Chesterfield School Adopts Year-Round Schedule

Bellwood Elementary School in Chesterfield County is switching to a year-round schedule — nine weeks on, three weeks off — for the 2018-19 school year. The new schedule will eliminate the long summer break during which students forget much of what they learned the previous school year.

“Research demonstrates that summer learning loss is a critical issue, especially for economically disadvantaged students,” wrote Superintendent James Lane in addressing the Chesterfield School Board. “One study found that low income students made similar achievement gains … during the school year, but the widening of the achievement gap between the two groups occurred over the summer… One way to combat these issues is year-round schools.”

But the change has gotten some push back from parents, reports WTVR Television.

“I’ve got five students in three different schools in the Chesterfield district and right now 65 of those days are conflicted schedules so it’s going to be very hard,” said Bellwood parent Elizabeth Young. “If it were county-wide it may be a little easier to step into, but doing it with just this one school, it’s going to be hard for a lot of families in this area that depend on their older kids for child care.”

The pilot project will cost $125,000 per year, mainly for staffing and transportation.

Bacon’s bottom line: Wake County, N.C. has a year-round school schedule, and my sister-in-law’s family seemed to like it. I don’t know whether or not the shorter breaks improved my nephews’ academic retention, but they seem no worse for the wear. The key to a worthwhile pilot program, of course, is to set it up as much as possible like a scientific experiment — measuring key attributes before, during, and after the school year to see if the putative benefits meet expectations. Conducting a pilot without putting proper measurements in place is worse than useless, it’s a waste of money.

As long as school districts design their pilot programs to learn from them, they should not be afraid to experiment and should not be afraid to fail. If you never fail, one learns little and never progresses.

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13 responses to “Chesterfield School Adopts Year-Round Schedule

  1. Why do educators believe they are entitled to work a 9 month year? So the kids can go back to the farm and help harvest the food? Policemen don’t work 9 months a year. EMTs don’t work 9 months a year. Accountants don’t work 9 months a year. Why do teachers work 9 months a year?

    Why 9 week in school then three weeks off? Why not 12 week on and no weeks off? You know, kind of like the rest of us have been doing for decades. Teachers and kids get holidays, sick days and vacation days. In total, about 40 – 50 workdays off per year. You know, like everybody else in working society.

    Teachers may say that their salaries are predicated on a 9 month work-year. Fine, pay them more. Start by ending all of Virginia’s company and industry specific tax breaks. Let the General Assembly re-enact those tax breaks on a case-by-case basis. They can either fund education or fund tax breaks. Then, tax campaign contributions at 25%. Why should politicians get free money to spend on lavish dinners and private clubs without kicking some back for … wait for it …. the children! the children!

    Keep the college students in class 12 months a year too. Smart students graduate in 3 years. Everybody pays less in room and board and needs less in student loans. Gosh, where are those indoctrinated liberal college students with this simple idea?

  2. Who would work the farms? (That is what the schedule goes back to….)

    For most people the 52-week, 40 hours a week work schedule works out to 2,080 hours per year. The teacher who I know best (who is substituting today for very little pay) seldom put in as few as 2,080 hours in a contract year.

    • I don’t work a 40 hour week either. I have to leave for Spain tomorrow so I can be bright and chipper for an 8am meeting on Monday in Madrid. I’ll spend most of Sunday finalizing the presentation in Spain. Life goes on.

      I’ll stipulate that teachers work hard. Emergency room physicians work hard too. Lots of people work hard. Why do we only teach 9 months a year? Because kids had to get back to the farms for harvest? Really? Are kids a mainstay of farm labor these days?

      This is hopelessly inefficient. Our schools sit empty 25% of the year. Our students forget much of what they learned as they take 3 months off. I don’t know if most teachers work summer jobs or just take the time off. Either way, would they be willing to work 12 months a year (with holidays, sick days and vacation) for a 33% raise?

      Yes, it would be expensive. But if education is the most critical factor for the economic success of the United States why wouldn’t we consider this? We don’t need new schools, we son’t need new buses, we don’t need new teachers. We just need to run what we already have “a little hotter”.

      If high schools ran 12 months a year the kids would get 36 months of education in 3 years. Today, it takes 4 years. Under the 12 month plan the students could:

      1) Graduate in 3 years and head off to college, military, whatever
      2) Study more advanced subjects in order to get into a better college, cut down college time, etc
      3) Move to a vocational study program (ideally in a work / study scenario)

      Doesn’t it seem bizarre that education always comes up as the #1 answer to problems at the state and local level but we choose to run our educational system for only 75% of the year?

  3. Basically I agree with you, the summer break is completely inefficient in the post-agricultural economy. I seldom wasted mine and my kids didn’t waste theirs. Plenty of kids do finish high school or even college in less than four years — the summer programs are there — but the system doesn’t encourage it and certainly doesn’t require it. Too much invested in the status quo.

  4. ya’ll are missing the point as to why….

    If they are right and the results confirm it – it could change the way we think about educating at-risk kids and ultimately their success later on …

  5. How about measuring outputs? Fairfax County has been exceeding both federal and state requirements for low-income kids for many years now. They get substantially more resources than the average student receives. It’s reached the point where a number of parents from more affluent areas have pulled their children out from public schools because of excessively large class sizes.

    Conceptually I don’t have trouble with putting more resources to help low-income kids and to expect that some will respond extremely well and not only avoid future problems but also become great successes. But I doubt the success rate is all that strong lacking a commitment to use the resources and learn from both the student and the parent(s). At some point, we are simply pouring money down at rat-hole solely to assuage the feelings of white liberals, few of whom would put their kids in the same low-income schools.

