Written by Andrew Melin, Superintendent
The Valparaiso Community Schools will implement a late-start Wednesday schedule next school year to give educational staff an opportunity to collaborate on student achievement initiatives. The VCS school board approved the collaboration schedule at its December board meeting, which means all schools will begin 30 minutes later than normal starting time every Wednesday next school year. Although bus schedules and school starting times will be delayed by 30 minutes, all schools will dismiss at their regular times.
All teachers will report to work at the same time every Wednesday to enable 50-60 minutes of time for teachers and administrators to review student achievement data, develop individualized student achievement plans, and hold parent conferences prior to student arrival. With our district's emphasis next year on individualizing student achievement primarily through a Response to Instruction (RtI) model, teachers will also need time to determine how curriculum and/or instructional practice needs to be adjusted on a consistent basis to assure each student achieves.
Starting school later than normal to enable collaboration is a concept school systems in Indiana have implemented within the last couple of years as a result of the Indiana Department of Education mandating all students attend school a full 180 days per year. When this concept was mandated, it eliminated the practice of allowing school districts to take six half-days per school year strictly for professional development purposes. As a result, school systems began using the late-start concept to give educators time to collaborate on academic achievement issues and to receive professional development.
We understand this collaboration schedule may cause an inconvenience for some parents, but the benefits gained in improving student achievement far outweigh the disadvantages. Both the YMCA's "Y Care" program and the Boys' and Girls' Clubs' "Kids Stop" programs will be available to assist families, and VCS appreciates its strong partnership with both organizations.
Collaboration can take place any day of the week, but the middle of the week seems to be most effective. The morning is better than the afternoon, because dismissing secondary students 30 minutes early at the end of the day causes problems with students needing to stay after school for activities and having to be supervised while in buildings.
Even though there will be 30 minutes less instructional time per week, VCS will still meet the state mandatory minimums (5 hours/day - elementary & 6 hours/day - secondary). The loss of instructional time will be balanced by an increase in teacher awareness of student ability and an increase in individualized instruction that will enhance student achievement.
VCS is putting maximum emphasis on improving student achievement. Collaboration involving teachers and administrators on a weekly basis that is closely monitored to assure efficient and effective use of time will be an important tool in accomplishing this objective.