York Students Have Late Arrival Days Nearly Every Wednesday During the 2012-13 School Year
Parents will have to trade the convenience of a consistent weekly schedule for what officials say is a far superior learning model for students.
Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials are spreading the word—and providing an explanation—about new school start times at both the elementary and high school levels.
At the elementary level, to bring District 205’s instructional minutes up to the state average, 15 minutes have been added to the school day.
Beginning the first day of school, Aug. 20, morning classes will begin at 8:15 a.m. for grades one through five. Students must report five minutes earlier, at 8:10 a.m. to be ready to begin the school day on time. For kindergarteners on the first day only, morning classes will meet from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. and afternoon kindergarten will meet from 10:05 to 11:05 a.m.
Lunch at the elementary level will be from 11:05 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.
But it's the high school changes that mainly have people talking.
At York, where current instructional minutes are above the state average, students will have late-start days, at 9 a.m., nearly every Wednesday.
The change is not to bring instructional minutes down to state levels. It is necessary, officials say, to expand leadership development opportunities for teachers. This is the first year of implementation of a new initiative in District 205: developing school leadership teams that are part of a larger professional learning community (PLC).
"In the complex world of 21st century education, collaboration is the key to both student and teacher success," according to a press release issued by District 205 last week. "A PLC consists of team members who take an active, reflective, collaborative, learning-oriented and growth-promoting approach to teaching and learning."
The teachers will need those Wednesday mornings to develop the teams and to put into practice the new concepts they've learned after participating in PLC workshops during the 2011-12 school year.
For parents, this new concept of professional learning communities might seem vague. But teachers who spent many hours in six interactive sessions offered by the DuPage Regional Office of Education developed and enhanced their skills to create "high-performing school leadership teams," the press release states. To listen to part of this process, click here.
Other schools in Illinois have incorporated the PLC model. Adlai Stevenson High School is often held up as an example of a successful PLC.
“The most promising strategy for sustained, substantive school improvement is developing the ability of school personnel to function as professional learning communities,” said PLC expert Dr. Richard DuFour, former superintendent of Stevenson High.
Research shows that teacher professional development is the single most important factor in increasing student achievement, said Dr. Al Bertani, who led the six sessions with District 205 teachers.
“There’s a University of Chicago study, built out of a book called Organizing Schools for Improvement, which talks about the fact that really strong schools, in terms of their professional learning communities, are 10 times more likely to actually improve (student scores) in reading and mathematics,” Bertani said.
Developing a PLC is something the Elmhurst Unit District 205 Board of Education has been working on for more than a year. Superintendent David Pruneau, who has been with the district for just under a year, helped establish a PLC at the Rochester Community School District in Michigan, where he was superintendent for six years. That district has been ranked in the top 2 percent in the state of Michigan for student academic achievement. He created an improvement growth model that set district and school goals based on specific performance indicators established by the community. District 205 Board members in their committees have been working on the same thing here for the past year.
The PLC concept also is supported by the Elmhurst Teachers Council.
In further explaining the concept, District 205 administration quotes Dr. John Murray of Auburn University.
“Educational reform movements are emphasizing that teacher professional learning is a key component of change and an important link between standards and improved student learning,” Murray said. “As students are expected to learn more complex material and new analytical skills in preparation for further education and work in the age of information and globalization, teachers must learn to teach in ways that encourage higher level thinking and performance. A new kind of teaching is needed, conducted by teachers who understand learning as well as teaching, who can address students’ needs and the demands of their disciplines, and who can create bridges between students’ experiences and curriculum goals.”
Further information on building professional learning communities is documented in a white paper called Transforming Teacher Work for a Better Educated Tomorrow, released in November 2011 by Advance Illinois.
More Information on Schedule Changes
Exceptions to York High School's late-arrival Wednesdays are:
- Oct. 17: state testing day
- Dec. 17: first semester finals
- April 24: PSAE testing day
- May 15: senior exams
- May 22 and 29: second semester finals and year-end wrap-up
As was the case in 2011-12, the middle and elementary school schedules will continue to reflect a monthly student late arrival day Wednesdays, Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 14, Dec. 12, Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 13, April 10 and May 8.
The student late arrival instructional schedule will be as follows:
- AM Kindergarten: 9:15 to 11:40 a.m.
- PM Kindergarten: 12:40 to 3:00 p.m.
- Grades one to five: 9:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Middle school: 9:25 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
- High school: 9 a.m. to 3:11 p.m.
The 2012-13 school calendar provides a one-page overview of this information on the District 205 calendar page.