Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Georgians Need Summers


After all the DCSS drama, here's something new to get your take on: Does the school year start WAY too early in Georgia? If you know any heating and air conditioning professionals, ask them about the strain and expense of cooling an older school building in early August. Take a look below, and give your take. And whether you agree or disagree with Lane Holt of Georgians Need Summers, she's a great example of how one school parent really can make a difference, and make school system administrators and elected board of education members stop and re-examine.

Dear Parents,

Within the last few weeks, Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Cobb) sponsored HB1097, a later school start date bill which would require local school boards to adopt a calendar "that in no event shall commence the first day of instruction of a school year prior to the third full week of August".

Among the bills co-sponsors are Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), the House majority whip; Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), chair of Economic Development & Tourism; Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Fulton), chair of Ethics; & Rep. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb), chairman of Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.

While research shows us the school calendar configuration does not impact academic performance, it does show a poorly configured school calendar can and does increase cooling costs and operational costs for school districts. Knowing school districts have a finite amount of taxpayer dollars to spend educating our children, particularly in these tough economic times, reason tells us when cooling costs and operational costs are decreased, more money will be available for teacher salaries and academic programming such as small group tutoring.

In Alabama, a study released by Save Alabama Summers estimated the state loses $26 million for every August day school is in session.

According to a Nov. 17, 2002, Tulsa World article, "Tulsa (Okla.) Public Schools saved nearly $500,000 by delaying the start of school until after Labor Day, the districts latest utility bills show." (The district previously had a school start date of Aug. 19.) Subsequent newspaper reports showed the later school start date had no impact on test scores. A district spokesperson said "state test scores stayed the same." He add ed that the school calendar didn't seem to make a difference academically.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts estimated in her September 2004 special report "Saving Summer: Lessons Learned" that August school days were costing the state's schools a cumulative $2.9 million a day in increased school utilities. She also estimated each extra vacation day a school district added to the calendar cost $15.5 million statewide.

Knowing the calendar configuration does not impact academic success, but does take valuable financial resources away from our students academic needs and our teachers, eliminating August school days just makes sense. Imagine the money Georgia counties would have to put into educating our children simply by starting school three weeks later. With the furlough of GA teachers and the cutting of salaries and basic necessities of education, each and every tax dollar to fund education is precious. Yet more and more counties in GA are approving extended school calendars, like balanced calendars, which are far more costly.

Let's do all we can to make the very best use of each and every education dollar. On Monday, HB 1097 will go before the House Education Committee. Please e-mail the sub-committee members below right away and state your support for HB 1097, later school start dates and smarter use of education dollars. Remember to also copy your own representative on your e-mail.
To find your representative and e-mail address go to Congress.org, enter your zip code where indicated on the home page and your state and federal elected officials will pop you. By clicking each will be able to access all contact information or you may e-mail them directly through the website.

Thanks you for your help!

Lane Holt
Georgians Need Summers

House Education Committee -
Academic Achievement Sub-Committee


David Casas - Chair
david.casas@house.ga.gov
academic dean - (R - Gwinnett)



Amy Carter - Vice Chair/Secretary
amy.carter@house.ga.gov
teacher - (D- Lowndes)



Kathy Ashe
kathyashe56@mindspring.com
(D-Fulton)


Tommy Benton
tommy.benton@house.ga.gov
retired teacher (R - part of Barrow, part of Hall, and part of Jackson counties)



Tom Dickson
tom.dickson@house.ga.gov
retired educator (part of Catoosa, part of Murray, and part of Whitfield counties)



Melvin Everson
mjeverson@bellsouth.net
minister (R-Gwinnett)



Penny Houston
penny.houston@house.ga.gov
(R - part of Berrien, part of Colquitt, and Cook Counties)



Jan Jones
jan.jones@house.ga.gov
(R-Fulton)



Darryl Jordan
darryl.jordan@house.ga.gov
(D - part of Clayton and part of Fayette Counties)



Mike Keown
mike@mikekeown.com
minister/residential contractor (R - part of Grady and part of Thomas Counties)



Edward Lindsey
edward.lindsey@house.ga.gov
attorney (R - Fulton)



Howard Maxwell
howard.maxwell@house.ga.gov
insurance (R - part of Haralson and part of Paulding counties)



