MCPS is proposing an earlier start date for the 2017–2018 school year. The recommended date, Aug. 21, 2017, would be two weeks prior to Labor Day and one week prior to the traditional start of the school year for MCPS. The proposed start date would allow for an additional week of instruction prior to end-of-year assessments, such as Advanced Placement exams and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments, thereby maximizing instructional time. This proposed change would also put MCPS’ start date in alignment with 11 other school districts around the state that will be starting school the week of Aug. 22, including Frederick, Baltimore, and Prince George’s counties. The recommended changes to the calendar are based on the input of various stakeholder groups, including parents, principals, teachers, and district administrators. The Board of Education will adopt the 2017-2018 school year calendar in November. You can view the proposed calendar, read more about the calendaring process, and provide feedback on the proposed calendar at: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/calendar/proposed-calendar-2017-18.aspx
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Below are comments posted to the MCCPTA delegate listserv:
FYI (in case you didn’t already get it) and to share with your communities –
The earlier school start date of August 21 2017 has been proposed to the Board. If you have an opinion, send in your comments via the website as directed. I will be sending my comments as well.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was on the committee representing MCCPTA (along with 2 or 3 other parents, in other capacities other than “MCCPTA”) and based on feedback in Board and DA meetings, voted for the start date consistent with this year – a week before Labor Day, but obviously got out voted. (I personally would’ve pushed for after Labor Day, but that wasn’t an option.)
If you have any questions, you know how to reach me.
Immediate Past President, MCCPTA
And let me point out, because the question has come up and this isn’t focused on as much in the announcement – the number of school days does not change. This would not make the school year longer. So yes, school would get out a week earlier in June than we are used to, as well.
Immediate Past President, MCCPTA
Thanks, did not pick up on that
Then what’s the purported benefit of starting earlier if the number of school days does not increase?
Theoretically, it would provide an additional week of instruction before the spring standardized tests, not only PARCC, but also A/P exams. It would also be in line with some other counties (which I, personally, don’t think is that important.)
Immediate Past President
I like the fact that the end date is June 5. I’d rather get out earlier.
Sent from my iPhone.
Posted by: Danielle Fang
In fact, the school year in the proposed calendar would end so early that there would only be 2.5 days of school in June (June 1, 4, and half day on 5) in 2018!
I wonder how early graduation ceremonies will be (and when seniors will be done). Seems like they might be dismissing seniors right after AP exams.
Elise Browne Hughes
Whitman HS delegate
Elise – yep, graduation etc would be scheduled according to the earlier end date.
I believe having less down time for high schoolers after AP exams was one of their arguments for this schedule.
NW Cluster Coordinator
One of the things that I think makes Montgomery County different from other school districts in MD, maybe not PG county, but the others, is that many of us are Federal government workers and our professional lives are tied to the Congressional calendar. When Congress recesses in August is when we take our vacation. If school starts back up again in mid-August, we lose half of the time we have to take our vacation. That was one of the points that I made when I expressed my “no” opinion already. I also pointed out that our weather around here is really more conducive to having summer vacation that starts later in June and ends later in August. I don’t know if any of you also have swim team kids, but when they start swim team practice at the beginning of June already and they have to stand there freezing beside the pool because it is still 60 degrees in June, it is not fun to watch. I don’t want them to have to start any earlier with this new proposed schedule. Finally, while I know that “officially” school sports are not allowed to start any earlier with this earlier schedule, you can’t tell me that high school coaches won’t be starting their “unofficial” conditioning and practicing earlier with an earlier school start time. Our kids already have to end their summer so early now with conditioning and practices for school sports mid-August. They will basically lose their entire month of August to high school sports if this new schedule is approved.
While I do see the benefit of giving students an extra week of instruction before AP exams and PARCC (although PARCC not as much), I think it is outweighed by the negative consequences an earlier start time would have on the kids and families in the County.,
One benefit for high school students taking AP classes is an additional week of instruction before sitting for the AP exams.
Another is that instruction before Memorial Day (one could also argue “before Spring Break”) is often taken more seriously so as to have greater impact than after Memorial Day.
Oriole (Roadrunner PTA of Weller Road ES)
I will let my voice be heard by board. Thanks for sharing. I too would prefer it stays as is or starts after Labor Day. Keep Summer Vacation in the Summer.
