School Board: Explaining early release/late start days

By the CHAMPLAIN VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS

We owe it to the community to keep you informed about happenings in our schools and our district. As parents know, our PreK-8 schools release students an hour early on Tuesdays and Champlain Valley Union High School starts an hour later on Mondays to allow for deeper, ongoing professional development time with our faculty and staff.

We asked the district’s Director of Learning and Innovation Jeff Evans to answer a few questions about the late start/early release time.

How is the focus on the use of that time determined?

The district chose to focus on four key areas this year, which are indicated in our continuous improvement plan. They are: Proficiency, Personalization, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (differentiating supports to ensure success for all students, based on student needs), and Social-Emotional Learning. These four topics drive the design of professional learning.

There are different models for this work in each of our schools. There may be focused cycles such as working on one initiative for a month or so, or others may rotate the focus weekly in a given month. There are consistent goals across the district.

Who facilitates the work?

Depending on the focus, the work may be facilitated by administrators, instructional coaches, coordinators or teachers. Much of the work is done in professional learning communities, smaller groups that are either content-specific or interdisciplinary to address instruction and strategies designed to improve learning.

How does this work build over time?

Professional learning communities spend their time following this cycle: learning about the topic, collaborating and designing, and implementing instructional strategies. They review and revisit the work over time to continually make improvements.

What impacts are we seeing as a result of the work done over the past 2.5 years?

Common learning expectations exist across the district now. You can see the result of this work on our website: cvsdvt.org/domain/373. Prior to this structure, there were greater differences around this work across district schools. Having this time provides greater depth, common district expectations for learning across all content areas, more consistent instructional strategies, and overall a more balanced, thoughtful approach to professional learning.

A few teachers from our PreK-8 schools shared thoughts about the impact of that time on their work with students.

  • “The early release time gives us an extended, uninterrupted period of time to do the hard work of analyzing assessments, planning differentiated instruction and learning new curriculum and strategies with support and coaching.” – Michelle Lass, Hinesburg Community School.
  • “I like the model of after school PD time because our work is immediately relevant to instruction and I feel like I’m getting important work done that needs to be done at that time, anyway.” – Stephanie Konowitz, Hinesburg Community School.
  • “One thing I really appreciate about the early release professional development time is that we have the opportunity to look at resources for a particular content area, i.e. literacy, and explore them deeply. For example, this fall my colleagues and I did a book study about guided reading. We learned a great deal about specific strategies to support students at various stages of development. Having time to discuss this new learning and collaborate with our colleagues was very helpful and made changes easier to implement!” – Natallie Lodge, Shelburne Community School.
  • “Having a weekly time to collaborate with colleagues across grade levels and content areas has allowed us the opportunity to engage in long-term professional learning that has had a positive impact on our teaching. We are able to more regularly look at data and use this information to drive our instruction and better meet the needs of all of our learners. We have also been able to explore new programs and initiatives and implement them in our classrooms in thoughtful and effective ways.” – Miranda Johnson, Hinesburg Community School.
  • “We are grateful for the early release time for two key reasons, consistency and collaboration. First, we love that every week our routine is consistent for our students, instead of the random professional development days. Secondly, it is so powerful to have two full hours to connect and collaborate with our colleagues. This is an essential time when we are able come together as a school to address our students’ needs.” – Katie Fraser and Natasha Grey, Charlotte Central School.

For more information, contact the school board via email at cvsdboard@cvsdvt.org. The board is on Facebook at facebook.com/ChamplainValleySchoolDistrict/ also on Twitter @cvsdvt and has a blog at cvsdstory.blogspot.com/.

The CVSD School board is: Josilyn Adams, Williston; Kelly Bowen, St. George; Erin Brady, Williston; Russ Caffry, Shelburne; Dave Connery, Shelburne; Chair Lynne Jaunich, Charlotte; Vice Chair Colleen MacKinnon, Hinesburg; Ray Mainer, Hinesburg; Kevin Mara, Williston; Barbra Marden, Shelburne; Jeff Martin, Charlotte; Brendan McMahon, Williston.

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