Fran Millar
fran.millar@wellsfargo.com
insurance broker (R - Dekalb)



Randy Nix
randy.nix@house.ga.gov
financial sercives (R- part of Carroll, part of Heard, and part of Troup counties)



Barbara Massey Reece
barbara.reece@house.ga.gov
retired teacher (D- Chattooga and part of Floyd counties)



Bobby Reese
bobby.reese@house.ga.gov
real estate broker (R - Gwinnett)



Ed Setzler
ed.setzler@house.ga.gov
engineering manager (R- Cobb)


"Coach" Williams
ernest.williams@house.ga.gov
teacher (D-Dekalb)

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Tuesday after Labor Day until early June.

Need to save money, School Board?

Think air conditioning (that doesn't work), the high cost of cooling (when it works), and the fact that ending the semester before the holiday break HASN'T DONE A DARNED THING TO ELEVATE GEORGIA'S SCORES.

Anonymous said...

I've heard this directly from state representatives: High school football is one, but just one, of the reasons why school starts so early.

Anonymous said...

To fit 180 school days into the calendar and keep things like winter break and spring break, starting after Labor Day would mean that school would run until late June or even early July. Wouldn't we be spending nearly as much money on AC at the end of the school year rather than at the beginning?

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, but truth is it's all about testing. They've got to get the curriculum taught before the winter break. Unless the State changes test dates, starting school later will never happen.

Cynical? Yes.

Anonymous said...

Lane Holt is my hero. This legislation seems so simple, and yet can make such an improvement in the lives of many in Georgia. Commonly raised concerns are easily overcome:

Testing. Simply move test dates back a few weeks to correspond to the accompanying movement in school starting and ending dates.

Early graduation. Establish a waiver system for the handful of kids who want graduate early

Football. Most teams begin before the school year starts anyway. Backing them up a couple weeks will reduce the number of heat related injuries.

The year won't run into July, just early June, as schools do in most other states. June is historically milder than July and August, so the AC bill gets a break.

This makes such economic sense that I can't understnd why Georgia has stubbornly insisted on beginning classes in early August. Venues such as Six Flags are forced to close on Aug. 9, since the kids are back in school. They miss out on prime summer weekdays, and Georgians can do little but watch as tourist dollars fly across state lines.

For those of us with out of state family, it will be wonderful to finally be able to visit in August, instead of trying to cram in events in July.

As Lane noted, dozens of other states begin in late August or after Labor Day, and they do fine with academic issues. In fact, some students might do better if they come back from the holiday break and have to get right into prepping for finals and taking exams.

This only works with a total state buy in. Write your representative today.

SongCue said...

I support this whole-heartedly! The other posts have stated my reasons more eloquently than I can. I hope this passes!

Anonymous said...

Are the legislators finally listening to parents? Well, if it's solely because of the budget, that's too bad. Because this shouldn't be a cost-cutting measure. It should be an enlightened, pro-education decision. There's enough research out there (and comparative scores with states that start school after Labor Day) to support the demise of our ridiculous calendar experiments.

DunMoody

GreenField said...

School starts early b/c of football? Remember the ambulances rushing to the field at 3 PM in August? The culprit is heat exhastion and there are always these stories on the evening news just before the weather guy comes on to tell us to drink more water and stay out of the heat.

Push the start date back and we get two primary benefits - 1.) save money on utils and 2.) save some of our kids on the football field.

Win-win?

Anonymous said...

In the 80's and early 90's, school started the end of August, which was much better. Starting school at the peek of the summer season is very difficult for the students and teachers. The students mind are still in vacation mode, they are not focused on learning, and the heat, (especially when it has been extremely hot), requires the air conditioning to run more.

Starting the school year the end of August, or after Labor Day would still enbale the year to end the first week in June, as it once did during the above formentioned years. Also, the schools could shut down for approximately one month during the summer, and save millions of dollars.

I truly hope the bill passes on Monday.

SongCue said...

By the way...remember to contact the legislatures with your support for this! And let others know! I posted this to my FaceBook page.

SongCue said...

Uh, that would be "legislators..."

Anonymous said...

You can't start that late and finish courses before the winter break. Teachers and administrators do not want to have a 2 to 2.5 week break then return to school for a week then have final exams. Frankly, my high school students do NOT want to take exams the week after coming back from holidays.