Sent from my iPhone
As a an MCPS parent and employee, I would rather give up some holiday time and keep a later start time.
Also, when the Board got rid of semester exams, by default they added at least an additional week of classroom instruction each semester back into the high school calendar. The implementation of this plan begins this fall, so this upcoming school year, students will already be getting one more additional week of classroom instruction before AP exams than they did this past year.
This is from my own perspective – I have a child who has been in A/P classes & they have, in general, done fine. Of course, not every school & every student does well on A/P exams, or all the other measures of academic performance. I would suggest that its not solely the number of days before X exam, but how are they being used. Yes, the quality v quantity argument. How well are instructional days being used? There’s a lot that contributes to how children are being taught: needs for academic support, ill-matched long term subs, high teacher absence and/or turnover; “wasted” time such as watching movies with subs or the teacher; etc. These are the things that would seem to make a difference and need to be addressed, not shifting the calendar without changing what goes on in the classroom. The earlier week for additional instruction is a smoke screen.
Parent – class of 2017, 2019, 2021 & 2023
Immediate Past President, MCCPTA
Frances, coming from inside the classroom, I can say first-hand that all of what you write occurs.
And, in my view, a valid one. My oldest son is in IB and after exams he was basically doing nothing.
Jean C Zenklusen
I think this is an individual school/teacher issue, as Frances mentioned. I have kids in two different high schools, both taking APs. Both the one in the Richard Montgomery IB magnet, who took multiple AP’s and IB’s, and the one at our local HS still had multiple projects and assignments that did affect their final grade.
I think that if the BOE made it clear to high school principals that they expected rigorous instruction to continue after AP exams had finished, there would be more consistency across the county in continued instruction after AP’s.
I would like a longer summer vacation, but in terms of when the vacation should start I support an earlier start/finish than the current calendar.
1) Academics: I think starting classes earlier will provide more learning before standardized testing begins, whether the testing is in the fall, winter, or spring. For graduating students finishing school and AP exams earlier, I think there will be less difference in when their classes finish and when the rest of the students get out of school. I think a week in late August will be more educational than the last week the students have been getting in June. Students typically have no days off school between Spring Break/Easter and Memorial Day, so by the time Memorial Day comes, rather than getting reenergized, the students and teachers seem to have run out of gas. Reducing the class days after Memorial Day can reduce distracted or disinterested time. On the other hand, I think students, parents and teachers are more energetic (if not always more motivated) at the start of the new school year and less likely to be distracted. There are several holidays in September that break up the early work load. To me, it’ll be easier for students to learn if we change the calendar as proposed.
2) Athletics: For most children, I think summer sports are busier in June than August. The Montgomery County Swim League teams have thousands of school children in daily practice after school starting Memorial Day, taking some time away from remaining homework. Once school is out, then some teams provide flexibility with morning or afternoon practices. The first swim meet this year was before school was out. Later in the summer, I think only the elite swimmers have practice and meets after the end of July. For baseball, the little leagues are wrapping up the spring seasons at the beginning of June. I think only a small percentage of the top players have all star baseball practices and competition in August. For those doing fall sports in or out of school, the competitions typically don’t begin in August even if practice has started. For spring school sports, the seasons are winding down and only the top teams are still competing by late May. I think an earlier start to summer vacation will benefit students who play sports in the summer by providing more practice time and flexibility (without school conflicts) in June when most children are participating, without having a detrimental impact on fall or spring sports.
3) Camps: I think more summer camps are more available in June than August, perhaps to meet demand from private school students (who often get out sooner than MCPS) and perhaps because college and high school students working at camps tend to be more available early in June than late in August. Camp availability is important to many Montgomery County families but inexpensive child care is perhaps most important for our underprivileged families, and I think affordable options already dry out in mid August.
4) I think the pacing of breaks is improved. Starting earlier would generally mean there are about 2 weeks before Labor Day and 2 weeks after Memorial Day when students have school. I think this is more balanced than starting one week before Labor Day and having classes three weeks after Memorial Day. An earlier summer break also provides more weeks out of school before the 4th of July holiday. This year, the 4th of July was only 2 weeks after school let out, which made the summer seem even shorter (because it had barely started before the 4th). Although the Congressional recess is typically in August, I think more Montgomery County parents are involved with federal agencies than with the legislative branch, and the regulatory calendar doesn’t let up.
