‘Late start’ days for staff benefit students

My daughter told me that my grandson started school late one day earlier this month due to a “late start” day. Please inform others like me what this is.

Six “late start” dates for the purpose of staff development were included in the 2005-2006 school calendar that was unanimously approved by the School Board at its April 28, 2005, meeting. The District views staff development activities to be an essential component in improving student academic achievement. Teachers need an opportunity to collaboratively review student data and develop appropriate intervention strategies based upon student performance. In addition, the district incorporated the late start dates into the school calendar so that the number of teacher absences from the classroom due to staff participation in staff development activities will be greatly reduced or even eliminated.
Principals at each of the District 834 schools included calendar and late start information with their mailings to families prior to the start of the school year. Dates for the first three late start days were included as part of the Community Education Fall 2005 catalogue, which was mailed to every household and business in District 834 in August.
The first of the six late start days for this school year took place in all of our district’s schools on Thursday, Oct. 6. Staff members reported to work at their regularly assigned time and spent the first two hours of the day engaged in staff development activities. Members of the district’s Division of Teaching and Learning carefully planned the activities. Although the activities varied slightly at each school site, the events for all six late start days are intended to include activities that are part of each school site’s staff development plan and the overall goals of the district.
Over the past three years, the district has increasingly seen the importance of staff development activities that have taken place throughout the district in relation to how they help improve student achievement. For example, teachers across the district who are in the process of placing district-wide curricular material into practice are able to discuss their ongoing experiences with their colleagues and in the process learn about varied, more successful approaches. Students benefit when teachers take this shared knowledge and apply it back in their classrooms.
There are many other student-related benefits that result from late start days. As our individualized student assessment program continues to be expanded by grade levels, staff members need sufficient time to review the data provided by the assessment tools and to work with team members in deciding how the data can be fully utilized. This crucial analysis and discussion enables them to determine the best instructional approach to maximizing individual student achievement.
The Division of Teaching and Learning continues to plan staff development activities for all District 834 staff members. As the curricular review process proceeds for all of our subject areas, the types and intensity of the staff development activities will vary. Unfortunately, not all activities are feasible at this time. For example, the division believes it would beneficial to have district-wide elementary teachers from a specific grade level gather for common training and dialogue during a late start day. Currently, we are unable to do that because of the tiered bussing service that in recent years has allowed the district to significantly reduce the amount of money expended on student transportation.
Initial feedback received from staff members regarding the first late start day includes the following:
“It worked!”
“We looked at how students were scoring in other buildings and started to ask the right questions such as, ‘What do we need to change to hit the same targets?’”
“We have identified 10 key areas that are critical to student achievement. These will provide the focus for our learning teams for the rest of the year.”
“This day gave us time to really look at the assessment data we have on students and share among teachers so instruction can be adjusted.”
“We were able to really learn how to interpret the data and how it fits in with the goals of the district.”
Plans are already in place to insure effective and productive use of the remaining five late start days for this school year. These dates include: Thursday, Nov. 3; Thursday, Feb. 2; Thursday, March 2; Thursday, April 6 and Thursday, May 4. School will begin two hours later than usual and will dismiss at the normal time. A report on the activities of the late start days will be shared with the Board of Education in early spring. At that time a determination will be made whether to continue late start days during the next school year.
Childcare is available on the late start days thanks to members of our Adventure Club and the Community Education Department. If you are interested in learning more about this service, please contact the Adventure Club supervisor at any one of our elementary schools. A fee is involved to participate in this service and in all Adventure Club programs.
On behalf of the staff of the Stillwater Area Public Schools, a special “thank you” to all of the families that helped make our first late start day a success. We will do our best to remind you of the upcoming late start days and keep you informed of the staff development activities that are occurring on these dates.

Questions can be e-mailed to ryskoskik@stillwater .k12.mn.us or sent on a postcard to Keith Ryskoski, Stillwater Area Public Schools, and 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. “Talk of the District” is also a cable television program that is filmed twice a month and shown several times a week. Contact your local cable access center to find out the days/times it airs in your area. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us and click on E-News Bureau.

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