Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Strategy...Too Important to Ignore!

If you have read the State Code of Virginia and feel that Alexandria's
Pre-Labor Day proposal does not meet the State criteria,
please write a letter to the State Board of Education. Below
 is an example of a letter sent to the Board. Letters may be
sent to Madam Chairman
and Members of the Board, On March 3, 2011 the Alexandria School
Board passed a resolution to request a Pre-Labor Day school waiver
from the State Board of Education. It is of the opinion of
this citizen of Alexandria that the Pre-Labor Day waiver request
approved by Alexandria City Public Schools does not meet the
"good cause" criteria pursuant to Va. Code §22.1-79.1(B)(3).
Va. Code §22.1-79.1(B)(3) stipulates that in order for a school
district to be eligible under this waiver criteria the applying school
district must provide students with experimental or innovative programs
which require an earlier start opening. The programs listed in the
Alexandria City Public Schools' Pre-Labor Day waiver request do not 
require an earlier start opening for implementation. In fact, all 
of the programs cited in Alexandria's waiver request have already 
been implemented in schools throughout the district, and an earlier 
start date was not required for the initial implementation of the cited programs. One of the programs cited within the waiver request, Changing Education through the Arts, was implemented over seven years ago in the district and never required an earlier opening start date. Other programs cited such as Habits of Mind and Mind-Up were implemented in the district two years ago and did not require an earlier opening start date when initiated. No new experimental or innovative programs requiring an earlier start opening are specifically cited in the waiver request made available to the public by Alexandria City Public Schools. Furthermore, Alexandria City Public Schools has certified that the Pre-Labor Day waiver request should apply to all nineteen schools within the district. Again, the waiver request fails to meet the State Code criteria to permit an earlier start date for the entire district. Pursuant to Va. Code §22.1-79.1(B)(3), experimental or innovative program shall only apply to the opening date for those schools where such experimental or innovative programs are offered generally to the student body of the school. The programs cited in Alexandria's waiver request do not represent an individual experimental or innovative program which the district proposes to initiate district-wide. During the 2010-2011 school year, one school division, Charlotte County Public Schools, was granted a Pre-Labor Day waiver request for earlier start opening for all schools in the district. In that waiver request, the Charlotte County school district demonstrated it had a single program, initiated at all schools, which was new and innovative for that school year and required an earlier start opening. Alexandria has failed to cite the implementation of a similar district-wide program in their waiver request. Based on the absence of any new experimental or innovative programs within Alexandria City Public Schools which require an early start opening, and pursuant to to Va. Code §22.1-79.1(B)(3), the Virginia State Board of Education is urged to deny Alexandria City Public Schools' Pre-Labor Day waiver request. Thank you,
By Anonymous on By Popular Demand! on 3/4/11


  1. Soooo...why are people against a proposal that gives more instructional time to students in advance of AP and SOL testing?

  2. I agree with the comment above. I teach an AP class and would love more instructional time before the AP exam. That said, I don't think the VADOE will approve the waiver.

    I don't see why you're against this proposal, Voltaire. It seems like you reflexively oppose anything Sherman supports. Sherman might be a clown, but this is a good policy.

  3. I have no issues with starting prior to labor day, but I do have issues with how they wrote the waiver. It doesn't seem to comply with what the state requests, and it makes me wonder how much attention is paid to applying for the IB program. None of ACPS schools are currently approved for IB even Jefferson-Houston is yet to be listed under IBO's site as an approved IB school), yet IB courses are one of only 4 that a teacher can obtain tuition reimbursement for. In addition, when a school is approved all teachers need to be trained via IBO, and thus tuition reimbursement is moot (since the training is part of the costs associated with IB. IBO stipulates that funding needs to be a sure thing, if a school obtains approval) If the board/Sherman, or whomever wrote the waiver is also in charge of writing the applications for IB consideration, I fear our district will suddenly find themselves having numerous IB schools that we can't afford. It is the issue of paying attention to the details that worries me. It is the issue of pushing through a waiver, for all schools, when all schools aren't providing a unique program dependent on an early start. It is the issue of saying IB courses will be reimbursed when they are part and parcel of an IB school and training is provided by IBO.
    It seems programs and initiatives are essentially rammed through without true consideration...not even enough to properly write up a waiver request.

  4. I posted the letter and I am not against schools starting before Labor Day. I am however against not following Virginia State Code. It is not an issue of opinions for or against starting pre-Labor Day, it is an issue of law. Alexandria's waiver request does not meet the letter of the law. As such, it should be opposed.

  5. As a teacher who gives SOL tests, I am all for having more days to prepare students for them. I wouldn't mind a longer school day or year. I don't mind starting before Labor Day - many schools around the country do just that. I DO mind that Sherman believes he can write a waiver request that does not meet the state's requirements. I'm also very concerned that Sherman is so caught up in this one proposal that every other plan for next year is based on this waiver being approved. Is it clear to everyone that, should the waiver be denied, we will not add the extra days, and not get our raise? We will get the step increase (if you qualify for one). Mort is putting all of ACPS's eggs into one basket - and a very uncertain, almost nonexistent basket at that! I don't disagree with everything Mort does, but I frequently disagree with how he does it. We have spent hours and hours debating all of the issues related to more time and it is unlikely it will even happen! How many ways can we come up with to WASTE time?

