Monday, March 3, 2014

March snow and spring break

Heath Morrison and the school board are riding a wave of good feelings after last week's decision to save spring break.  But a March snow could shake things up again.  Morrison made it clear that any more closings will result in spring-break makeup days.

Some have asked why.  The state's minimum of 1,025 hours leaves plenty of wiggle room.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools started with 180 days and 1,080 instructional hours;  giving up two days leaves the district at 1,068,  according to the presentation to the board.

It's looking like spring, but ...

The answer? Morrison isn't willing to give up any more days of class, even if the law allows it.

"The extra hours in our academic calendar were put there to benefit students,"  Morrison said in his weekly report to employees.  "The winter storm in February was an extraordinary event and we felt a unique response was justified  –  but we won’t use any more of our additional instructional time for snow days this year. Academic achievement is always our first goal as a district and we don’t think using more hours for snow days is in the best interests of our students."

The hours-vs-days discussion has highlighted another confusing aspect of our state calendar law. (I've always been perplexed by why the state controls the calendar at all,  and if it's driven by the tourism industry,  why those folks consider it a benefit to crunch summer vacation into one uniform stretch.)  When state lawmakers bumped the required days up from 180 to 185,  there was a lot of talk about demanding more class time for kids.  Then,  faced with protests from school districts,  they added the hours as an alternative.  CMS,  like many districts,  stuck with a 180-day calendar.  I hadn't done the math before,  but since CMS seems to be using six hours as the instructional time  (schools are open for seven)  it looks like the district could actually cut back to 170 days under state law.  So ... more,  less,  whatever?

Meanwhile,  CMS' calendar planners start work on the 2015-16 schedule today.  They'll invite parents,  employees and other interested folks to join them for meetings from 4-6 p.m. March 17 and 24 in the cafeteria of Metro School, 405 S. Davidson St.


Anonymous said...

Oh no, please don't make our children learn for any more days than the state's minimum requirements! That would be outrageous!

Dr. Morrison, now you're just making yourself look a little silly. 2 days is OK, but 3 (or 4 or 5) is not? The only correct number was 0.

Ann, to your point, 'why does the state control the calendar AT ALL?' It's the state that has the compulsory school attendance law. I would agree though that the tourism industry shouldn't have squat to say about school attendance.

Schools may be 'open for seven', but there is that pesky interruption called lunch (1/2 hour), and I suspect some recess and other 'non-instructional' time.

And to all those teachers who say "nothing is learned in the last week of school anyway"...that may be true, but that would be true no matter when the last week of school is. And if no one is learning anything, whose fault is that?

Shamash said...

Yeah, isn't it funny how we let the farming and tourism industries set our school calendars for all these decades?

That's true leadership from the bottom.

Yes, our children are so important.

From tilling the fields to filling the tills.

And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

From tilling the the fields to filling the tills of ……

Anonymous said...

Well, our kids don't till fields anymore, probably would do them some good.

Anonymous said...

I think your math or assumptions may be off... Unless i'm mistaken the 180 days includes half days so it's possible that at 180 days they are much closer to the minimum number of hours than your math shows which might make sense why they don't have so many days banked that could be missed for snow/weather/etc.

Wiley Coyote said...

False outrage.

How many decades have we been using the 180 day calendar?

Does anyone really believe that going to school more days during the year is going to make a significant difference in the state of public education?

All I have seen here are parents whining about Little Johnny having to make up days on the weekend or spring break, not from industry.

From what I have read, year round schooling shows very little benefit, with most of the small benefit going to low income students.

So for all you folks wanting to hammer Republicans in Raleigh, the calendar was virtually the same for decades before Republicans took over.

False outrage....

Anonymous said...

9:27, I'm not aware of CMS having half-days. Do they? The presentation didn't mention anything about subtracting hours for the late starts or early dismissals.

Wake has already announced it will dismiss three hours early today. I'm not hearing anything like that from CMS, but how amusing would it be if the first meeting of the calendar committee got delayed by bad weather!

Unknown said...

The historic records for March are quite clear. It snows in March.

