Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hot topic: SFUSD might change school calendar

An SF K Files has brought up an interesting issue:

"SFUSD is considering making major changes to the school year calendar for the 2009-10 school year, which would of course have a huge impact on families in the district. I hope you will consider blogging about this. I couldn't find anything about it on the district's web site, but the teachers' union is polling teachers about the proposed changes:

Two of the three proposed 2009-10 calendars have school starting on August 12 with the last day of school at the end of May, the third option is very close to the current schedule.

I am a teacher in SFUSD and only heard about this in the last week at our Union Building Committee meeting. I can tell you that teachers at my school are not very happy with the prospect of a shortened summer break this year, but most seem open to the idea of changing the schedule if they are given a full school year to plan and prepare for it.

We were given very little information about the motivation behind the proposals; apparently it has to do with the new testing requirements for algebra, but that's all we were told."

Here are the three calendars the district is proposing:

Calendar Draft A - Early Start
Monday, August 10th Teachers report back
Wednesday, August 12 First day of instruction
Tuesday, December 22 Fall semester ends
Wednesday, December 23 Friday, January 8 - Winter break
Monday, January 11 First day of spring semester
Monday, March 29 Friday, April 2 - Spring break
Friday, May 28 Last day of instruction/spring semester ends

Calendar Draft B - Early Start
Monday, August 10 Teachers report back
Wednesday, August 12 First day of instruction
Tuesday, December 22 Fall semester ends
Wednesday, December 23 Tuesday, January 5 - Winter break
Wednesday, January 6 First day of spring semester
Monday, March 29 Friday, April 2 - Spring break
Wednesday, May 26 Last day of instruction/Spring semester ends

Calendar Draft C - Traditional
Wednesday, August 19 Teachers report back/ Professional development
Monday, August 24 First day of instruction
Monday, December 21 Friday, January 1 - Winter break
Friday, January 15 End of fall semester
Monday, March 29 Friday, April 2 - Spring break
Tuesday, June 15 Last day of instruction/Spring semester ends


  1. Here is a response that was posted on the sfschools yahoo listserve in response to a question about the possible changes in the SFUSD school calandar:

    Re: Possible changes in SFUSD school year schedule?

    Well, this idea isn't new. I actually suggested this to Ms. Chiu from
    SOIS and Commissioner Wynns last year in mid-May - not because of the
    community college reason, but for the following:

    (1) The California Achievement Test is based on a yearlong course
    curriculum; at the current rate, students receive 70% of the
    instruction and take the test. Therefore, scores are generally low.
    If the school calendar is moved up, students from K-12 will receive
    more instruction on the curriculum needed to take the test, and
    therefore, increase SFUSD's ranking and scores, and make it easier to
    comply with NCLB.

    (2) The Advanced Placement Exam schedule. Indeed, not all students
    take AP exams, but for those who do, they will receive more
    instruction prior to taking the exam. This will potentially save
    students money in college, as they can skip out of the basic classes
    (I'm saving a semester's worth of tuition) just because I took AP
    exams in high school.

    (3) Many summer programs and internships begin in May; students will
    be able to take advantage on more programs.

    (4) The high school final exam schedule will move up to before winter
    break; therefore, students won't have to worry about completing their
    homework on January 2 and can fully enjoy the holiday spirit!

    (5) Students who are applying to colleges will have more time to
    consult with their counselors. Trust me - each day counts. I sent in
    my application the day it was do. The average high school student's
    major: procrastinating (although I'm sure a lot of adults do that too).

    I never actually brought this up at the full board meeting because

    (1) The SAC season was pretty much over, so I didn't have to authority
    to introduce a resolution without their consent, and I wanted to
    listen to other students' perspectives;

    (2) Commissioner Wynns wanted me to talk with UESF due to contract
    areas and basically, more research (I just had a sudden spark of this
    idea); and

    (3) Twenty days before I leave high school - I prefer being with my
    friends rather than approaching a new issue. The reso for Drivers Ed
    took me three months! Boys will be boys.

    I'm actually glad that the Superintendent's Office is bringing this
    up. I think it will overall be beneficial to classroom instruction.
    However, prior to making any decision, I do agree that community
    discussion should take part, especially with parents. Also, if this
    does happen, I think it should be in 2012 (or some time else), so
    schools, parents and others can prepare.



  2. The summer break is not shorter... you still get the same number of weeks.

    But people are just used to summer being August and not June.