August is the traditional vacation season in Washington, but I think more of the vacations occur early in the month not at the end (I would love a month-long break from the office). I’d rather end school earlier in June and not start earlier in August. Memorial Day is the traditional beginning of summer in the Washington area and Labor Day is the traditional end. If the summer can’t last that long, then I favor shifting school and summer vacation a week sooner than the current calendar.
Rodney Peele (middle and elementary school parent)
An AP teacher I know told me that what hurts most is snow days so starting a week earlier at the beginning of the year, in her view, would be of benefit. She also finds that school assemblies, field trips, and other school based activities eat into her teaching time – things that are beyond her control. She tries to factor that in at the beginning of the year but it doesn’t account for everything.
An alternative would be to build snow days into the existing calendar like PG and other counties. When they realized they would have to make up days they held school on Presidents Day even though they were originally supposed to have it off. Would that wreck some plans? Yes, but so does adding useless days to the end of the school calendar.
August is hotter than June. With all the HVAC issues our schools have it makes sense to me for kids to not be in the building at that time of year.
Northwood Cluster Coordinator
On Heather’s point on snow days – we raised that during committee. Its BOE policy that days are at the end rather than take a holiday or spring break day. So that would require change in policy not just a change in the calendar. Just FYI if you were going to include that point in any submitted comments.
Thanks – I think this discussion has been very helpful to solidifying my thoughts on this, but could someone send a direct link to the place to comment to the BOE? Can’t seem to find it from this chain
Joel Michael Schwarz
Here’s the link directly to the comments section:
No matter where you stand on this issue, remember that given the exam schedule, the majority of
high school students will be finished with the school year several days before the elem and middle school students.
My biggest concern would be that we would once again rob Peter to pay Paul. We all saw how drastically the bell time change effected our Elementary school kids. The purpose was to give the high school kids more time to sleep. Now many of our ES kids get off the bus close to 5pm if they’re in a tier 2 school. I do not want to once again put the High school students above the Middle and Elementary school students. If the sole reason has to do with AP and HSA exams. Full disclosure I do have a HS student and an Elementary school student.
I see no need to change things and agree we should keep it like it is. No need to fix something that isn’t broken(again)
Agree. Another point to consider is that next summer would only be 9 weeks long, instead of the traditional 10, if we begin a week earlier next fall. It would only affect one year, but I already feel that summer is too short, and having to give up a week of summer vacation to make the transition would not make me or my kids happy.
I think it is great to see the different parent perspectives reflected in these message threads. I hope all of you, and your school communities, will communicate directly to the BOE.
FWIW, I note the following: Regardless of how one might feel about the variety of impacts, good and bad, the only real rationale articulated by the BOE for an earlier start is to increase the amount of instructional time ahead of the May exams: AP and PARCC. I, for one, am really tired of having practically every decision the BOE makes be driven by test scores. I’m particularly offended by the idea that AP tests, which affect a relatively small percentage of students (none in MS/ES; a minority of HS students in any given year) should drive the entire system to start up during the middle of August. I will be making that point in my comments to the BOE.
I agree with everything that Michelle has stated. But I’d like to comment about AP prep. In order to do well on the test, students need to study consistently throughout the year, so the early start adds only a few days of instruction and review. I am also tired of the BOE making so many decisions based on standardized tests and their scores. The state of Maryland has not established what a passing grade is for PARCC, nobody knows what the test will look like next year, and there is little benefit of 8 months of test prep versus 7 ½ months.
=Jane Lehrman, Poolesville HS
I was thinking the same about AP exams, involves a small minority of the student population.
I agree wholeheartedly with Michelle. I’m tired of MCPS doing things that will supposedly help high school students at the expense of the elementary and middle school kids.It is incredibly disruptive to have school start and stop start and stop in August and Sept the way it currently does for those in the younger grades.
I have seen a TON of wasted instruction time since school got pushed to opening in August at the beginning of the year. A lot of times in K-8 the teachers have said, well, there’s no point in really starting anything real since we are only here for a few days and then we have off again…so that is really a waste of time for everyone as well as disruptive. They often do nothing in those first two weeks and then my kids lose momentum and I feel like the semester begins in a negative way each year.