Here are some highlights:

March 2, 1927___10.4"
March 4, 1931____4.7"
March 9, 1960____7.6"
March 24 1983__10.3"
March 25 1971___5.4"

It snowed 3 consecutive weeks in March, 1960
March 3 (1.5")
March 9/10 (7.6")
March 15 (trace)

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

So it's going to be very cold in the morning CMS, does that mean another delayed start?

Anonymous said...

12:16, just spoke to the public information office and they say there has been no talk about a delay. So, unlikely but not impossible. We'll certainly let folks know if there is a delay.

Anonymous said...

A point of disagreement. Year round does work very well and did explicitly with the original Bruns Avenue German Immersion program. 180 days yes, but three week breaks with a five week summer were extremely important to language acquisition. I don't remember if your son went through that with his language but the scheduling was a great alternative to student/parent/teacher burnout.

Anonymous said...

The high schools get out about 1230 on four exam days each semester, so that would lessen the total for high schools by 14 total...for hs only. Wiley, the republicans state that they are for less centralization. The calender is the litmus test for this. Why shouldn't counties make their own calender as long as they get the time in?

Wiley Coyote said...


From Education Week:

...research that attempts to measure the influence of year-round education on student achievement is inconclusive and contradictory. Reviews of the existing literature on this subject generally contend that the achievement of children in year-round schools is as good as, or slightly better than, that of their peers in traditional schools (Palmer & Bemis, 1999; Kneese, 1996). However, a number of recent studies have found no significant connection between year-round schooling and improved student achievement. For example, a review of 39 studies found that modified school calendars have a very small, insignificant, effect on achievement (Cooper, et al., 2003). But the review also states that the students, parents, and staff that participate in year-round schools are quite positive about the experience.

Also from Education Week:

Bradley McMillan, from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, examined achievement differences between year-round and traditional-calendar students using data for more than 345,000 North Carolina public school students. He found that achievement in year-round schools was no higher than in traditional schools (2001). A much smaller study compared the mathematics performance of 44 students in 5th and 6th grades on a year-round track with that of 40 students on a traditional track in the same school. Again, there were no significant achievement differences between the groups.

My son's Japanese and Spanish magnet programs were within the traditional school year each year for four years.

Wiley Coyote said...


I don't care what the calendar is or who has control over it as long as it is optimal and implemented with verifiable data.

I don't believe going to school more days is going to make any significant difference in the long run than does taxpayer pre-K.

CMS' problems don't lie with the calendar or bell schedule.

Anonymous said...

I agree.. The only reason the Ivory Tower folks want summer gone is for the children who sit around or get in trouble all summer. Its more social engendering.

Anonymous said...

Engineering, dam auto correct

Coco Puffs said...

Wiley, the studies you cite are over 10 years old. I bet I can go out and find studies which show the benefits of year-round school.

I know from my perspective, and with a child who has a learning disability, it would be much easier for my kids to stay engaged if we had year round school.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 children and a wife that stays home. I am a teacher for CMS. Money should not be an issue with summer enrichment. The libraries offer so many low/no cost options. We have parks and imaginations. No excuses.....

Anonymous said...

The NAACP is working hard meeting with Heath and politicians regularly trying to get year round and 8 to 5 schools so parents(?) are relieved of any responsibility to raise their children.

Just a little common sense folks. Parenting is not easy. It requires time and effort. You only get better being parent by being "the" parent. The more limp wristed liberal and social engineers cry for more government programs for children, the more harm they are doing to the children. They are only doing this for the selfish parents and get their names into the mass media about how "noble" they are.

Wiley Coyote said...


It's the same as climate change. For every "study" proving it, there is another one disproving it.

In many articles, teachers seem to like year round schools so they can get breaks throughout the year. I wonder how teachers really feel, especially those who have jobs during the summer, since they will probably make the same salaery year round if they go to that type calendar.

45 days of school, 15 days off with holidays built in, 90 days and 30 days off, which plan do you want to go with?

Do you want to add total days of instruction per year instead of just spreading out the 180 days?

As I said, it doesn't matter which way we go. Pick one that is the best scenario, implement it and move on.

Anonymous said...

To many teachers rely on part time jobs to work 8-5.

