Should Dublin’s School Year Begin in Mid-August? Aug 15 Start Proposed for 2016-17
I’m starting this article in the first person because I’ll present my opinion about the just announced proposal to the start the Dublin Unified School District school year 7 instructional days earlier for 2016-17 (proposed calendar: August 15, 2016 to June 2, 2017). I’m stating my opinion in the hope that you will state your opinion – in the form of comments and responses to the survey question below. Your responses and the survey results will be shared with the Board of Trustees and Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke – your voice will be heard.
I am strongly in favor of moving the start of the school year earlier – to mid-August as proposed – despite the one-time impact on the length of the summer break. I’ve been in favor of, and advocating for, this change for several years, including when I was on the Dublin High School Site Council.
Below is my argument in favor of the change, and I welcome and encourage a civil debate of this important proposal. Please share your comments at the bottom of this article and unlike School Board meetings, you are not limited to 3-minutes.
Why am I in favor of this proposal? Here are my top three reasons in stack rank order:
- Winter break becomes 100% family time. Currently, first semester finals are held in January, after the winter break. I’m strongly in favor of students being able to focus 100% on family during the winter break – no projects, no homework, no finals to study for. I believe all high school students will benefit from taking finals immediately after the end of the instruction period, and all high school students will benefit from the opportunity to completely disengage from school over the holidays.
- “The early start is generally most beneficial to high school students who must reckon with high-stakes testing and college applications. Elementary and middle schools are seldom preoccupied with end-of-the-semester finals, but high schools are, and the early start enables them to align winter break with the end of the first semester. This precludes students from returning to school and taking their end-of-semester tests in a post-vacation fog.” – Back to school: More South Bay school districts move toward earlier start date
- Moving the start of school earlier isn’t enough to provide 100% family time. The Dublin School Board needs to also implement policy concurrent with this change that explicitly bans any assignments or projects due after the break (including for AP courses).
- More time to complete AP courses for AP exams. AP exam timing is set by the CollegeBoard (early May for 2016, one month before the end of the school year). Nearly 500 Dublin High School students currently take AP courses, and because of open enrollment at Dublin High this number will likely increase. Scoring well on AP exams has a direct benefit when applying to colleges, and are even mandatory for some universities. For some students, doing well on AP exams even enables graduating early, by transferring AP credits. The current Dublin High School schedule requires AP teachers to condense courses into less time because the AP exam schedule is immovable and out of the District’s control.
- Dublin is not doing something radical – we’re just catching up with many other Districts. Numerous Bay Area Districts have already start the school year in mid-August – here is a subset:
- Palo Alto Unified School District (Aug 17 – Jun 2) – Calendar
- Tamalpais Union School District District (Aug 19 start) – Calendar
- San Mateo Union High School District (Aug 12 – May 26) – Calendar
- Mountain View Los Altos School District (Aug 17 – Jun 2) – Calendar
- San Francisco Unified School District (Aug 17 – May 26) – Calendar
- San Jose Unified School District (Aug 12 – June 2) – Calendar
That’s what I think – but I’m just one parent. What do you think? Vote on the proposal and add your comments at the bottom of this article. A Q&A published by DUSD earlier today is included below.
In Dublin Unified, we constantly strive to improve educational opportunities for our students, to create settings that enhance their opportunities for success and academic achievement.
The goal of student achievement is always our top priority.
The Board of Trustees has a strong interest in maximizing student learning, while helping to manage student stress. Accordingly, one important step that we can take to support student success is to bring high school fall semester assessments closer to instruction, thus eliminating the two-week, winter break gap between learning and final exams, which currently take place in mid-January.
The Board of Trustees believes the current gap between learning and testing is less than optimal for our students, and must be examined.
This modification would require changes to the school calendar, specifically we would need to begin the school year earlier in August. The Board of Trustees wants us to share this information with our parents, hear your questions and thoughts and proceed with the most thoughtful, student-focused course of action. We will also be conducting a parent-survey on the issue in the week following the Thanksgiving Break.
