Questions about Elementary and Upper School Schedules in CPS

kids doing yogaDecember 2018

Why is CPS exploring changes to school schedules?
The CPS District Plan outlines a vision of rigorous, joyful and culturally responsive learning, plus personalized support. Unfortunately, lack of time is a significant obstacle in our efforts to realize this vision, particularly for our most vulnerable students.

Within the K-8 six hour school day, some aspects of the curriculum are often short-changed due to running out of time, including high-quality science and social studies exploration. There is also limited time and flexibility to provide personalized support to meet the needs of all learners.

In addition, current schedules make it challenging to meet the developmental needs of students, including social-emotional learning and adequate time for lunch and recess. Finally, the lack of time and inflexibility of the schedule inhibit opportunities high-impact teacher collaboration.

Is CPS going to lengthen the school day?
Following more than a year of conversations with Cambridge community, including a May 2018 recommendation from a joint committee of educators and administrators co-chaired by the Cambridge Education Association (CEA) and CPS, the Superintendent will propose changes to the length of the K-8 6-hour day.

Full analysis and a detailed proposal will be released on January 7, 2019 for consideration and feedback by the CPS community. The resulting final proposal will then be presented to the Cambridge School Committee, and would need to be brought to the CEA for collective bargaining before any changes could move forward.

When would changes occur?
If changes are adopted and an agreement is reached between CPS and the CEA, changes would not take effect until September 2020 at the earliest. This will provide schools with at least one full year to develop their specific schedules, based on new start and end times,a set of guidelines developed by the school district, and input from their individual school communities.

Where did this idea come from?
The comparatively short length of the school day in Cambridge has been a subject of discussion for many years. The issue was raised by teachers and families during the Superintendent’s entry process and the 2017-2020 teachers’ contract established a joint working group of educators and administrators to explore the issue. Co-chaired by Cambridge Education Association (CEA) President Dan Monahan and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Anda Adams, the working group recommended that the 6 hour school day be “lengthened for students and staff at all levels.” A longer school day has also been recommended by external experts, most recently in the Elementary Program Review.

How has CPS included families who are historically left out of district-wide discussions?
CPS is reaching out to families through email, text messaging, and flyers, to invite them to feedback sessions and encourage them to share their input via online surveys. In addition, customized personal outreach has been carried out by the city’s DHSP Community Engagement Team (CET), including phone surveys of Spanish speakers, Haitian Creole speakers, Amharic speakers, Arabic speakers, Bangla speakers, and American-born Black families. The Professional & Learning Time Advisory Committee includes parent leaders from within the special education and advanced learning communities, as well as the CET Program Manager.

How long of a day is under consideration?
The Superintendent is considering proposals that range from extending the standard elementary and upper school schedule by 30 minutes to 1 hour. Proposed changes will be accompanied by guidelines defining developmentally and educationally appropriate scheduling. Please note that no significant changes to the length of the day will be proposed for Fletcher Maynard Academy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School, or CRLS.

What aspect of schedules will be developed at the school level vs. district level?
The District will propose changes to the length of the school day and a structure for educator professional time, as well as specific start and end times for each school, both of which are subject to approval by the School Committee.

The District will also provide guidance to support school-level improvements in the use of time, but school Principals will work with their communities to design the specific plan for each school.

Will recess be addressed in this proposal?
The academic, health, and social-emotional benefits of movement and play are well documented and reflected in the CPS Wellness Policy, which requires 20 minutes of daily recess for all K-8 students. Unfortunately, we know that the rushed pace of the school day can make it difficult to ensure that all students transition to recess on time, which means that they lose out on part of their schedule recess.
The forthcoming proposal will including guidelines around transition time, incorporating movement breaks and activity, and reinforcing of the importance of recess.

Have out-of-school-time partners been consulted during this process?
CPS has engaged city and nonprofit partners in meetings and design sessions aimed at understanding, protecting, and expanding access to high-quality out-of-school time experiences. These sessions have raised exciting ideas for deepening the partnership between schools and providers. Ultimately, it is hoped that this collaborative process will result in expanded access to quality out-of-school-time programming.

Will CPS respect parents’ and families’ choices about the specific needs of their children and families?
Having heard from more than one thousand CPS families through surveys, emails, and in-person conversations, we know that parent choices and family needs vary widely from family to family. Our proposal will seek to balance the diverse needs of our community and create as little disruption for families as possible.

For instance, we will seek to minimize changes to each school’s individual start and end times to reduce the impact on family schedules outside of school and respect the traffic and parking-related concerns sometimes expressed by staff who commute.

We will also work with city and community partners to reduce any impact that changes might have on family schedules and child care needs. In addition, families would have a full year to prepare for the changes that might affect their daily routines.
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