November 6, 2017

Third calendar survey clarifies what school breaks are important

Imagine, for a moment, a time when student knowledge remains consistent throughout the year. When Hamilton students take a test, their scores look similar, no matter when the test took place. No more 30-percentage point dropoffs between spring and fall. Just solid knowledge retention, which leads to higher academic performance districtwide.

Now imagine, while knowledge retention is improving, refreshed students and teachers performing at the highest levels. In the past, they would endure long stretches of the school calendar without a break. These days, thanks to an adjusted schedule, at just the right time, these students and teachers received a well-deserved break - whether it’s days or a week. No more burn out. No more frustration.

Instead rest. Recovery. Recharge.

The picture you just visualized is what the Hamilton Community Schools Board of Education has considered a lot lately.

In fact, they care about it so much they put it in their Strategic Planning Report published in June 2017. Strategic goal No. 6 asks the district to:

“Explore flexible calendar and schedule options; assess stakeholder readiness.”

That goal is based on research that shows, in general, that test scores drop off between late spring tests and early fall tests, especially in the middle school years. In other words, “the summer slide.” Weeks of inactivity ultimately lead to a loss of knowledge.

And Hamilton Community Schools is not immune to it. Consider the Delta Math test, a math screener we administer each spring and fall. The student proficiency percentages dropped significantly after a summer off:

  • For students moving from grade 5 to grade 6, the proficiency results decreased from 76% in Spring 2017 to 45% in Fall 2017.
  • For students moving from grade 6 to grade 7, the proficiency results decreased from 80% in Spring 2017 to 61% in Fall 2017.
  • For students moving from grade 7 to grade 8, the proficiency results decreased from 68% in Spring 2017 to 59% in Fall 2017.  

FIRST CALENDAR SURVEY

Based on the board’s goal, we created a series of online surveys to explore whether the Hamilton community was ready for this vision of an alternative flexible calendar. We made it clear we were not adding any days to the calendar. It would remain 180 days, but the schedule would be spread out more -  extra breaks throughout the year and a shorter summer break.

The first survey was sent out on Oct. 9.

In the two-question survey, we asked who respondents were and whether they would support exploring an alternative flexible calendar.

We learned 532 out of 849 respondents - teachers, staff, parents and community members - said they would support exploring an alternative flexible calendar. We felt the results showed there was enough interest to continue brainstorming calendar changes.  


SECOND CALENDAR SURVEY

Therefore, the next survey was designed to assess which specific calendar changes would be favorable.

We needed to gauge the community’s interest in longer traditional breaks and new week-long breaks and long weekends among many other calendar options. The second survey focused on what school breaks were important to the community.

We listed how many days each change would add to the school calendar, helping respondents better visualize the impact.

In the two-question survey, sent out Oct. 18, we asked who respondents were and what calendar changes would they support. The results were:

  • 483 out of 829 respondents chose 2 full weeks of Christmas break
  • 293 out of 829 respondents chose 2 Fridays to Mondays off throughout year
  • 217 out of 829 respondents chose 1 week off in October/1 week off in February
  • 211 out of 829 respondents chose 1 week off in February
  • 201 out of 829 respondents chose 3 Fridays off throughout year
  • 160 out of 829 respondents chose Other

THIRD CALENDAR SURVEY

Finally, after receiving the second survey results, we felt we needed to clarify how people answered the questions.  We were concerned many people felt they had to "split their votes" among the remaining break options.  As a result, we are asking the community to "choose one" break during this survey and adding “no additional breaks" to acknowledge people may not have liked any of the other break options.  

We have not committed to any plan or changes at this point; we are simply asking questions and listening and debating. The community will still have an opportunity to provide final approval before any plan moves forward. Which means if someone is not interested in exploring the flexible calendar at all, they can still participate in the survey, rest assured they can still provide their input later on.

Take the third survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WHMYC56

Please reach out to jgonsior@hamiltonschools.us with any questions or concerns during the third calendar survey process.