If you want to do this then every high school will probably have to go off the block schedule (which is probably a good thing).

Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts:

1. There is a lot of pushback to having semester exams in middle/high school before winter break. That's a fact. Parents don't want their kids to have to do work/projects/study during that two week time frame.

2. I worked at a school where we had exams just before winter break and then went ahead and taught new material and had a major test for the 3 weeks in January to finish the semester--so, the semester exam covered all of the material except the January stuff. As stated before, that would never work with a school on the 4x4 block, but it would work everywhere else.

I think there needs to be some creative thought here...I agree that starting later is preferable, but testing is an issue, whether it be CRCT or EOCT or just semester exams.

Anonymous said...

It's mandated testing. Plain and simple. It's not athletics or anything else. Just ask a board member, principal or instructional coach.

While this isn't cynical, I'll still sign off for those wanting the footprint..

Cynical? Yes.

Anonymous said...

Quit citing other states that do this have better scores, so we have to do exactly what they do. Saving on the AC argument I'll buy...but don't tie it to anything academic. The calendar doesn't matter, what goes on at home, what goes on in the classroom, and the standards we set in the school house - those matter. We started school late - didn't work. We switched to August - didn't work. I taught in the classroom, I know what works: Good parents, good teachers, and a good support system.

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow signing back in.
One of Georgia's major industries is tourism. Taxes from
tourism go towards education. Tourism isn't just out of staters:
There's Georgians galore going to Six Flags, White water, Stone Mountain Park, Georgia state parks, etc.
Then why shoot outselves in the foot by having a shorter tourist season when it pays the bills?
A few years ago the AJC ran an article about an amusement park in Panama City Florida closing down. They had survived for over 40 years, only to be done in by their tourist season being shortened by 13 days.
Many tourist sites rely heavily on teenagers for labor. With the current job market, why not delay school starting and let the kids make some money for college?

Anonymous said...

The original reason for moving the school year to start so early was so teachers in high school could get give EOCT exams before the winter break. EOCT is part of Georgia's standardized testing. The theory was that kids forgot content material over winter break. The administration said that EOCT scores would be better if they took those exams while the review was fresh in their minds.

Personally, I was appalled. If a child can't comprehend and recall the material taught for a month, what does that say about his/her long term retention of the material?

This is one of the worst examples of testing and scores trumping the environment (think buses in August correlating directly with a rise in Orange and Red pollution alert days) and the budget (June averages 85 degrees and July averages 87 degrees. 2 degrees more to air condition adds millions? to our AC bill).

School should start the earliest day possible in September and end before July to save money and avoid pollution.

Anonymous said...

Summer camps were very upset with this move as were teachers colleges. Both were heavily impacted.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:14
That is totally incorrect. The move happened years before EOCT. The university system went from quarters to semesters, the schools followed suit. That put final exams just after winter break, and people felt students had a gap between the time they learned something and the time they were assessed for it. That's when the calendar adjusted, about ten years ago. In DeKalb, the push for block scheduling (except Druid Hills - it was already on the block) came a few years after that, and EOCTs a year after block as well.

Anonymous said...

That sounds right. I remember the switch from quarters to semesters. But if you can't remember material for 2 weeks, isn't that still a problem? What happens when you take your GHSGT and you haven't taken biology since 9th grade. Isn't that a weakness in the science GHSGT - the time lag between class material and the test?

Anonymous said...

In the 1990s school started later than it did today? Then it was moved earlier in August in the 2000s. Does anyone know the reason for that?

Dunwoody Mom said...

What happens when you take your GHSGT and you haven't taken biology since 9th grade

Thus the need for the multitudes of GHSGT tutorials that place in our high schools. I wonder what this costs - along with the tutorials for the students that took AP classes first semester?

IMO, the GHSGT is another test that needs to be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

@ Dunwoody Mom 12:19 pm

The after school tutoring is not costing DCSS any money.

In many high schools the 9th grade biology teachers are corralled into giving after school tutorials for "free" to the students getting ready to take the GHSGT. They are required to stay after their school day and tutor for the bio portion of the science GHSGT often giving them an 11 hour day. Physics and chemistry teachers do this as well.