  6. IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Is a law too, a federal one at that. Do you follow the letter of it, the State of Virgina found ACPS does not. Is your legal mind only focused on the letter of the laws you like or can use to oppose what Sherman is doing? Write a letter to State about that too. I bet you drive the speed limit too.

  7. Actually I do follow the letter of the law with IDEA and I don't speed. I am the one who mentioned my concerns with IB, if applying for that program is reflects in any way with how they filed the waiver, then I am concerned..due to the costs involved. The tuition aspect makes no sense in regards to IB.
    Further, re the waiver, it is a waste of time if you aren't doing what the state requests in terms of wanting to start early; i.e not every school in the district is implementing an innovative program that requires an early start.
    Other districts that have done this, including ACPS used it in a few schools, like year-round. The only district wide early starts are those areas where they have a huge number of snow days year to year.

  8. Surely since you rightfully expect teachers within Alexandria to follow laws like I.D.E.A., you would expect the entire district to meet the criteria of the State Code? This isn't about speed limits, jay walking, or the current Superintendent, it is about abiding by criteria laid out in Virginia State Code. The waiver request passed by the Alexandria School Board fails to meet such criteria and as such should be opposed.

  9. Surely you are not so naive as to think that the extra time will be used for instruction? It will only make room for more meetings, more "professional development" and other clever ruses to keep us out of the classroom. I don't see where the students' year will be any longer. Besides, we did that a few years back by going from 180 to 183 student instructional days. Clearly it was a howling success.

  10. Do you truly believe that the professional development meetings are designed just to keep you out of the classroom?

  11. Most are held during our planning periods. By design or not, they keep us from being as effective as we could be in the classroom if we were allowed to plan during that time. Most of the meetings I have attended were a complete disaster because either the technology didn't work and there was no back-up plan for going forward without it; the "trainers" hadn't been; the information given was incomplete or incorrect and required an additional session to straighten out the mistakes; or simply irrelevant or redundant.

  12. About how much time, or how many sessions is each teacher required to attend? How many hours has the average teacher spent on professional development this school year?

  13. At the elementary level, teachers attend a half day of "planning" every three weeks. They are out of the classroom with subs running the show. I'll let you work the math on that one.

    For "innovative" and "experimental" programs training, in some cases teachers have been out of the classroom for over 10 school days. That is two full weeks in the classroom. Combine that with writing program training, skillful teacher training, etc. and you have some teachers who are pushing three full weeks outside of the classroom.

    More importantly, how often are principals, assistant principals, literacy coaches, math coaches, and reading specialists out of the school? When I started working at ACPS, I had the principal stop by the grade level at least once each day. Now, I am lucky to see the principal once a week. And coaches, I never see them. There is much talk about the money spent in the new coaching model but there appears to be absolutely zero investment.

    Much of what is presented can be read by teachers on their own time. Give teachers their time back and let them use it where it is needed, with their students.

  14. So if you could set the policy, how many hours of professional development should be required/needed?

  15. As with many things, its about quality rather than quantity.

  16. Before you can hypothetically create an amount of professional development, you need to effectively answer the question: What is the purpose of the professional development?

  17. Good question, what is the purpose? Isn't it to keep professionals in step with current and new methods? Some professional development is needed. The type and the amount I hope is the only debate.

  18. If you are a true professional, aren't you already in step with the methods which positively impact student learning?

    Current and new methods are two totally different things. Current may be working, may not be. New may be effective, may not be. New may not even be new, may just be something repackaged and thrown together to meet the latest fad in education.

    And so what if you have professional development, if the teachers are not in the classroom to implement it, what is the point?

    Public education in Alexandria has the luxury of almost three months without students. Use that time to have teachers attend professional development. Teachers will receive the development they feel they may need, and the development will not take teachers out of the classroom.

  19. Professional development is needed and required for recertification. I have been teaching for 20 years. I managed to get a Master's Degree, take multiple college level courses and earn more than double my required recertification points without EVER being pulled out of my classroom until Dr. Sherman came to ACPS. I did all of my professional development after school and on weekends. I was able to select courses and workshops that met my needs. I actually enjoy learning new strategies and attending useful professional development.

    In the past two years I have missed more than 20 days of school for professional development in areas I did not need. For example - during the 10 years that I've taught fifth grade writing, my students have a 98% passing rate on the writing test. I think that statistic demonstrates that I must do an adequate job of teaching writing. However, I have had to attend Lucy Calkins writing training (and been taught the EXACT SAME THING) FIVE TIMES! Does this seem effective to anyone?

  20. Your writing is superb though.

  21. Nope it doesn't sound effective. Have you suggested an opt out option? Teachers who think they already know everything that will be taught could opt out?

  22. Opting out isn't an option. Even reading specialists who have recently obtained their masters degree that was focused on reading, have to take ACPS's reading course..which doesn't add any information that wasn't gleaned from the courses via the masters program(36-40 credits worth depending on university).