A measure that recently cleared the Louisiana House Education Committee without objection aims to alter the academic calendars of select public school districts according to an article from The Advocate.
House Bill 538, which is supported by the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley, would have six or fewer public school districts change their annual academic calendar to a 12-month model that includes periodic breaks. This model, which has already been adopted by international school districts, would replace the current, traditional 9-month academic calendar that is followed by a summer break.
While the measure passed the House Education Committee without objection, House Bill 538 wasn’t met with a warm reception by all, which is to be expected of any chance to an academic calendar. The proposed change already received vocal opposition from the state’s two teacher unions: the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT). Additionally, a member of the House Education Committee, Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge expressed his concern that the calendar change would disrupt the lives of his constituents and set traditions, thus requiring serious adjustments.
With this level of large systematic change, it’s expected to have some level of “push back,” but as detailed by Superintendent Brumley before the committee, the proposed calendar change is ultimately in service of students and teachers. In addition to this, the proposal is also in response to what has been known as the “summer learning loss” that occurs between once school year’s last day of classes and the next year’s start date.
This time in between school years is approximately two months long for students, and while some may participate in summer school, tutoring, or other academically enriching programs, many simply place academics “on the shelf” until the next school year begins. Dr. Brumley shared this concern with House Committee members by saying, “what we know is that there is summer learning loss, we know that it is real.” Superintendent Brumley reportedly said that students can lose and forget up to 30% of what they had learned in their previous grade during the summer months.
As it’s currently written, the legislation would allow up to six districts to participate in the piloting of the new academic calendar on a volunteer basis, and those public school districts would receive a portion of federal stimulus dollars to assist in the overhaul. The proposal would have students attending classes for 42-43 day segments that are followed by two-week breaks (intersessions). During the intersessions, students would be able to receive enriched learning, tutoring, or other assistance.
The school year would end on June 30 with classes resuming on August 11, allowing students and teachers to have a summer break of approximately five weeks. The shortening of summer breaks is what has caused the most opposition thus far as many teachers and students with many students working throughout the summer to save money for college and many teachers working second jobs.
House Bill 528 will next face discussion in the Louisiana House of Representatives, and if approved it will move on to the state Senate. Though the measure has sparked a lot of discussion, it should be remembered that Louisiana lawdictates that students receive 360 minutes of daily instructional time over 172 instructional days. Those days may be organized and allocated in a variety of ways.
With this said, the centralized aim of this measure is currently presented as an effort to assist schools, leaders, and students- not to merely disrupt their sense of normalcy. Superintendent Brumley reiterated this sentiment by stating, “I am not here to tell you that a balanced calendar is a cure-all, but given where we are in outcomes we should be exploring all options that make a difference in the lives of our students and teachers.”
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