    As a parent, it wouldn't really matter to me and may work out better for traveling since early June is when you can great some great deals on flights.

  3. from PPSSF:

    I took this from an email I received from the Department of Children Youth and their Families – they are currently vetting the proposed school calendar with Community Organizations that work with schools during and after school hours.


    The proposed changes are designed to (1) end the first semester before the winter break and (2) increase the length of that break - these changes mean the school year would start earlier in August and end at the end of May. The proposed changes could be implemented as soon as the 2009-2010 school year.

    The proposed changes have a number of instructional benefits:

    1) Possible Winter Break Intervention: It enables the district to create a curriculum during the break that can give emergency assistance to students who struggled during the first semester. This could potentially be critical support for those students who need intervention in order to be successful during the spring semester.

    2) Additional time to prepare the Master Calendar: It will give teachers and administrators a longer window to assign students to their spring semester classes and allow them the time to better evaluate and properly place students in their next classes.

    3) Time for families/staff to travel during break: It will allow families and faculty a reasonable amount of time to travel long-distance over the holidays. Many SFUSD families often travel to places like the Philippines, India, China, etc and will pull their child out of class for an extra week to do so. This structure will prevent those children from missing a significant amount of instruction.

    4) A more cohesive instructional semester: The current structure cuts off instruction for two weeks just as students are approaching the end of the semester. Students then need additional review when they return to school just to get back up to where they were when they left. (Speaking as a former teacher, I know how disruptive this is to the curriculum and how much time is wasted in ramping down and ramping back up because of the winter break).

    5) A more authentic break for students: It will give kids - particularly those in secondary - a "pure" break over the holidays.

    Under the current structure, kids might receive homework over the break or they may feel the pressure to be studying and prepping for their finals when they return. With this system, the semester ends clean and students can enjoy a real break.

    6) Alignment with the City College calendar for those students who take classes there.

    TIMING: Assuming the teachers union approves the changes, the district will present the new instructional calendar and timeline to the board of education in December. Assuming they approve it, it will be posted and confirmed before January 1, 2009 and will be in effect August 2009 for the 2009-2010 school year.

    Ellie Rossiter

    Executive Director

    Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco

    3543 18th Street

    San Francisco, CA 94110

    (415) 861-7077

  4. On the other hand, summer is just starting in SF in August.

    This promises to be a nightmare for anyone with kids in two different situations, ie, SFUSD and private school.

  5. Yes. But the District needs to do what is best for the majority of kids.

    I'm kind of excited about a longer winter break!!

  6. written by a non-working mom, obviously. for us working losers, what are we supposed to do for childcare during these crazy long mid-year vacations? I can't believe that the district would even contemplate this. Insane.

  7. The summer break is not shorter... you still get the same number of weeks.

    That will be true only after a year. The first year will have a shorter summer vacation because the prior year (the last on the old calendar) will end later.

    Instituting this calendar for the 2009-10 school year seems like awfully short notice. The first year of implementation will require a lot of planning, I think. There's the summer school schedule (and making sure the summer school sites are cleaned and ready for the school year), the Kindergarten readiness program to schedule at the sites that offer it, and so many other factors.

  8. I really like the new calendar. It would be so great to take the kids to national parks in May and not June. And I love the longer winter break. But it does seem like they need to give two year's notice.

  9. Here's a bunch of reasons it's not a good idea:

    1. Most summer programs are in July and August (I honestly have never seen one that starts in May). This will rule out many summer programs for middle and high school kids (some of which people have already paid for!). Some of these are wonderful opportunities.

    2. Most schools, not just private, have most or all of August off. Most UCs start toward the end of September leaving conflicting vacation schedules for many students.

    3. It is ridiculous to turn around people's lives over arbitrary tests. If these need to test the whole year they should just be scheduled later.

    4. I haven't seen a huge problem covering the curriculum for AP classes- and kids like the break afterwards. If APs and finals were at the same time the stress for the kids would be enormous.

    5. Kids lose two weeks of summer this year. That's killer when you're working hard all year (especially in middle school and high school). For some kids next year will be their last year. They are just losing two weeks of summer and won't get it back even if the SFUSD switches back.

    6. There are NO summer programs for students of any age in late May or early June.

    7. This will screw over many parents. If this change is made, at the least a year's notice should be given (or is SFUSD going to pay for all the deposits parents have made for vacations and camps and study abroad).

    For our family, and many others, this would be a disaster.

