Kansas City Public Schools officials should take a cautious, community-focused approach in their bid to add teacher training days and later start times for some schools next year. The two initiatives would improve student achievement, officials say.
Public meetings are planned for this week. The changes are essential in helping the district reach full accreditation. Input from teachers, parents and stakeholders must be considered before the proposals proceed, however.
The extended calendar option for the 2019-2020 school year is problematic if teachers and staff are not on board. District officials will meet with union representatives this week to discuss how changes would affect staff. We suggest administrators listen to legitimate concerns about the district’s current professional development program before recommending any modifications.
“What I hear from teachers is that they want professional development, but they want quality professional development,” said Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers. “They don’t want to waste their time on professional development that doesn’t pertain to them.”
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A tentative plan would add two professional development days to the district’s calendar. The goal, officials say, is to increase student achievement by giving teachers an adequate amount of time outside of the classroom to enhance their instructional skills. Teachers are currently contracted for 185 days. Adding additional work days would have to be negotiated.
“We’re willing to talk, but it comes down to what the district and teachers agree to,” Flinders said.
The plan is an alternative to the Early Release Wednesday strategy that was approved by the Kansas City School Board last school year. Uneasiness about parents’ access to after-school child care caused Superintendent Mark Bedell to scrap it.
Bedell should be applauded for listening to those concerns. He must continue to have open dialogue with the public.
Another proposal would alter the district’s three-tier bus transportation system, in which schools use one of three start and end times each day.
“Buses are consistently running late,” KCPS spokesman Ray Weikal said. Some schools will have to start later to balance the system, he said.
More time for drivers to get kids to school and fewer buses on the road equate to more money in school coffers. Combined with the cost of two extra days of school for teachers and staff, the district will save about $300,000 if later start times are added, Weikal said. It’s minimal, but any cost reduction is a good thing for the district.
Parental input is invaluable. And it’s highly unlikely district officials will ostracize their base. They have shown compassion toward their constituents’ economic struggles.
Adding professional development days to the school calendar and adjusting start times so students don’t miss class are good strategies to boost achievement. And officials should continue to look for ways to improve the educational experience for each of the nearly 16,000 children the district serves.
We remain hopeful that these changes will translate to student success and higher test scores. But if parents and stakeholders are not all in, the district must find other ways to better suit the needs of students, teachers and staff.