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Marion Schools to consider year-round class schedule

Marion Schools to consider year-round class schedule


District holding meeting with select citizens on ‘hybrid calendar’ change this afternoon By Ralph Hardin

One change that many school districts are adopting as educators look for ways to improve student performance is the elimination of the two-plus-months long summer break that traditionally separates the end of one school year and the beginning of another.

With that in mind, the Marion School District has spend the past several months weighing the possibility of making the change as early as the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, and now school officials are taking that idea to its staff and select members of the public.

As rumors of a possible meeting began to circulate around the community about the potential switch, some took to social media to air their concerns about both the impact of the change and the district’s perceived lack of transparency.

“In case you haven’t heard,” Jennifer Johnson shared on her Facebook page, “the school district is holding a meeting at 4 p.m. this Thursday at the Performing Arts Center to discus change in school calendar — possibly changes in start/end dates to accommodate longer breaks — which means longer school year. Possibly discussing school morning start times as well.”

Some seemed to be in favor of the potential change.

Kate Williams said, “I love the new calendar they’re looking at for Marion! So beneficial for the kids!”

Sarah Ward added, “They’ll still go to school the same amount of time. It will be a great change.”

Others weren’t quite on board.

“Rumor last year was they were going to change start times too.

This should be a very interesting discussion,” shared Connie Burks.

“Especially since the school did not even inform parents of the meeting.”

“Do they usually record these meetings and post them to the district Facebook page or website?” asked Jessica Simmons. “I’ll be at school in Jonesboro and won’t make it. I feel as though they are trying to hide this from the community. I could be very wrong and not paying attention, but why make this a 4 p.m. meeting when the majority

or school?”

Aware of all the information and misinformation going around in community and social media circles, the Marion School District issued a statement on this afternoon’s meeting.

“As a point of clarification regarding the MSD informational meeting scheduled for 4:00 p.m. January 16 in the Performing Arts Center, the purpose of the gathering is to assess the interest of our faculty and staff and a sampling of key stakeholder groups, regarding both the proposed Hybrid School Calendar and staggered start time concept,” read the statement.

The release also clairified who is and is not invited to the meeting.

“All faculty and staff have received a blanket invitation. Specific invitations have been sent to members of both Certified and Classified PPC committees, parent representatives selected by the building Principals from all MSD schools, as well as members of the High School and Junior High Student Councils.”

In other words, this afternoon’s meeting was in no way being kept secret nor were parents and members of the community being slighted by the perceived lack of communication. The process and procedure simply haven’t reached that level of informing the public yet.

“Following the meeting, there will be a survey sent to all invitees to assess support or lack thereof for the respective proposals,” the statement went on to say. “Any proposal that is supported by a significant percentage of invitees will become the topic of a widely publicized public meeting to be scheduled on a date prior to consideration of the topic by our Board.”

For informational purposes, the district included in the release, several links to publications “from a variety of respected sources that speak to the science behind the rationale for these proposed modifications.”

Research for the hybrid calendar –> Research for changing start times —> https:// Letter from Mr. Mickey Long, Jonesboro Public Schools Transportation Director –> One of those reports, titled “Summer learning loss: What is it, and what can we do about it?” by David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff cites data that says historically disadvantaged student groups “start the academic year with achievement levels lower than where they were at the beginning of summer break.” They refer to this phenomenon as “summer learning loss, summer setback, or summer slide” and say the issue has been of interest to education researchers going back more than a century, when the U.S. was a more agrarian society and the school calendar was shaped by the need to have students on the farm at certain times of the year.

The authors came to a number of conclusions, including

• On average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning,

• Declines were sharper for math than for reading, and

• The extent of loss was larger at higher grade levels.

• Income-based reading gaps grew over the summer, given that middle class students tended to show improvement in reading skills while lower-income students tended to experience loss.

One study using data from over half a million students in grades 2-9 from southern states (from 2008-2012) found that students, on average, lost between 25 and 30 percent of their school-year learning over the summer.

Other observations gleaned from the study:

• Students’ achievement

over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning.

• Middle-income students benefitted more from summer programming than did lower-income students.

They speculated that this could be because programs serving more advantaged students were of higher quality, or because of an interactive effect between programming and the home resources available to students.

• Summer reading programs were found to be effective at raising test scores, on average, with low-income students benefitting most from summer reading programs.

Speculations were made suggesting that summer reading programs could be replaced by simply decreasing the long gaps students spend out of the classroom in the summer months.

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