  10. Here's a link to a piece that Caroline Grannan wrote on this topic for the SF Examiner:

  11. This is just the kind of thing that chases families from the SFUSD- enormous unpredictable changes at the last minute (i.e. school closures, new assignment plan, 8 prof devel days one year, none the next). It is hugely stressful to be a SFUSD parent.

  12. i haven't studied the plan yet and am not pro or con per se, but i can't help but view it as yet another kick in the teeth for working people. my experiences dealing with SFUSD -- from the no-preschool diversity point to before/aftercare woes to everything else -- have left me with the strong impression that the district doesn't like parents with JOBS very much, does it?

  13. "a disaster"

    OMG what melodrama.

    "is SFUSD going to pay for all the deposits parents have made for vacations and camps and study abroad"

    Jeepers, how many parents of kids in SFUSD actually have THAT problem? Unreal.

    "It will ENTIRELY disrupt my yachting schedule!"

    "The Nanny will not have it!"

  14. Most summer camps work around the public school calendar, not the other way around. You can be sure camps will be available any week the public schools are on break, that is how they make money. So while it seems scary, I think most people will be able to find activity options. I think it likely at least some of the privates would modify their calendars to align with SFUSD as well, at least those with a substantial number of working parents.

  15. Hey, 9:29 - lay off the sarcasm. I don't have a yacht or a nanny, and we're a two-worker household just barely clinging to middle class status. One week a year I take my children on a family camp vacation, for which we have already paid the non-refundable deposit. Guess when that vacation is supposed to start? Aug. 10, 2009 - the same day school would start under the proposed calendar.

  16. Our principal said that if this proposal goes through it will probably start in 2010. I think the district has heard it loud and clear that more planning and coordination is needed for a change of this magnitude.

  17. Our principal said that if this proposal goes through it will probably start in 2010. I think the district has heard it loud and clear that more planning and coordination is needed for a change of this magnitude.

  18. hey 10:21

    so miss a week of school ONCE and stop whining

    the sense of entitlement from so many on this blog never ceases to amaze me

  19. I think many other public school districts and private schools are already on a similar schedule. We live two blocks from Archbishop Riordan, and they always start and end about two weeks earlier than the public schools. And a friend of mine teaches in a high school district in San Mateo County, and they're on an earlier schedule as well. In fact, it has been a problem for her family that her employing district and the SFUSD are on such different schedules. I have an impression that there is a national trend toward earlier school starting dates.

  20. I do have a sense of entitlement! I really do feel entitled to clear, accurate, and timely information from the school district. This feels thrown together. It may be a good idea, I haven't decided what I think yet. But letting it leak out in a wishy washy way is annoying. Better to discuss the idea openly and make decisions a year in advance so people can plan around it. That's just good management.

  21. Also, many employers want employees' vacation schedules in December or early January. Giving parents a big "maybe" about when school starts is not cool.

  22. I don't think it's "entitled" to expect fair notice for scheduling changes that affect families. If the SFUSD wants to demonstrate some understanding about how families really work, it will not implement these sorts of significant schedule changes until the 2010-11 school year.

    One of the reasons the SFUSD lists for making these changes is that it will give families more time to travel to distant places to visit their relatives. Well, guess what: those plans often get made a year in advance. My family has already put down a nonrefundable deposit for a family reunion next August. We specifically chose a date that we thought would be well before school might start, and even called the SFUSD and PPS to try to confirm the 2009 start date. We were told only that they didn't have it set yet.

    Now, due to SFUSD's late planning, we're facing missing our child's entire first week of kindergarten or not letting her see her only cousins, aunts, uncles and grandfather next year - and losing our entire deposit.

    I'm not talking yachts and nannys - I'm talking a basic understanding of how many families work. This annual one-week reunion is the ONLY time that our child gets to spend with our relatives. If SFUSD throws a new schedule at parents for next year at this point, it will be one more example of how poorly it contemplates the effects of its decisions.

  23. I don't think there are any nannies or yachts on this blog and there are precious few in the SFUSD. There are many working families who need to plan things in advance and cherish the occasional enrichment activities they and their children can do. Really no need for sarcasm or nastiness.

  24. I'm agnostic on the issue as I can see pros and cons and could go either way. I do think they should not implement next year but rather give families and summer camps (which do work to tie into the SFUSD calendar) time to adjust. But most of the anxieties are related to the transition, right? Change is always stressful. Once we changed over, most problems would be resolved.

