7/26/11 SCHOOL’S IN SESSION

It might be July, but nevertheless, it’s back to class

 Above, kindergarten teacher Krystle Gurley talks about school and what goes on in school Monday during the children’s first day in school at South Graham Elementary.

Photos by Sam Roberts / Times-News

Above, kindergarten teacher Krystle Gurley talks about school and what goes on in school Monday during the children’s first day in school at South Graham Elementary.

SCHOOL’S IN SESSION
Year-round education proving popular with teachers, parents
School is in. Too early, you’re thinking? Not for students who attend year-round school in the Alamance-Burlington School System.
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 7/26/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 Students who attend Eastlawn, Haw River, North Graham and South Graham elementary schools and Graham Middle School began the 2011-12 school year Monday. Students in the system’s schools that operate on a traditional calendar start a month from now, on Aug. 25.

 Here’s a look at recent and ongoing developments in year round education in the Alamance-Burlington system.

 Growth in popularity: A few years ago, North Graham Elementary was the system’s only school operating on a year-round calendar (it began that schedule in 2000).

 Eastlawn and Haw River moved to the schedule in 2008, followed by Graham Middle School in 2009 and South Graham Elementary in 2010. Each of those schools are in the Graham attendance zone, with every school in that zone now on a year-round schedule, except for Graham High School.

 The local trend toward more year-round schools appears to have leveled off. School system spokeswoman Jenny Faulkner said none of the county’s traditional-schedule schools are exploring a move to a year-round calendar.

 How it works: Students in year round schools attend the same number of days as students on the traditional schedule. That’s 180 instructional days, pending implementation of a statewide change to increase that number to 185.

 Year-round students get a shorter summer break, but get more-frequent breaks during the school year.

 Advocates of the year-round schedule, including educators at local schools that have made the change, have said shorter breaks during the academic year can help protect students and teachers from burnout. Shorter summer breaks, they’ve suggested, can help students retain what they learned from one year to the next.

Spanish immersion teacher Ceci Noriega interacts with her first-grade students.
Spanish immersion teacher Ceci Noriega interacts with her first-grade students.

 Driving force: The shift to more year-round schools has been from the bottom up. The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education has approved requests for year-round schedules based on requests from principals. Those requests have followed talks with teachers and parents to gauge support. Typically, principals have reported a strong buy-in from both teachers and parents.

 Reasons for year-round: Principals and teachers have said they hope the year-round schedule will boost student achievement as measured by federal and state assessments. When Eastlawn and Haw River requested approval for a year-round schedule, North Graham’s success in improving test scores since it changed to the schedule in 2000 was mentioned to school board members.

 Educators have cautioned the schedule change is not a “magic bullet,” but said it could make a difference if parts of breaks during the school year are used to tutor students struggling in one or more areas.

 Results so far: Full state and federal results for the 2011-12 school year won’t be available until Aug. 4 for either year-round or traditional-schedule schools in the Alamance-Burlington system.

 Some of the year-round schools have large numbers of both low-income students and students for whom English is not their first language, factors that can present additional challenges in teaching and learning. At Eastlawn, for example, 98 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch.

 For 2009-10, the percentage of students meeting proficiency in reading and math as measured by the state was 46.7 percent at Eastlawn, 49.8 percent at Haw River, 69.7 percent at North Graham, 66.7 percent at South Graham and 66.6 percent at Graham Middle.