Survey Shows Opposition to Shortened County Summer Break

Albemarle parents are overwhelmingly against shortening schools’ summer vacation, Aaron Richardson writes in the Daily Progress. The school system sent out a survey to parents, allowing them to pick between starting school on August 8, August 13, or August 22. Of the nearly 2,000 respondents, 1,200 chose August 22. There was no option for later dates. Some parents believe that the county is trying to herd public opinion towards an earlier start, for the purpose of holding the Standards of Learning test before winter break, rather than after, in order to increase scores. And for good cause—they say as much:

Director of Secondary Education Matt Haas said the calendar changes would help make the semesters an even length. By starting earlier, he said, high school students will finish their exams before winter break, and have more time to study for standardized tests in the spring.

“Starting earlier gives teachers more time to get kids ready for the SOLs and AP exams, and have school end after the testing period,” Haas said.

Despite the strong survey results, one can already see some push-back from the school board, discrediting the metrics of their own survey:

Harley Miles, vice chairman and at-large member of the county’s School Board, said the comments on the survey were so varied that the numbers were less important than the concerns parents expressed.

“It’s interesting to me that there’s some parents who say let’s start as early as possible, some say let’s start later, some say let’s start in the middle,” Miles said. “There’s a variety of responses, so you can’t just go on the numbers.”

5 thoughts on “Survey Shows Opposition to Shortened County Summer Break”

  1. I’ve been following this issue. When the ACPS announced on their Facebook page that the survey was up, I asked for the pedagogical reasoning behind making any change to the school calendar at all. Here’s the response I got from whomever is administering the FB page:

    “The Board is considering making a change for a few reasons. Here are a few: ending first semester prior to winter break; align schedule more readily with college schedule for more cross opportunities; end school year immediately after spring SOL testing; have more instructional days prior to (as opposed to after) SOL and AP testing.”

    I also emailed my Rivanna District rep to the School Board, Jason Buyaki, and asked the same question. Here’s what he wrote:

    “There are a number of compelling reasons for us to consider changing the school calendar. By moving our calendar ahead a few weeks, we are able to complete semester including exams before the winter break, thus using the time after the return to delve into new subject matter instead of refreshing material in preparation for the semester exams. Staff will then have ample time to place the first semester scores onto transcript records for senior students who are looking at sending out applications to various colleges and universities. It is usually a very short time frame for staff to support our seniors during their applicant process. Additionally, by concluding the semester before the winter break, staff will have time to correct any scheduling conflicts that arise during the first days of the second semester. We have heard from a number of students and staff describing a number of the challenges that they face with our current calendar and these adjustments are expected
    to diminish these challenges.”

    Full disclosure: I oppose moving the start date earlier into August. But I also think these are b.s. answers to the question of “what is the pedagogical basis for changing the school calendar in the first place?”

  2. I know that my children are always much happier to finish semester exams prior to winter break. MUCH, MUCH happier.

  3. That’s right danpri. I mean, even HARVARD changed its calendar to the Aug-Dec, Jan-May semester system.

  4. The only reason I can imagine why people would be opposed to this schedule change is “tradition”. Sadly, that seems to be reason enough for a lot of people.

  5. Yeah, let’s allow mandated state testing to determine more in our lives. They already drive the curriculum and instructional methods-into boredom and disengagement. We should use the SOLs to make all decisions about life. Let’s make them the college entrance exams, drivers tests, marriage license requirements.

    How about we just drop the SOLs, start late August and let the kids out in May? That way kids would be so intrigued by all the interesting things their teachers are teaching them, they would protest and ask to be in school until June or start early.

    Parents and teachers should have two votes on this issue. School Board members and School administrators at central offices have forgotten what its like to be a teacher, parent, or student. They make decisions on convenience for their jobs and money issues alone. They don’t think about things from the POV of students and teachers.

    Hey administrators: “leave those kids alone”

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