Should we be making changes to early release time?

Early release in Newton has been here for a long time and is firmly embedded in our teacher contracts. Rodney Barker, a former School Committee member and former Alderman, has fought about this in the past and he wrote an article to the TAB in January 2011 about them. Although his math is off his sentiments are true; still he made little headway in reversing this trend to add early release days. See his piece here:

Barker Op-Ed on Early Release

Comments from a followup TAB blog thread were recently lost in a technical glitch, but these provided additional commentary from the community on this topic.

Because early release days are part of our teacher contract, getting rid of them will cost money. Many in city government argue against changing this based upon the pragmatic matter of strained finances, rather than the principled matter of how we can best serve our student population. This shouldn’t be. Not even the teachers who are the direct beneficiaries of early release claim that early release serves the students in any way other than indirectly, to facilitate the scheduling of parent-teacher meetings, etc.

Newton administrators note that our student’s schedules meet the classroom hours mandated by the state. But both of my kids (now in 7th and 10th grades) report that many classes during early release days are at least somewhat wasted, with students being shown non-educational movies or doing other educationally-non-intensive work, since individual classes are shortened. At the elementary level classes remain more focused but the release days can be chaotic for working families.

Work and childcare schedules can be built around weekly Tuesday early release days, but many of us are much more challenged by additional early release Thursdays that come once every 6 weeks.

For starters, if we find it too politically and financially difficult to eliminate the hours associated with professional teacher development, I would be interested in exploring changing 6 early release half-day Thursdays into 3 full days off from school. This will eliminate the “wasted half days” that so many students experience as part of early release days. But I think we need to make changes to our teacher contracts over time, with the goal of granting some PD time during workdays but eliminating much of the lost student classtime and parent worktime associated with early release.