.

• Reduces the likelihood a student would participate in risky behaviors. They would rather stay in bed on a late start than go “find fun,” knowing they had to be at school by 10 a.m.

• Students are calm when they come to school and finish out the regular day, as opposed to anticipating an early dismissal.

• Extra-curricular practices are consistent after school every day and professional development does not interfere or change the schedule.

• We will implement a 90-minute late start due to weather so it aligns with the 90-minute weekly late start. This will provide families with a consistent schedule. The school district would only have two schedules—regular and a 90-minute late start for professional development and weather related issues.

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