A decision by the Newton, Mass., school district to add two extra early-release days to its calendar this year met with opposition from some parents.
The district decided last year to add the days—beyond the existing four—to give teachers more time for collaborative professional development. However, some parents expressed concern that their children would be robbed of valuable lesson time, according to a Boston Globe article on the issue.
Sharon DeCarlo, executive director of instructional programs in Newton, said teachers need planning time in order to provide more effective instruction.
“The early-release days provide teachers an opportunity to collaborate that they otherwise would not have had,” DeCarlo said in an interview. “They need sustained time to plan together. Doing so yields really rich curriculum.”
Financial constraints also played a role in the decision, according to the Globe. District officials said that, given the financial climate, they could not afford to pay teachers for after-school time for additional professional development.
“I am not really opposed to scheduling things during the school year ... But have a heart, folks. Try not to do it by leaving parents and students holding the bag—or blaming them for being upset when you do.”
“I agree with you that the PD time is not always scheduled with the parents’ interests (and work schedules) at heart. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to accomplish what we need to do just for day-to-day lessons, as each year we are required to attend more and more meetings during our ‘planning’ periods.”
Many parents complained that the extra early-release days, in addition to reducing student learning time, conflict with work schedules and could leave children without supervision.
DeCarlo said she understands the parents’ concerns, but thinks the extra release days are worth it.
“I empathize with parents, having been a working parent myself,” she said. “But the payoff is in the really rich curriculum and instruction that the kids will receive thanks to the PD time.”
According to the Globe, Newton schools still meet the state required 180 days of class and 990 hours of instruction time, even with the early release days.
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2009 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook