SPECIAL BCSS MESSAGE: New Initiative Designed to Increase Student Achievement Prompts 2019-2020 Schedule Adjustments
“This is a monumental commitment for our school system,” says Bartow County School System Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page. “Our three-year plan to implement professional learning communities will provide an environment for learning that will maximize our impact on student achievement.”
The initiative started last July with the implementation of a district-level Guiding Coalition. The group, comprised of district leaders, principals, and school board members serves as a change oversight team. Since late summer, the district-level Guiding Coalition has been carefully crafting a handbook to help all 20 Bartow County schools successfully create their own professional learning communities. By doing so, educators will learn how to build a collaborative culture focused on ensuring high levels of learning for all students.
Proven, effective research from top educators around the world shows the number one impact on student achievement is collective teacher efficacy. When teacher leaders meet regularly, take ownership of their school’s mission, and feel empowered to make a difference, students can experience more than three years of growth over the course of only one school year.
“Participating in this systemic process, which has been successful in schools since the late 1980s, we will see the greatest results from our teachers and students,” adds Superintendent Page. “This is new to the Bartow County School System and has been vetted locally by our executive cabinet, teacher, and parent advisory committees over the last six months.”
“I particularly love the fact that you have researched this plan and have data to back up your reasoning,” says Julie Hardin, a member of the Parent Advisory Committee. “I think teachers will be pleased that they get to be a part of the planning and actual logistics of their particular community.”
In order to support professional learning communities and give teachers ample time to collaborate vertically or horizontally in the morning, the Bartow County School System had to adjust the 2019-2020 schedule. Starting next school year, elementary teachers will start their contractual day at 7:15 a.m. Middle and high school teachers will start at 7:30 a.m. All educators will now collaborate two days a week for 45 minutes, hold office hours two days a week, and supervise children who arrive at school early one day a week. Individual planning time remains a priority and will be protected.
“For our teachers, time is one of the most precious resources,” says Bartow County School Board Member Anna V. Sullivan. “They need time that can be devoted to collaborative reflection about their own teaching strategies as well as time to focus on the academic needs of individual students. When we support teachers by providing this valuable resource, I believe we not only recognize their professional status but we honor our commitment to academic excellence through collaborative investment. The adjusted schedule provides a bold, and well-deserved, statement of confidence in our teachers. It provides clear evidence of our determination to engage our entire system in learning together. As we do this, we unite our teachers, our students, our families, and our community in succeeding together.”
Students and families will need to make minimal adjustments next school year to accommodate uninterrupted collaborative team time. Elementary schools will start at 8:05 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Middle and high schools will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. Student supervision is provided at the school approximately 30-45 minutes prior to your school start time. Please see attached chart.
Transportation provided by the school system will also be adjusted according to the shift in start times. Bus pick up is anticipated to begin 10 minutes later. Afternoon dismissal will result in students returning home 5-15 minutes earlier than their current drop off time.
“The choice to adjust the school schedule did not come lightly,” says Drew May, a teacher at Hamilton Crossing Elementary School and member of the Teacher Advisory Committee. “It was well-thought-out and was a decision that was made by a group, not one or two individuals. I believe wholeheartedly that this new schedule can work and will be the best thing for our students. I’m very excited about this change and I’m even more excited to see the results of it on student achievement here in Bartow County. If it is what is best for our students, then it is what is best for our community.”