Call me radical, but given the choice I’d go back to having school start after Labor Day. It just seemed as if school starting worked better when we did it that way a few years back.
In addition to some of the excellent points already made here, there are economic factors for the state; the state comptroller keeps telling everyone how much our tourism industry has suffered since MoCo and a few other counties started going back to school in August and how much lost revenue that’s meant to the state. He has data. I keep wondering: is that money that could justify more educational spending through tax revenue? Why are we silo-ing ourselves off and not listening to that when we so desperately need more funding? To me it seems as if there’s some thing there that doesn’t connect. We want more money, then there’s this state leader saying, here’s a way to get more money… I don’t know. Just doesn’t make sense to me to brush that off. If nothing else, I think it indicates a lack of responsiveness and an unwillingness to cooperate with state officials. There’s a long history of MCPS and MoCo in general just not really playing ball with those in Annapolis and we really should get with it. As one of the elected officials who came to our meeting said on Tuesday: “People in Annapolis sometimes think that Montgomery County has streets paved in gold. We need you all as parents to help us let them know that isn’t true and that we have real needs.” But if we act like what the state comptroller says about making more money doesn’t matter, I’m not sure we are doing our part.
I also dislike it when this school system is pushed to address problems sideways. In this case, it is the snow day issue. That should be addressed onto itself in my opinion. If there’s a snow day problem, why are we, MCCPTA, not addressing that directly? Why are we going in sideways and saying, hey, let’s start school earlier in summer because it MIGHT help with too many cancellations for snow.
I’d like to see us address the two issues individually. There are many ways to address lost instruction time, and not much evidence offered that starting a few days earlier in sweltering heat when our older buildings are not so well air conditioned will actually help anything. Let’s gather data, look for evidence, not just be reactive. If there’s really evidence that it would help, that would be great to know. But just hoping…. that doesn’t cut it for me. For how many kids? How many take AP exams? How many schools DON’T have instruction after exams and how many do — I’m hearing differences there that are troubling to me. Why is it not universal that there should be stuff going on after APs? Is there a geographic or demographic difference? Are some schools expecting more than others, and if so, why are we not demanding they all have the same high expectations?
And for snow days, let’s try to solve that by maybe using technology more proactively and more creatively as many other school systems are starting to do in other states. Or maybe by splitting the county up into zones — often no snow down here in Silver Spring when there’s ice and snow on roads in Damascus… I can’t tell you how many times we had school cancelled when there wasn’t even snow falling from the sky AT ALL down here. So why not look at solutions using that as data? Or why not question why the number of cancellations seem to have really increased in the last three years and seek some DATA on why? Or at least some more concrete answers. We need to demand that the school system be more flexible in solving this stuff. Frankly, I’d like some more accountability on that issue, and some more creative problem solving that doesn’t shrug it off.
I just wish we’d actually base this stuff on data, not what one loud group or one focus group says or does or wants or demands. Why are we not looking to see what other systems do and basing our decisions on real numbers and results? What studies have been done? What do educational experts who have looked at different calendar options say?
I think when it comes down to it, basing decisions on what one small group has said makes parents feel very shut out from this system. Doesn’t matter if that group is a parent focus group or the BOE behind closed doors. We need to open up these decision processes and ask for more accountability and really expect to be asked for real data and get the BOE used to be asked for more data as well.
I kind of feel like a voyeur here, since technically I’m out, but eventually this will effect my family again. As Frances mentioned, she was on the calendar committee this year and voted against this measure. I was on the calendar committee the previous year and also voted against this measure. At my meeting, there was one–I repeat ONE–parent group representative (not MCCPTA) pushing to have start times go earlier specifically because of AP tests (so I’m skeptical of the BOE’s claim that this is due to parent pressure). Furthermore, I was snarled at by MCPS staff when I asked why we couldn’t have a start time after labor day–and told with a great eye-roll that MCCPTA always asked this, and asked whether were we going to make trouble again this year.
And this concept that no instruction happens after the AP test: well that’s just lazy educators. Having myself taken 5 AP exams, I will say none of my teachers let up. We did research projects and agonized over finals.
Admittedly, like others in this thread, I also thought of pool and congressional schedules. And yet again, like with the bell times for ES kids, MCPS is not taking working parents into account at all.
Former AVP and Exec Comm
To Alison’s point.