Anonymous said...

My family would not make it without my summer employment. The pool companies would be in trouble.

Anonymous said...

7:14 and 7:18, I think this is what Project LIFT is all about. Once the private giving is over (to supplement the teachers' income), there will be a huge campaign trying to "guilt" the politicians to raise taxes to support just this one area of schools again.

And if there is any opposition, the race card will be played and trumpeted by the Charlotte Observer.

We all know the graduation rate increase was a phony because of the lower standards for graduation.

Unknown said...

TO: Anon 7:51P

Subject t: L.I.F.T. in three years

L.I.F.T may well be a financial burden in the future. But if the situation is handled correctly, maybe the state will see fit to grant those nine schools their own school district. CMS almost made this happen when it joined Leandro I and II years ago.

But before such a bold move could be taken, the public has to be made to see what L.I.F.T. really is.

It is mostly a race against time to find a better way to get students to accept education. When I say accept what I mean is that for many of these children they have been raised in a culture that neither appreciates it or believes that even with it the chances for good futures are limited.

L.I.F.T. can never survive as a part of CMS. Just as KIPP could never be a part of CMS. Its need for cash resources will always create envy. Its mediocre successes will never be seen as great strides. L.I.F.T. is just a poor fit for CMS but a great fit for its immediate community. It needs to be the 116th school district.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...


Explain how LIFT could "be its own district".

In the year BF (Before LIFT), other schools in the area were just as underperforming with the same income/ethnic makeup. yet these schools haven't received a dime nor the attention LIFT schools have.

Any attempt to carve LIFT out of CMS or tax fund it any farther out than its stated run should be met with fierce resistance.

Anonymous said...

Okay Bolyn, here's 2 places where I disagree with you. One with Leandro, CMS got its, *** handing to it. The judge saw clear their attempt to get on this gravy train. These school districts are getting 8k to 10k from the state, just the state and totaling them all together, do not serve a total of students compared to anything near the FRL numbers CMS has. The state saw this as a cheap way to settle the long running case when they knew there was no chance of appeal.

And second and more importantly, LIFT does not have a chance of being LEA 116 without North Mecklenburg and South Mecklenburg getting a chance to split off. If the legislature get forced to address LIFT, the outcry will be so great from these parties, it will not be ignored. It is becoming all too clear to political strategists that sometimes there is too big to be effective.

Since there will be no objective, outside auditors of LIFT, much will be made of the unsubstantiated claims they will make.

Anonymous said...

With the load of (pick your own noun ) that the state AND CMS are putting on teachers with this new literacy program there will be a mass of people leaving the profession at year-end, if they make it that long. In addition to Read to Achieve there is the Lucy Calkins reader's workshop. Ask teachers what happened to her writing program that was rammed down their throats six or eight years ago. Why can't they just let teachers teach? And who in their right mind would take a job in third grade?

Anonymous said...

10:24, we all know what the 800 lb gorilla in the room is. Sadly, the teachers are caught in the middle of this battle. This demographic demands to be carried around on a silver platter because of 200 years ago. And the liberal mass media is so guilt ridden, it can not report the news with a bias. They refuse to acknowledge more damage has been done to this demographic than if you just turned your back on them and made them "get with the program".

Unknown said...

TO: ANON 9:44

Do doubt CMS had the worst possible outcome from Leandro. But that doesn't remove CMS' intent: which was to get Low Wealth funding.

As to your second point, the isolation of those nine schools makes moot the need to split. But I do understand the political pressures to carve-out new political boundaries.

My goal in reminding the public about a possible 116th district with special state funding is only two fold:
1. Continue the L.I.F.T experiment after five years.
2. Even out education spending in Meck Co.

What I see is something similar to the prototype school building construction, but for what goes on inside the walls. With those nine schools on their own unique, and pretty exciting program, the remaining schools would all be more like each other and then CMS could truly have neighborhood schools of equal content and quality.

It's a big dream.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Teaching in NC is awful, your better off in Mississippi..

Anonymous said...

With all the 800lb gorillas in those rooms, maybe CMS should have hired Jane Goodall as superintendent.

Anonymous said...

9:42 good one!