Cleveland sees quick results in test scores with year-round calendar
Cleveland Elementary was a busy place on Thursday, eight days into the start of their new school year.
Kindergarteners in Kim Renno’s class were getting the feeling of saying the alphabet. Third graders in Heather Hill’s class worked on their vocabulary building in small groups. Kathy Cilluffo’s third graders learned about Atlantic puffins using video and print texts.
And second grader Joseph Racz, 6, presented one of his writing samples in Megan Thill’s class using a document camera and sound field projection device.
Cleveland’s 299 K-5 students are in their second year of a pilot program transitioning to a year-round balanced calendar. The calendar has the same amount of days as traditional school calendars but is spread out over the year.
Port Huron Schools Board of Education will hear an update Monday at its monthly meeting on how the school did in the first year of the three-year program, funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Education. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Central Office Building, 2720 Riverside Drive.
Principal David Roberts said the report that will be going to the board includes test scores from the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress.
According to first year data, Cleveland students in math matched or outperformed the growth of students district-wide in three grade levels. In reading, Cleveland matched or outperformed the district in four grade levels.
The district’s new K-12 curriculum director, Chris Arrington, will present those and other findings to the board on Monday.
Scores are compared across buildings within the district and nationally. The tests are computer adaptive, meaning the test gets harder according to how well a student performs.
Arrington said the board could expand the program after the three-year pilot period if it continues to show good results. He said whether year-round programs work depends on implementation and quality teaching.
“Districts are giving this an opportunity and a chance because there is a body of data out there that says this can work if applied properly. Anything that we prove and that works for our children is on the table for discussion,” Arrington said.
“If it’s good for children and the data show that we’re helping students then we’re definitely going to take a look at expanding.”
He said priority schools are more likely to try full-year balanced calendars, although non-priority schools have tried it as well.
“I know that it’s not just set aside for at-risk or priority schools, but priority schools are more prone to try this because they’re in a position where they need to cultivate change and they want to create rapid turnaround in student growth,” Arrington said.
Students and staff at Cleveland attend school year round except for three-week spring breaks, three-week Christmas breaks, and four weeks off from the end of June to mid-July for mid-summer break. The program runs on four-day weeks in July and August.
Roberts said the success of the program at Cleveland also will take into account perception data from parents, students, teachers and community members.
“Overwhelmingly, the perception data is coming back that the parents really like it,” Roberts said. “We also hear from people that four-weeks (in the summer) is enough of a break. Kids are getting stir crazy, they want to be in school.”
Parent Cassandra Kendrick said she is happy with the program for her second grader.
“When he got out of kindergarten going into first grade, he was a bit slower but now…he’s not getting behind. He’s forgetting less easily. He’s not repeating what he learned the previous year. Most of the schools around here that’s what they do, they repeat what the kids did the previous year and it’s slowing the kids’ progress,” she said.
The full balanced calendar at Cleveland was designed by the previous principal Chris Collins and his staff, Roberts said. Collins is now principal at Thomas Edison Elementary.
Cleveland is one of a few districts across the state chosen to pilot a year round balanced calendar through $2 million in grants from the Michigan Department of Education. The department in August 2014 awarded $375,235 to Port Huron Schools after initially denying their request.
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