Please put this in real-time perspective. I’ve read/heard all of Peter Franchot and the Eastern Shore delegation arguments about post-Labor Day start — but if you want to talk about data-based decision-making — I’ve not seen much substance around the economic argument to force all Maryland school districts to begin school after Labor Day to enhance revenues of the counties with a big tourism economies (Franchot’s argument).
Re: MCPS – I don’t think it’s helpful to say that MCPS ‘used to start after Labor Day a few years back’, then assert that compared to then, now the first week of school is wasted as far as accomplishing academic work. I actually have no memory of MCPS starting after Labor Day and have been in the system for a decade —- which, to me, is way more than a ‘few years’. My kid is always working during the first week of school. I’d bet there are many on this listserv who have never experienced a post-Labor Day start in MCPS.
For that reason, please add the historical context. When, exactly, did MCPS start school post-Labor Day? When did MCPS move to a pre-Labor Day start, and why? I think having that information is critical to a balanced assessment of the issue.
FWIW – I grew up in a rural community in Kansas. Half our students lived on farms. In order to accommodate the needs of the farm families around winter wheat harvest, summer planting and harvest — we always finished school before Memorial Day, and started before Labor Day.
I thought that was heaven………
DCC AVP and SSIMS
For most of my life here in MD, school started after Labor Day. That was the norm.
Even for farm families. Many wanted to be able to compete and show their animals for 4H at the MD State Fair each year and because the Fair is scheduled to happen at the end of August and ends on Labor Day, the schedule allowed them to go and get ribbons/awards which they then put on college applications. (I am not sure whether any farm families have that concern in MoCo, although I have heard that Balto County farm families still do find it problematic. If there are any farm families from MoCo out there that can weigh in, please do.)
I cannot recall the year when the switch happened here in MoCo. If someone else knows that please do share that too. I agree it would be good to have the exact year. My memory is that it happened right when my kids were about to start kindergarten. But that might not be correct.
Also, FWIW this issue came up long before Gov Hogan took office. Many years before he took office. So even if you don’t like Hogan, don’t dismiss this as part of his administration. The study referenced by Franchot was done in 2013. Hogan took office in 2015.
Here’s the state study:
Here’s an article done by the Baltimore Sun, which often has much better MD state political coverage than the Wash Post:
Note especially this reference, toward the bottom:
“Franchot said starting the school year later would benefit tourism. He noted a 2013 study by Maryland’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates, which he said determined a post-Labor Day school start could generate an additional $74.3 million in economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and $7.7 million in state and local revenue.”
Here’s an interesting article from Forbes on the topic, and there’s data in there.
The Real Reason Some Schools Start After Labor Day
I will also add that as PTSA president I got asked about this a lot by parents who were super annoyed that we had to go back before Labor Day. Most of them had younger kids who did not understand the logic of the start again stop again schedule. Many also complained that this one more major way that the school system refused to see that their scheduling had a major impact on family life, since so many here have to take vacation in August due to the way the Congressional/Federal schedule works.
My 2 cents on the Labor Day start day –
I grew up in Baltimore County long long ago and do recall starting school after Labor Day. However, since being in Montgomery, since 1999 (I taught before I had kids in school), I believe school has started before.
As for the tourism dollars – I definitely see where the later start may benefit the Eastern shore counties (and would love to have another week to hang out in the sand.) However, I do wonder how much of that is money coming into the state v from other parts of Maryland. Visitors from out of state are not limited by when we go to school – they can come and go to Ocean City whenever they want – this brings money into the state. But our own pre-Labor Day start dates limit Maryland folks from hanging out at the beach another couple weeks, which really only shifts money from one county to another. So how much does our school start date really effect these tourism dollars? (I know some economist is going to argue this point, but go easy on me. This is kinda a rhetorical question since the discussion came up and I’m waiting for my coffee to brew.)
But — this has been good discussion and folks have brought up some really good points on all sides of the argument of starting earlier, earlier or even later. While we continue to discuss, also remember to share with BOE.
Here’s the link directly to the comments section:
I find it interesting that they do away with final exams, then want to change the schedule bcs of testing. I have a feeling that the number of kids taking AP exams will decrease when they realize that the perk of no final exam is gone. Many kids take the AP exam for college, yes, but some take it to avoid a final.