It's different for the bio teachers though. This is very disconcerting to many of the bio teachers because they are already responsible for the 9th grade science EOCT scores. Physics and chemistry teachers do not have the pressure of standardized testing to contend with. In other words, no standardized testing result are solely on their shoulders.

Most 9th grade bio teachers would prefer to "donate" any additional time after school to their 9th grade bio students (have you seen the DCSS fall EOCT science scores?)

The 9th grade bio teachers performance evaluations are directly tied to the 9th graders' performance on the 9th grade EOCT scores. Many 9th graders need all the help they can get.

It doesn't cost DCSS, but it does cost in morale for the 9th grade bio teachers and less help for the 9th grade bio students. I'm not sure who instituted this plan, but it's not a good one.

Maybe the many DCSS instructional specialists and coordinators could lend a hand in the after school tutorial realm. I know the kids could sure use it.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I can't see how a later start impacts summer jobs and summer camps in any way. If programs are pushed back a couple of weeks, it just means that camps will have a later start date and summer jobs will hire kids after schools let out. Furthermore, instead of complaining about comparisons to other school districts in states that have adopted this system, simply examine their test results. Seems to me that GA despite it's early start, is still consistently one of the states with the lowest test scores. Maybe an attempt to duplicate their methods can perhaps improve Georgia's test scores.

Secondly, my daughter is in HS marching band and it is really of great concern when summer band camp starts and kids are falling down like nine pins left and right due to the excessive heat. This too can be said for the football players who are subjected to the same 90 degree plus temperatures.

Instead of cutting academic programs because of budget shortfalls, I fully support the late school start to cut energy costs.

Anonymous said...

Regarding summer camps and jobs- many of our summer programs get some of their happy campers from out of state. Most out of state schools end in mid June, and don't begin until late August. Our school calendar makes it tough for the Georgia camp business to accommodate out of state kids, and often costs our in state kids a job opportunity.

There are bigger financial fish to fry, but the camp business in the state has suffered under our current school calendars.

Anonymous said...

If you start after Labor Day you would not end until mid to late June.
Decision needs to be based on what is best for the children's education and considered most efficient for school operations.
Businesses just need to adjust.

Dekalbparent said...

Atlanta area:

August
avg daily high 86, avg low 66


June
avg daily high 84, avg low 62

Weather.com

August
avg daily high 88 degrees, avg low 70


June
avg daily high 87 degrees, avg low 67
weather.msn.com

Momfirst said...

DekalbParent - we're talking the last week of May and first 2 weeks of June, not June as a whole. The average high for the end of May is 82-84 and first 2 weeks of June is 83-85. August is 86-88 and the humidity is almost always higher in August than in May & June.

Anonymous said...

How did schools function before the days of air conditioning? Oh yeah, they had windows that opened.

Anonymous said...

I taught HS science in DeKalb, I know a bit about the monstrosity known as the GHSGT for science. Yes, we worried about the biology portion. We held several sessions addressing the test. For my experience teaching and tutoring at my school, it wasn't onerous, and extra hour one day for two weeks. I did that normally for my bio kids, as we all were expected to do. My problem was that the kids that showed up, while nervous, were generally the ones that were going to be fine, not the borderline cases this sort of tutoring would have helped.

On to the point about teacher performance evaluation. I've been out of DeKalb two or three years, so maybe things have changed. Back then, teacher performance and student performance weren't linked. There are two grades a teacher could get: N/I or S. That's it. These were based on a) classroom observations b) performing other duties. That's it. Has that changed? Because I will tell you that the subject of EOCT/GHSGT/AP scores never once came up in any review I had.Again, I've been out a few years, and I know there is a push for this nationwide. Race to the Top in fact mandates that to get funding, a state can't have laws that don't allow test performance to be linked to evaluations.

Anonymous said...

School could start the last week of August and end in late May if we stop some of these ridiculous off days. There is nothing wrong with having school Mon-Wed the week of Thanksgiving. The holiday break lasts two and a half weeks. There are some other off days that just don't make sense. Some of the teacher in service days can be half days like they do in other states. It's a win-win to stop three weeks later.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent
2 degrees in average temperature is statistically quite significant to Georgia Power and gas companies. Every degree represents millions of dollars in air conditioning costs and wasted fuel as air conditioned cars sit idle in the heavier traffic of a school year. The other poster is correct in that August is also more humid which requires more air conditioning.

