Plans to extend school day by 10 mins. in the works.
By John McLoone
PRESCOTT – With the early release to allow for teacher collaboration time paying dividends in academic success this year, the Prescott School Board at its meeting Wednesday, June 15 moved to include the program in its ovcial academic calendar for the 2022-23 school year.
Under the plan, every Monday, students will be released 90 minutes early. Teachers and stau will then have scheduled “Collaboration Time” during the workday as a method to improve student outcomes. Administration has worked with the school board on the plan since December, and families were surveyed twice over the last couple months to ouer their input.
The board discussed the plan at length at its May meeting and ordered a second survey done. The initial survey asked parents what day they would prefer for early release and didn’t question them on their thoughts on whether they support early release.
Teacher collaboration time in the school day schedule is not new in the school district. The board gave the go-ahead in February for a pilot program that ran for the remainder of the school year, with an hour weekly district- wide early release.
The Prescott School District is set up as a Professional Learning Community, which data shows leads to gains in student achievement. Teacher collaboration time to make sure student needs are met is an integral part of the PLC concept. School ovcials point to higher Malone Intermediate School math scores and the district’s second-best ever ACT scores from high school juniors as testimony
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to the fact that the early release program is working.
Within the current school day, there are 15 minutes at the primary level and 30 minutes at the secondary lev- els of common time for stau to potentially meet, though that time is also used for direct help of students, according to the district. Licensed district stau by contract have an eight-hour workday, including one prep period and a duty-free lunch.
According to the proposal, other nearby districts that have set teacher collaboration time are Hudson, River Falls, St. Croix Central, New Richmond and Boyceville, as well as many other districts statewide. The collaboration time is structured, in that there is a set agenda and minutes are taken. Administrators also participate and plan the sessions.
While many surveyed preferred Friday for the early release day, Monday was chosen because it allows for ideas to be implemented during the course of the week, without a weekend break in between.
Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza labeled the collaboration time as a vital tool to continued improvement in academics at PSD.
“We are fortunate to have incredibly talented and passionate educators willing to collaborate and innovate – beyond the norm, even in unsettling times. Collaboration time is well documented as a key driver to success within the education literature and can be a game changer for stau and student outcomes," said Spicuzza.
A district statement on the plan reads, “A 90-minute early release on a weekly basis will allow all instructional stau to meet in collaborative teams in order to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of individual students; teams are often comprised of grade-level or content alike stau, along with interven tionists, specialists, school psychologists or counselors. It also allows educators to discuss academic standards, progress monitoring and share instructional strategies on how to teach, while honing their craft. Through a continuous improvement model we are translating our academic model into a reality: PSD is a place where ALL students can achieve to high levels.”
Parents surveyed did raise questions on transportation and child care, and the dis- trict is still working to final ize options and plan.
“With the proposal’s adoption, there are numerous logistics yet to be resolved regarding the implementation process: busing, child care and accountability measures. We will continue to communicate with our fam- ilies as we refine the imple mentation plan,” according to the statement.
“We are working hard to review survey comments so that we minimize the implementation hardships to families and squeeze every ed- ucational benefit we can for students out of this time as we refine our processes," Di rector of Teaching & Learning Michael Kosmalski said.
The district is working on a schedule to add 10 minutes to the school day to compensate for the early release time and to continue to meet required instructional hours set by the state Department of Public Instruction. Of parents surveyed, 28.7 percent were in support of the school day extension, while 26.2 percent opposed it. The largest group indiuerent to the proposal – was at 45.1 percent.
The survey showed that 50.7 percent of parents supported the early release plan, while 35.3 percent of parents opposed it and 14 percent were indiuerent.
The school district statement concluded, “Harvard Professor Richard Elmore states, ‘Building collective teacher evcacy – by provid ing teachers with opportunities to build instructional knowledge and collaborate with colleagues, with feedback that is insightful and with a vision of success in which teachers are treated as sources of expertise – will allow leaders to transform their schools into organizations with strong collective evcacy and improved stu dent performance.’ “