In a statement that is sure to be supported by students of all ages, the Moffat County School District School Improvement Committee advised against lengthening the school year and school day, citing research that shows only a slight improvement in student achievement from this move.
Instead, the School Improvement Committee (SIC), favored more efficient use of class time, focusing on raising "time-on-task," which studies show is more effective in raising student achievement and consistently has shown substantial gains.
This was one of several recommendations the committee proposed at Monday's Moffat County Board of Education meeting. The proposals were outlined by Janet Bohart, director of staff development and curriculum for the Moffat County School District. SIC President Dee Miller was not able to attend because of a family obligation.
"I first want to say that this was a fun and interesting group to work with, who didn't want to just sit around and give opinions. They really wanted to get into research, and that's reflected in the language and ideas of these recommendations," Bohart said. "We propose that the site principals make these recommendations the basis of Parent Advisory Committee meetings and report on how they are received and their effectiveness at the end of the year."
The English Language Learner (ELL) programs were first addressed by the committee, including ideas on early intervention, improving home-to-school communications, the necessity of additional personnel and expanding computer-aided instruction.
In response to a question on what measures there are to determine if a student and the ELL program were "going in the direction we want to go," Director of Special Education and Student Services, Archie Neil said, "We track them for two years, per our funding, and the ELL students are tested in the spring and fall. After those two years, they are still assisted, but there is no extra funding."
Ridgeview Elementary School Principal Pete Bergmann added "our goal is to get the ELL students to a four or a five in a system where one is very limited English, and four is fairly proficient.
"We do assess them even after the mandated two-year program, and the ELL students do receive further help, especially with reading and writing," Bergmann said.
The SIC feels strongly that time-on-task training for the faculty of the schools would produce substantial gains in student achievement, and urged the board to put the funding in place so the staff could receive the training. Bohart said that the research and studies the SIC examined clearly stated that extending the minutes spent in the classroom doesn't have nearly the effect that making sure the students were on-task each minute they were in class does.
"Compared to the expenses associated with extending the school day or year, the only expense involved with this proposal is in the training that the staff will receive to effectively manage their classrooms and consistently engage learners in successful activities," Bohart said.
Other issues raised by SIC:
To ensure that grades accurately reflect student learning, administrators and staffs should examine the use of extra credit at each site, to make sure that it is given for academic reasons only.
Recommended the district begin giving finals or major projects for dual credit courses, as the students had complained that lack of finals experience was something that was an issue once they had moved on to college. The district should also increase the time that is allotted to help students organize and effectively study.