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Schools trade late starts for early releases next year

Staff Reports

In response to community input, the Douglas County School District is changing the 2020-2021 school calendar from late starts in the morning to early release in the afternoon to provide teachers time to engage in professional learning communities.

The number of days teachers will be engaged in this professional learning will be increased to two a month. On the early release days, no practices or other events will be scheduled.

Early release time in school district will provide teachers the time to engage in meaningful professional learning communities. The communities are made up of groups of educators who work together to study learning standards, share best practices, brainstorm innovative strategies to improve student learning, and develop ways to improve student outcomes. These instructors work together to develop lessons and other initiatives, then they implement and test them to review how well they worked. Teachers will use the information they discuss to adjust their instruction as needed. PLCs are collaborative and focus on inquiry and results.

The focus of early release is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” rather than one-shot professional development sessions facilitated by outsiders, who have little accountability regarding whether staff learning is successfully applied. In addition, the communities engage teachers in leadership roles, along with their active involvement and commitment to school improvement efforts. The school district recognizes the need to provide teachers adequate time to engage in collaborative practices. Research on the effectiveness indicates that providing frequent opportunities for teacher collaboration is the most meaningful for improving student outcomes (Snyder & Bae, 2017; Kraft & Papay, 2014; Louis, Kruse, & Marks, 1996; Rosenholtz, 1989).

“Early release sessions will benefit both teachers and students by improving teaching and learning in the district,” Executive Director of Education Services Rommy Cronin said.