California Educator

August 2014

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Perspectives Point/Counterpoint NO School starts the third or fourth week of August, depending on what is decided by our district's Calendar Committee, which I serve on. I've been teaching since 1974. For most of my career, school started after Labor Day. Six or seven years ago, Contra Costa Coun- ty started to examine which days students missed school. They found that there was low attendance the Monday, Tuesday and Wednes- day before Thanksgiving, before and after Veterans Day, and around Presidents' Day weekend. So to capture more ADA (average daily attendance) funds, we decided to start school in August, before Labor Day, and then have time off around Thanksgiving, Presidents' Day and Veterans Day. T h e f i r s t y e a r w e s t a r t e d s c h o o l d u r i n g A u g u s t , w e f e a r e d p a r e n t s w o u l d b e u p s e t a n d t h e r e w o u l d b e a h u g e a t t e n d a n c e d r o p - o f f d u r i n g t h e f i r s t w e e k o f s c h o o l . B u t i t w a s n o t a s b a d a s w e a n t i c i p a t e d . N o b o d y w a n t e d t o m i s s t h e f i r s t w e e k o f s c h o o l , s o w e h a d g o o d a t t e n d a n c e . At this point, we are happy to be starting school in August. It has improved attendance, and having better attendance has increased ADA and student success. I work in a contin- uation school, and obviously earning school credits toward graduation at my school is related in part to student attendance. There is a trend to start earlier and earlier; some districts in my county are starting at the beginning of August. But I have taken a stand within my district that we should not start so early that it will interfere with CTA's Summer Institute. That's where I draw the line. DAVID ELIASER, Martinez Education Association, is a science and civics teacher at Vicente Martinez High School. YES Last year, our schools didn't start until after Labor Day, but this year, they are starting at the end of August. Teachers are back three days earlier than school begins to prepare for the Common Core. My generation never started school before Labor Day, and we did OK. We didn't get two or three weeks off for Christmas or Spring Break. But things have changed due to testing. Now the school calendar is driven by testing. High school teachers and principals want school to start early in August and be done in May. The feeling is: Why bother to teach after the test has been given? The test has been given, now let's go home. A lot of families have traditionally planned vacations the first two weeks of August because August has the best weather. Taking vacation in June or July is a crapshoot when it comes to the weather you might have for Southern Cali- fornia beachgoers. Nice weather is much more reliable in August. Here in the Coachella Valley, going back to school in August is a terrible idea, because in the middle of August it's 115 degrees and very humid. It's like monsoon season. There are no energy savings for our districts with that kind of heat outside and the need for air conditioning. I s a y s c h o o l s h o u l d e n d i n J u n e a n d s t a r t i n S e p t e m b e r. L e t 's n o t b e d r i v e n b y t h e t e s t i n g w i n d o w w h e n i t c o m e s t o s e t t i n g o u r s c h o o l c a l e n d a r s . MONA DAVIDSON, Desert Sands Teachers Association, is an English and broadcast jour- nalism teacher. Traditionally, students return to classrooms after Labor Day, but nowadays schools are beginning much earlier. This is reflected in our new back-to-school issue published in August. Some CTA members find this problematic, so we asked two members to weigh in on whether school should begin after Labor Day. Should school begin after Labor Day? 24

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