Thursday, October 31, 2013

Extending the School Day for Needham's Students

Over the last year administrators working collaboratively with the Needham Education Association (NEA) Executive Board agreed to consider a possible extension of the school day to meet identified programmatic and instructional issues.  More recently the Committee on Extended Time (CET) worked to propose a direction and schedule that provides more time on learning for students, increases K – 5 student programming, and ensures structured and consistent time for teacher planning and collaboration.

The committee understands that it is impossible to create an ideal schedule given the practical realities of budgets, bus schedules, and family concerns and needs.  However, the committee believes this proposal is grounded in the district’s core values and goals, developmentally appropriate, innovative in design, and will offer the children of Needham creative and worthwhile learning experiences that will allow them to grow, learn, and thrive in the 21st Century. 

The proposal for extended time in the Needham Public Schools is exciting and innovative.  It will enrich the student experience and provide educators with the time and structures necessary to continue to grow and refine their practice in ways that will further enhance and empower student growth, learning, and achievement.

•  At the elementary level the CET proposes new and expanded curricular offerings, including PE/Wellness, Spanish, the arts, technology, and robotics/engineering.  Additionally, consistent teacher preparation  and collaboration time is introduced into the school day to ensure teachers have the time necessary to plan, work together, and support their students.

•  At the middle schools the addition of ten minutes would expand existing programming and allow the schools to count the additional time on learning toward the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) secondary school standard of 990 minimum instructional hours. Additional teacher collaboration and professional development time would also enhance the student experience.

•  The high school would not increase student programming or time on learning, but teacher collaboration and meeting time is proposed to increase on a regular and consistent schedule that would minimally impact after school help, tutoring, and student activities.

The committee acknowledged that a significant change like the one proposed requires significant and new resources for the schools, and it will require all school staff—teachers, teacher assistants, technicians, principals, secretaries—to think and work differently on behalf of the students of the Needham Schools.  Thus the implementation of a new schedule will require patience, creativity, flexibility, and openness to change and growth.  And the planning and communication to staff, parents, students, and the community must be clear, thoughtful, and compelling.

We hope the School Committee and the community will support this bold proposal to enhance teaching and learning in the Needham Public Schools for all children.

For more information and details about the proposal: Extended Time Report to the School Committee.

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