Arguments for the Balanced Calendar

A review of this past Cobb school year with regards to the balanced calendar, as well as arguments against the traditional calendar.

As the balanced school calendar ended this year, several Cobb parents decided to collect some data to determine how successful or unsuccessful this year was. The evidence is clear - the balanced calendar is not the “vacation” calendar that some people in the county want to believe it is.

I am not copying their data here - but if you want to read it , you can find the information at http://bit.ly/mCOCuH and http://bit.ly/iwz0UF.

Basically, these areas showed improvement this past year:

  • Test Scores: Test scores are up this past year. In fact, the ITBS scores, which have declijned since 2007, went up again.
  • Student Absenteeism: Student were absense less last year - approximately 7.5 percent district wide. In the first semester alone, about 75 percent of the school reported a decrease in student absenteeism.
  • Teacher Absenteeism: Teachers were absent less as well. Not only does this favorably effect the kids - who don’t need to adjust to substitute teachers, but it saves the county money in substitute costs. The Cobb County School District saved over one million dollars in these fees, and that after lowering the payout for substitutes from $79/day to $69/day.
  • Student Morale: This is less concrete, but from experiences with my own kids, and their friends, last school year I witnessed significantly less burn out, and a better attitude  towards school the entire year.
  • Teacher Morale: Again, this is a less concrete measure. But I know several teachers, and every one of them enjoyed the breaks as much as the kids.

So, with what appears to be overwhelming data, why is there such a controversy? Where is the data for the traditional calendar?

Supposedly, Kathleen Angelucci and Scott Sweeney have data to show the benefit of the traditional calendar, but as far as I know no one has seen this data. Do you know what I think? I think that they simply want the traditional calendar, so they have lied to us about their data. Because every time anyone requests this data, Angelucci and Sweeney give that person either the silent treatment or  the run around.

I think lots of people out there want the traditional calendar, not based on facts or logic, but because it’s close to the calendar that they remember as kids. It is easy to get nostalgic about school, and believe that things were “better” when we were kids. But honestly, we’d still be living in grass huts, wearing leaves, walking around barefoot, and eating bugs if we never changed.

One argument for the traditional calendar is that the kids need a long enough summer, with the mistaken assumption that the balanced calendar shortchanges kids. But let’s be honest here, the balanced calendar left a ten week summer! Typically, an American school district has 2-3 months, which translates into 8 to 12 weeks. So our 10-week summer break falls smack dab in the middle. Why, then, do people think our break is substantially shorter? My guess is the timing of the summer break - from late May until early August, instead of mid-June to late August. In summary, it’s not as though the kids aren’t getting a summer. They are simply getting a summer with different start and ending dates.

The other argument for the traditional calendar would be potential tourism dollars lost for local businesses. First, my child’s education is more important that tourism. Period. Second, we Georgians don’t typically use our own tourist locations in August - we can go there during the cooler times of year. Third, the week long breaks in September and February actually open up more possibilities for tourism in a time other than summer. And finally, our children’s education is more important than tourism. (This needs to be restated; it is that important.)

The traditional calendar also has a large negative. There have been several studies that show children who receive free or reduced lunch actually lose significant ground academically during the summer break, but children who do not receive a free or reduced lunch either lose a little ground or gain ground academically during the summer break. This means that the 46 percent of children in Cobb county lose ground all summer. Why would we want to increase the time in summers? So that the “haves” can outperform the “have-nots” even more?  

In conclusion, I ask everyone out that who supports the traditional calendar to ask yourself why. If you have some actual reason, with data to back it up, please post your reasoning here in the comments. We supporters of the balanced calendar would love to learn why you believe that way. But if you simply like the traditional calendar for the sake of tradition, don’t bother. You’ll never convince us, and we’ll never convince you.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lisa June 21, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Excerpt from my recent letter to the board: Dear Board, A lot has happened since February. Folks have picked sides regarding the school calendar and dug in. A great deal of debating has occurred. However, now that the school year is completed, everyone has experienced the modified calendar, and, thus, has first hand knowledge of both its pros and cons. In addition, we now have a full years worth of data under the modified calendar. A lot has changed since the beginning of the school year. No longer do we need to speculate or make projections. Opinions can now be informed decisions. Some folks have not changed their minds. Others have. I would like to propose that the board consider taking another survey of stakeholders (i.e., teachers, students, parents, CCSD employees) regarding the upcoming agenda item on the school calendar. Looking into the options available, Survey Monkey does, in fact, have a means for launching a survey which can avoid duplicate votes. This option would send a unique link to each and every email that is added to the survey. Thus, only one response can be provided for one email address. For more information, see the following link regarding Email Invitation Collector: http://help.surveymonkey.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/140
Lisa June 21, 2011 at 05:18 PM
And... The CCSD could send out this survey via email through Survey Monkey at very little expense (as best as I can tell, this would be less than $100). Given all the data under a modified school calendar from our current school year in our own county, the only thing left is to ask the stakeholders. Not only could you poll all stakeholders regarding their opinion on the modified calendar, you also could include in the survey a question regarding whether folks would like to see this implemented in the upcoming school year (i.e., 2011-12) or the following year (2012-13). As board members making decisions for our school system, you would no longer have to make this decision based on your own opinions, but rather, based on real data as well. Please consider allowing us, the stakeholders, the opportunity to have our voices heard.
Kathryn A. Patterson June 21, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Lisa, Thank you for sharing your letter with us. I do hope that you get a response to your emails. Kathryn
J Vane June 22, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Great summary Kathryn! If only the entire school board cared enough to do what is right for everyone!
Kim July 18, 2011 at 02:10 PM
We will not have any change on this situation until the next board elections...and then we can bring about or own change! I still believe the best course of action is keep the sensible members in and get the rest off the board, replaced by someone who cares what the community thinks and not just what they want! Check the calendar we do have at least one "gang of four" member up for election!


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