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2014-15 Calendar

The 2014-2015 school calendar is now available. 

Why We Have Professional Development Days (PDDs)

Dear Parents,

Best wishes for a wonderful spring break next week. I see the kids on the CES playground doing the “sun dance” so I’m hopeful the gods will respond favorably.  Enjoy your time with friends and family.

The 2014-15 school calendar is now on our website.   The calendar is based on Washington state requirements that mandate that we hold school 180 days each year and offer at least 1000 hours of instruction.  Currently our district exceeds the state requirement by 6.5% by offering 1065 hours of instruction annually over 180 school days.

Please note that beginning next year, we have adjusted the school days in the calendar to allow for two days of teacher professional development on January 26th and April 3rd. As a result, school will end two days later in June.  Also, the number of Professional Development Days (PDD) has been reduced from 15 to 13 next year.  These changes will actually increase the amount of instructional time with students, while also providing an additional day of teacher training time each semester. 

Below are some frequently asked questions about PDDs to help clarify why we invest this time in professional development for our teachers:

What is the purpose of PDDs and how are they used?

1. To provide training on new curricula and assessment methods. As we continue to improve our curricula and instructional techniques, teachers need time for training and guidance as they learn new curricula, teaching strategies and methods for assessing student learning progress.

2. To ensure curricula alignment across grade levels and with national standards. We also use PDD time to emphasize consistent teaching practices within each subject area and across each grade level, and to ensure that teachers align the learning experience from kindergarten to graduation to meet the national learning standards.

3. To coordinate strategies for underperforming students. Finally, teachers use this time to review student progress; to create classroom assessments and review student work samples; to devise strategies to intervene when students struggle; and to design challenges for students who have met standards early. This is all part of our commitment to make sure that each student is progressing at grade level or beyond.

Could these professional development activities occur outside of the school day?
Ten years ago school districts were funded by the legislature to provide three to five professional development days in addition to the 180-day student school calendar.  Due to ongoing state budget cuts, these additional days are no longer funded.  It has now become common for school districts to create time within the school year for professional development and teacher collaboration.   Click on this link, The Value of Teacher Collaboration Time to read more about how school districts like ours structure and use this time.

Why isn’t professional development scheduled before or after school?
Teachers are contracted for a 7.5-hour day, and students are on site for about six hours and 45 minutes each day.  Routinely, teachers meet with students and parents before and after school, or have other meetings, coaching responsibilities, etc.  Most teachers already work longer days, beyond the 7.5 hours for which they are compensated. During that time they do daily lesson planning, homework corrections/grading, classroom activity set-up, etc.  No additional funding is provided by the legislature to compensate teachers for those hours or for additional professional development.

What impact do state and federal requirements have on our need for professional development?
The legislature and the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction (OSPI) annually create additional unfunded mandates (new requirements that are not sufficiently funded) that school districts are required to implement.  For example, last year, a new teacher/principal evaluation system was adopted, requiring substantial professional development.  In addition, the Common Core State Standards were adopted requiring the same.  School districts end up with no option but to utilize systems like PDD days to train for and implement such mandates.

How many days does the legislature fund during the school year?
State law requires that students receive 1,000 hours of instruction, and 180 days of school each year.  School districts are funded for just that – no more.  Recently the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the state is significantly underfunding education in the amount of $3+ billion dollars per year.  This year the legislature increased funding somewhat, but not nearly enough to cover even basic education or professional development.

What can you as parents do?
PDD days are the result of a state education funding problem compounded by annually legislated unfunded mandates.  Parents can insist that legislators perform their constitutionally mandated duty to provide ample funding for public education.

We appreciate your support. We recognize the value of the time we use for professional development, and we are committed to ensuring that every minute produces better results for your children.  Our teachers and staff are committed to learning effective new practices, adapting to changes in curriculum, and to fostering and monitoring and the progress of every student.  We appreciate your support for these activities and our efforts to grow and improve as educators for the benefit of every student.

Spring Opens the Door to Innovation and Celebration

Dear Parents,

Spring has sprung, bringing opportunities for exciting activities both in and out of the classroom.  Our schools are fortunate to be in a community that supports imaginative endeavors in our schools. Some of these endeavors were profiled in the most recent edition of Soundings, which you should have received in your mailbox this week. Thanks in a large part to your volunteer time and your donations to Partners in Education, PTSA, and the Vashon Schools Foundation, we are creating an exceptional learning and teaching environment that supports our district mission: To equip every student to engage, thrive, and contribute within an ever-changing world.

You should have received a link to an online survey from the Center for Educational Effectiveness for each school that your children attend. Please take a minute and tell us how we’re doing. The deadline for completion is this Monday, March 31. These surveys are designed to help each of our schools understand its strengths and challenges in areas known to impact educational effectiveness.

Finally, please mark your calendars for May 23rd when we will formally dedicate the new high school with a short, festive program, beginning at 11:30, followed by a picnic lunch. We have a lot to celebrate. I hope you can join us!

Michael Soltman
Superintendent of Schools