    I DO like that they have been vetting this through a variety of parents' groups including PTA, PPS, Coleman, various ethnic organizations. Just hope they hear the need the postpone implementation by a year, as mentioned above.

    For me personally it would be a bit of a drag as it would wreak havoc with the parenting plan I share with my ex. I don't relish going in and changing that, seriously (anyone who has been in this situation will understand what I mean, and everyone else--just trust me, you don't want to know).

    Also, I coordinate vacation plans with my family back East, and while many school districts in the country may be turning to an early-start schedule, the ones back there are definitely keeping to the post-Labor Day start that aligns with all the local colleges. Chalk it up to New England being college-heavy, I guess. So this proposal would limit the available weeks to coordinate this schedule with my family and their kids--a real shame, and potentially difficult, as above, in terms of dealing with the ex and his needs. Sigh. And no, adding another week at the New Year does not help me (it may help him), as I cannot afford two trips for me and the kids to go back East. One long trip is what works financially.

    On the other hand, and thinking beyond my needs and those whose needs match mine, I can definitely see the logic FOR THE KIDS of ending the marking period before the holiday; getting an early jump on the year to aid college apps and big tests in the spring; and shortening the long time between classes when many (not all) kids lose ground, especially those without the kind of enrichment my kids have.

    I want to say that I appreciate the Superintendent's focus on meeting the needs of the kids here (realizing not everyone can ever be happy) rather than employees or even parents like me.

    Bottom line, if this is seen as a good idea by him and other educators, I'll go with it and not complain, and once I've worked out the parenting plan again (sigh), it will be in the rearview mirror.

    By the way, I'm a working parent with lots of experience with summer camps and afterschool and holiday programs for kids, and I am certain that those programs will adapt their schedule to fit the school calendar--though again, a year's lag time to plan would be a nice thing.

  25. @ 10:38 - Aka TROLL
    We're talking about missing the FIRST week of school, not just ANY OLD week of school. Maybe you don't think having your child start the year off right is important, but I do.

  26. Plus, if you miss the first week of Kindergarten, it is possible the school will disenroll your child. I was told that my son would lose his spot at an SFUSD school if he wasn't there that first week.

  27. I thought this district didn't do anything until the 10 day count, it was only different this year because of the flynnardo affair.

    Though in reality, after 2 days, seats should be given up to the waitlist UNLESS a parent has made prior arrangements (such as sick, or trip or whatever). Positive notification should be required at all schools at least 1 week or 2 weeks before school starts. Thats what the civilized, high performing, ok lets just say it, smart school districts around the Bay Area do.

    In your case, if you are on a trip, I would think you would be able to call the school and explain your situation.

  28. Does anybody know when the district plans to announce its decision? From its website, I see that there will be a hearing on December 9, but I haven't seen a decision date. Again, not helpful to those of us who have already made or are in the process of making plans for next year.

    BTW, SFUSD's website also indicates that parents and community members are welcome to send comments about the proposals (before Dec. 9) to Deena Zacharin in the Office of School and Family Partnerships,

  29. As a teacher in SFUSD, I would look to teach in another district. It would be the last straw. My child is not enrolled in SFUSD, and it would disrupt our time together, as it would for many SFUSD teachers whose children attend schools in other districts.

    I do hope they give us another year, as that will give me (and several other teachers I know) time to shop around for other districts, or to teach in private schools.

  30. i teach at ccsf in non-credit ESL. ccsf plans it's academic calendar way before sfsud (since we have a course catalogue to print and advance student registration, etc.).

    CCSF's non-credit ESL department is the largest in the country. we serve thousands of sfusd parents and they are absent when the two calendars don't jive. it loses money for our local community college and our community as whole.

    those parents will likely never see this blog, but trust me, they would be thrilled to have their school calendar match their children's.

  31. also... all summer camps and summer programs will adjust to the sfusd schedule. they will go out of business if they don't. that should not be an issue.

    immersion parents - please realize that many immersion parents are ESL students at ccsf. if those students miss classes, they lose their subsidized childcare for their younger children, they don't learn the english and life skills they need to keep their children in school, help their children succeed, etc. it really needs to be a community effort. i applaud the idea. it is about time ccsf and sfsud work together on this issue.

  32. Re summer programs adjusting- yes some programs in SF will, especially for younger kids. But as kids get older, many, and not just the privileged ones, participate in programs that go beyond SF. Most of these will not adjust to SF schedules. The most popular overnight music camps in Cazadero and La Honda have high school sessions in mid-August. They serve many SF kids (with many scholarships), but they won't change for SF since they serves many other school districts as well.
    Yes there will always be something for childcare, but the choices will be less. This benefits neither the providers nor the parents.

