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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Conversations About Calendar 2.0

Should summer vacation be shorter?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Last year, the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association announced that it was contemplating a change to the K-12 academic calendar.

Worried that some students were falling behind during summer vacation — especially kids whose parents don't have the resources to fill their days with enrichment activities — school administrators are seeking to shrink the end-of-the-year recess by two weeks and redistribute those days throughout the year in week-long "intersessions." They've dubbed their plan "Calendar 2.0."

Here's an explanation, from the website the group set up to explain the effort:

The goal of the proposed calendar is to organize student instruction time so students have opportunities to pause and reflect and expand upon their learning. These intersessions are designed to be used in a variety of ways, including: student enrichment opportunities, chances to provide timely intervention for students who need it, in-depth and project-based learning, opportunities for teacher professional development, opportunities for teachers to review student data during non-instructional times, and opportunities for families to schedule routine appointments or take vacations without interrupting learning blocks of time.

Well, guess what? Turns out a lot of people actually like Calendar 1.0. At the end of August, my Facebook news feed erupted with parents and activists who were peeved about this new plan. Suddenly everyone was urging me to join Vermont's Save Our Summer Coalition and oppose the shortening of summer break.

SOS describes itself as "a group of parents, educators and community members" who have come up with 10 reasons to oppose Cal 2.0. Oddly, none of them have signed their names to their list of objections, though their Facebook page counts more than 1000 supporters.

The SOS complains that, among other things:

• "There is no evidence to support the likelihood that the proposed calendar will improve student outcomes."

• "Intersession programming will likely cost money and/or take money from other student programs."

• "The new break periods will create child care difficulties for working families."

and, yes,
• "Summer in Vermont is short and special."

Most of the commenters on the Calendar 2.0 website's Readers Corner echo reasons cited on the SOS top 10 list.

I've heard a few parents speak out in favor of the reforms, though — most notably, digital strategist and Vermont Public Radio commentator Rich Nadworny. I heard his Calendar 2.0 commentary while driving home from work one day. "Changing the calendar," he writes, "is one of the lowest hanging fruits on the educational tree. And if we can’t make a relatively simple change like this, it’s hard to see how we’ll ever be able to make the more difficult choices required to make the foundational changes needed in our American and Vermont schools."

Still haven't made up your mind? If you, like me, are on the fence about this plan, now's the time to get engaged. The CVSA is hosting four community forums about Cal 2.0 this month. Two of them take place this week. The superintendents say that this plan is just the first draft of a proposal. They hope it'll start a conversation about how best to use student breaks. If you're interested in participating, start here:

Wednesday, October 2, 6:30 p.m. at Essex High School
• Thursday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. at Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans
• Wednesday, October 9, 6:30 p.m. at Burlington High School
Thursday, October 10, 6:30 p.m. at Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg

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