For every degree you can lower the thermostat, figure on a cost savings of approximately 5% (4% to 8% so we'll go with an underestimation of 5%) . So those 2 degrees represent 10%. It's an easy calculation. 3 weeks of school in August versus June - Take the millions spent in air conditioning and lop off 10%. Pretty simple math.

(Source: Louisiana department of natural resources; http://dnr.louisiana.gov/sec/execdiv/techasmt/ecep/home/e/e.htm)

Anonymous said...

I would love a later start date in DeKalb. I contacted my state rep, Fran Millar, who is on the House Education Committee. He is in favor of later start dates as well.

fedupindcss said...

Another issue is that August is a non-attainment month for Atlanta. This means that it is the month that the pollution levels go through the roof. So that is the time that we choose to 1) add to it by putting hundreds of school buses on the road, 2) fill those buses with kids who all seem to suffer from allergies and asthma and 3) idle our cars outside the schools waiting to pick them up so they won't be on the sweltering bus.

Also, gas is also incredibly expensive then. This may be total snark, but I bet that is when DCSS locks in its fuel costs for the year. It would only figure if they did.

Dekalbparent said...

OK, y'all, I'm feeling bruised... I posted those temperature stats simply to give us some concrete figures to discuss - ABSOLUTELY NOT because I think there is no difference.

I have been railing about the difference between early/mid August and mid June for the last 10 years (I actually think there's a much bigger difference than the statistics say) - you can ask my patient beloved spouse (the one with the earplugs).

Anonymous said...

When I was in school we started after Labor Day and were out before Memorial Day. That would solve multiple problems. Why not go back to that? (By the way, the summer break was originally designed to make sure kids were available for to help on the farm, not because of air-conditioning or vacations.)

Anonymous said...

In the older buildings, the walls of windows give us a pretty view, but HVAC costs are a nightmare. They seal poorly and are single pane glass. In the winter and summer months there is a distinct temperature change between the window side and the non- window side. August in Georgia boasts the hottest days on record and we're trying to cool buildings with inefficient systems. The north starts after labor day and ends mid June. Why was the beginning of the school year moved up to the first week of August?
(Not to mention the fact that when the busses gear up, the HVAC revvs up, and the carpools start Atlanta manages to hit code red and code purple days as well- I don't believe this is a coincidence)

Not to mention there's always the lovely HVAC breakdown where there is no A/C in August. I assure you it happens in many of the older schools quite frequently.

Anonymous said...

This should be a county issue, not a state one. The state legislature has enough to do and should not be meddling here. Unfortunately I think the politics of this have crept into the Cobb School Board where they just killed the balanced calendar over the objections of the majority of respondants to a poll they conducted.

Anonymous said...

No way. I love getting out in May. And I love going back in August. The kids are at school, in a/c and not at home stuck indoors because it's too stinkin' hot. I've lived and studied all over the world and there is no way we need 12 weeks of summer. You go to other countries where they have a more balanced calendar and you see their students perform much better. I'ts not what they are being taught but how. Open your mind to new ways of thinking and doing things.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that in the majority of these posts, the children aren't even mentioned. Perhaps our scores are so low because we've completely lost sight of what's important - THE KIDS and THE TEACHERS. A later start date pushes the learning schedule and doesn't allow for any time off between the first day and the first major holiday (November). You want to give the kids an extended summer break (to the point they're bored and miss the everyday social interaction with a wider friend base) and then throw them back in full speed with no breaks and tests looming? How well would YOU perform under those circumstances?

poppy lovesaparty said...

The air conditioning is still on in the summer whether students are in the building or not. Ending the semester before a holiday break has nothing to do with elevating test scores. It is the sensible thing to do so that holiday break is not filled with school projects, studying for finals, and the inaccessibility of teachers for assistance with study concerns. Summers in Georgia are spent indoors. By August the swim clubs are empty because the pool water is the temperature of bathtub water. The tennis courts, playgrounds, and parks are empty because of the heat. It seems significantly more productive to have students learning in classrooms than to be sitting in front of a video game. Both places are comfortably cool but only one is beneficial to the education of the student. Georgians need Summers in Canada. If you can figure out a way to fix it that way I'm all for it. Otherwise, use the brain in your head to understand that some Georgians need summers only so they can continue with their traveling sports teams!