  33. I disagree in part. It may take a few years, but those programs will adjust too.... if their goal is to serve underprivileged kids from SF and offer scholarships, then they will adjust their calendar. The summer "period" across the various bay area districts is about what, 6 weeks -- so there is plenty of overlap.

    And I agree in part, that some places will not be able to adjust their calendar, but other entreprenuers will sprout up and pick up the slack.

    This is America -- still lots of entrepreneurs lest we kill the whole spirit with high taxes and unworkable bureacracy, but that another topic.

    In the meantime, re the calendar, I'm not necessarily for or against the change, I do want what will be best for the majority of kids, even if it means pain for the staff, teachers and parents.

    After all, school used to start the day after Labor Day (really, once upon a time it did). And now its before. We adjusted, didn't we?

  34. I hate that these proposed changes are because of testing. ICK!

  35. No, its not all for testing. Part of the reasoning is to mesh with the Community College calendar. And there are other benefits, such as ending the semester with a clean break.

    Ever think about how the current school calendar came about? It was to mesh with the rural farming schedule. See any rural farmers around you needing the kids to work in the fields in the summer?

    Anyway, don't be so hard on testing. It may help us weed out those who really do not deserve to be taking up space at CSU with a high school diploma but enrolled in remedial math and/or English. This state cannot afford these re-eds. We need to do better. (maybe come up with a better test to measure proficiency). And have some sort of standard other than measuring joyful learning quotients.

  36. Oh, I should add, maybe its time the school calendars get sync'd with the 21st century. Maybe that is a year round schedule with more frequent but shorter breaks.

  37. Actually, some of us have never adjusted to school starting before Labor Day. For 4 years straight, we have our wild, week long, end-of-summer family vacation, which culminates with the long weekend. We recuperate on Monday (lots of laundry!), and the kids start school the first week of Sept. They have missed a few days of school, but nothing of concern. Missing 3 weeks would be something else!

    None of the "reasons" in Jason's rationale make sense to me. Change the test dates. Change the City College start date. Start SFUSD after Labor day.

    If one really thinks summer employment is important, then remember that students who can promise availability through the Labor Day weekend usually get preference over students who will bail earlier in August.

  38. Based on my experience living and teaching in other parts of the U.S., the change to a mid-August start date is hardly novel. In fact, I think that it is currently the rule rather than the exception. God forbid that California public schools fall in line with standards in the rest of the country, and a mere 25 years behind.

    It won't be the end of the world.

  39. year round school? No way. Private schools here I come!

  40. Oh, good, then less competition for me in the public schools!

    Argonne is a year round school, the kids still go the 180 days. The calendar is just split up differently.

    Of course, that system doesn't work too well if dfferent schools are on different schedules. Just a scheduling nightmare.

    But on the face of it, a year round schedule, split up with more breaks sprinkled throughout the year may be a better model educationally speaking. Would need to see the data.

    And I'm really for what is good for the kids, as far as an effective learning model, not what is good for adults with our set paradigms and inflexible schedules.

  41. A year-round school calendar makes the most sense to me, but I also understand that ANY of these schedule changes need to be made with at least a year's notice so both families and employees can plan for it.

    The only thing that bothers me is that SFUSD would even consider implementing this for the 2009-10 school year. Do they actually WANT to be hated and accused of creating chaos, being insensitive to families' needs, etc.?

  42. Well true - what ever happened to lead time.

    We are a just in time, right now society! :)

  43. The district has come to its senses and has moved the first year of any proposed changes to 2010, rather than 2009. They're still discussing which of three proposals to adopt, but at least they've realized that they have to give everyone at least a year to plan.

  44. SFUSD has announced the calendar for the 2009-10 school year. First day of school is August 24, 2009.

  45. First I heard of this proposal, and it's a bad one, in my opinion. Schools in Texas start their school years in early August to give their football teams more time to practice before fall games. Schools in the midwest have always ended school in May because all kids were needed to help with wheat harvest - that's not the case now, but somehow, just like the idea of delaying children's entrance into kindergarten, this idea of starting the school year in mid-Summer has just become the norm to some. I think it's insane. My last child graduates in 2011. Please let me get out of SFUSD range before this stupid idea is instituted.