The option under consideration is to begin instruction on August 15th, 2016. This is seven instructional days early than the start date for the current school year (2015-16). The last day of instruction would be the Friday following Memorial Day. For the 2016-17 year that would be June 2, 2017.
The first day of instruction will potentially begin and conclude one day earlier in successive years through 2019-20.
- 2017-18: first day August 14; last day June 1
- 2018-19: first day August 13; May 31
- 2019-20: first day August 12; last day May 29
Districts throughout the state and around the Bay Area have already made or are strongly considering changes to their school-year calendars to more closely align instruction with assessments.
How To Engage
Along with the parent survey that will be active beginning the week following Thanksgiving Break, this topic will be discussed at all sites at Parent-Faculty Club meetings with site principals in the coming weeks, so please plan to attend those regularly scheduled meetings to participate in the discussion. You may also email questions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. All input will be shared with District leadership before any final decision is made.
As always, our community is welcome to attend meetings of the Board of Education, which begin at 5:30 p.m. in the district Board Room at 7471 Larkdale Avenue. The schedule for upcoming Board meetings is on our district website at: http://dublin.csbaagendaonline.net/cgi-bin/WebObjects/dublin-eAgenda.woa
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: Why is this change being considered?
A: We believe that moving up the start of school will provide significant and meaningful educational benefits to students, and put them in a position to be more successful. We also believe it will have a positive impact on student wellness.
Q: Is Dublin the only district considering this change?
A: No. Many district throughout the state are considering calendar changes like this one. This includes neighboring districts such as San Ramon and Pleasanton.
Q: How will this impact the elementary instructional program?
A: A calendar change would have no impact on elementary instruction. The trimester system will continue.
Q: How will this impact instruction at the high school and middle school?
A: This will have a positive impact on instruction by providing better alignment of learning with assessments at midyear (first semester final exams) as well additional instructional/preparation time ahead of critical exam dates for high school students. (AP and SBAC). The middle school instructional program will not be impacted.
Q: What will be the impact on semester classes at Dublin High School?
A: We have very few semester classes (American Government, Economics, Psychology, and Health). Projects may need to be altered for the first semester classes where the instructional days will be less than second semester. Most classes are year-long and will not be impacted.
Q: How will future calendar start dates be communicated?
A: The plan is to identify start dates, end dates and vacation dates three years in advance.
Q: When will first semester grades be posted?
A: First semester grades will be posted on the second Tuesday after school begins following Winter Break. The Parent Portal will be closed during winter break and during the first week to allow teachers to complete grading and post. This also allows teachers to have a stress-free break during the winter holidays.
Q: What impact will the new calendar have on sports practices in the fall or state competition during the last week of school in early June?
A: Sports practices in August will not be impacted. Any student who qualifies for state competition in early June will be provided flexibility regarding taking finals during that time.
Q: How will the new calendar impact students who attend Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Programs?
A: TVROP has always identified their first day of instruction based upon differing start dates of the three districts (Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore). This will continue.
Q: What is the plan for handing first- and second-semester papers, projects, and finals?
A: The plan is to handle both semesters in the same fashion. The first semester ends on the Friday before Winter Break. The second semester ends on the last day of school in early June. Papers, projects, and finals will be handled the same way in both semesters.
Q: What about vacation plans that have already been made that interfere with the start of school?
A: We would prefer that vacation plans be adjusted to accommodate the early start. We will handle student vacation issue individually, encouraging attendance on the first day scheduled for instruction.
Q: Will this impact collaboration days or Staff Development Days?
A: This calendar change will have no impact on collaboration days. It is anticipated that Staff Development Days will be scheduled collaboratively with the Dublin Teachers Association. Likely, these will fall during the second semester, leaving the first semester free for classroom instruction.
Q. Is this a done deal?
A. The District has a strong interest in moving the calendar based on the information we have outlined above. The Board has not yet made a decision and we are now seeking community feedback.
Q. When will a decision be made?
A. We anticipate a decision will be made by the Board of Trustees prior to Winter Break.