    We need to measure outcomes and fund what works and stop funding what doesn’t. Society doesn’t and shouldn’t guarantee outcomes only providing a fair shot to succeed.

    • I actually agree with TMT – we do need to collect metrics but the thing is – we already do with the SOLs.

      You’re not “guaranteeing outcomes” when you help kids achieve the necessary level of education we intend them to receive.

      When we talk about “guaranteeing outcomes” – we are talking about people with equivalent educations – some doing quite well and others not – and yes – we do not guarantee outcomes – once you do have the same level of education.

      We provide all kinds of extra money and resources for kids who are already bound for college. That’s over and above what is required for them to attain the minimum SOL standards.

      Fairfax is one of the best school systems in the State with an exceptionally high level of kids who go to College. It’s hard to imagine people pulling their kids out of a system that is considered one of the best that helps not only kids already bound for college but helps the other kids who need more help to attain a decent level of education.

      If you want to see some “bad” schools… there are a bunch in Virginia … there are, in fact, some in Fairfax … located in low-income neighborhoods.

      At the end of the day- better educated kids – go on in life to be able to take care of themselves and their families instead of draining taxpayer money for entitlements.

      Every dollar we spend on education is dirt cheap compared to the dollars we’d spend later to provide help to those who lack enough education to compete for jobs in the 21st century economy.

      Yes – we and and should spend education money as cost-effectively as we should and we should fiercely debate HOW to spend it – and to have accountability for results – but arguing to take it away because it is “too much” won’t do us much good either.

      We MUST – INVEST in education. We make mistakes in doing it. It’s not a perfect thing… we do go down some rabbit holes like “open classrooms” and “whole language” but that’s the difference between liberals and conservatives.

      Liberals don’t let failure stop them from continuing to try to find better ways. Conservatives are too ready to cut and run if things don’t work out as well as they want them to. Education will never be a perfect thing. It’s a process, a continuum… we keep at it… we try different things… we keep what works and discard what does not – but we do go on…. and should.

      • Liberals don’t let failure stop them from continuing to try to find better ways. Conservatives are too ready to cut and run if things don’t work out as well as they want them to.

        Totally false. Conservatives are committed to education, too, but we’re not committed to government-run education. If public education works, great, keep it. If it doesn’t, and if continual efforts over decades have failed to reform it, then let’s try something else.

        Liberals continue to try to find better ways, but only within the context of the public school system, which invariably means pouring more money into failed schools and failed school districts.

        • re: ” If public education works, great, keep it. If it doesn’t, and if continual efforts over decades have failed to reform it, then let’s try something else.”

          Public Education DOES WORK. That’s the difference between Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals want it to work BETTER and WANT to make changes.. Conservatives want to destroy it and start over with something “different” which more often than not is “ideas” of which have never been done and don’t exist on the planet… in practical terms.

          You cannot destroy something and start over unless you do have a better alternatives but what Conservatives have is a bunch of cockamamie ideas based more on ideology and beliefs rather than anything that is real.

          The best nations on earth are govt run education with standards. That’s the reality.

          Conservatives these days are unfit to govern. They refuse to accept responsibility to provide actual practical solutions.. just “blow it up and start over”.

          • Conservatives want to destroy [public education] and start over with something “different.”

            Larry, this is so deluded, so detached from reality, that in the 18th or 19th century, you would have been wrapped up in a strait jacket and committed to the asylum. When you make statements like this, it becomes impossible to carry on a conversation.

  6. I do agree that public schools, including FCPS, often put too much emphasis on college prep and not enough on vocational or technical education.

    “Liberals don’t let failure stop them from continuing to try to find better ways.” With other people’s money. I’d have respect for those who want to spend more money on education if they’d also support measurement of results, eliminating programs that don’t work as well as others, eliminating jobs as necessary and firing high-level administrators who don’t produce results. Fairfax County faces pension debt of $6.1 billion and still cannot grandfather additional pension programs offered by no other local governments in the area.

  7. No. not with other people’s money. With money from all of us .

    We DO have measurement of results… In fact, many Conservatives NOW OPPOSE standards.. they say they want “local” standards… not state or national standards.

    I actually do agree about getting rid or programs that don’t work – and to realize that schools and taxpayers cannot afford to provide all things to all people but again, I oppose the tear down and start over approach as a remedy.

    You have to keep what works.. shed the stuff that doesn’t and keep trying to get better but that’s not what Conservatives want now days They don’t advocate things to make the public schools better. they don’t provide constructive criticism … instead they want to tear it down;

    Most of the tough problems we have today.. .health care, immigration, drugs, etc, the Conservatives don’t have alternative solutions … they can’t agree among themselves even except that they want to trash what is here now and go back to square one. Life does not work that way. Institutions don’t work that way. Governance does not work that way.

    • Show me a school division in Virginia that actually concluded Program X isn’t working and, as such, it was being eliminated along with the associated funding and jobs.

      For at least 15 years I’ve asked Fairfax County Schools to consider building a budge that shows exactly what it takes to meet federal and state requirements and not a penny more. Then build on to the base budget alternatives that educators want to adopt. Show the additional cost, expected results and means to measure those results. I might as well have talked to a cat. Public education does not want accountability.

      Data show that Fairfax County teachers, especially in their middle years, often make significantly less than teachers from nearby districts. But when all benefits, including the extra pensions provided by FCPS, are considered, teachers are near the top. Simple solution, grandfather vested employees in the extra pension plans and, over time, move money to salary. But the School Board will not cut the extra pension plans.

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