Not often, but every now and then a parent will inquire about our early-release days. Over the past couple of years, a variety of questions and comments have been offered.
- Why do you disrupt normal routines to dismiss school early on eight Wednesdays throughout the school year?
- Parents have to rearrange their work schedules.
- Students miss valuable instructional time and teacher must adjust their lesson plans to accommodate “early release.”
- And another thing, why can’t we have early-release days on Mondays or Fridays when families could tack it onto a weekend trip to town?
- In other words, all of the commotion generated by early-release days better have a good reason!
Education as a profession, like most other careers, is not a static endeavor. The complexities educators face change. For example, each year new regulations are required from EED. The legislature also passes new laws regarding education. Society remodels age-old challenges with new verbiage and expects the schools to always have fresh new solutions. Like other professionals, teachers need continual training to maximize their services to students. This is true for other professionals as well. A doctor who refused to attend conferences to learn about and consider new treatment methods would not be viewed as effective. Likewise, educators who resist the opportunity to reflect on assessment data, instructional methodologies, and collaboration with colleagues become isolated and stagnant.
In addition to the need for continuous training, time is also a factor. Teachers are busy with the needs that arrive in their classroom each and every day. Time for reflection and regrouping are very limited during the school year. Staffing meetings are held after-school, but do not provide enough time for principals to cover the information necessary to focus appropriate attention on all school-wide and individual student needs. It is safe to say that during the school year, teachers are some of the busiest people in our society. If we do not provide teachers with the time for training and collaboration during the school year, it won’t happen and student learning will be negatively impacted.
Each year we get permission from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood to schedule eight early-release days into the calendar. Students still attend school for most of the mandated hours necessary to be considered a full-day in session. We avoid Fridays due to the busy travel schedules of various sports during much of the school year. Wednesdays are selected to maximize contact time with the entire staff at each school.
When you see an early-release day on the calendar, teachers will be spending those afternoons meeting together to address current challenges, analyze assessment data, and collaborate to ensure that instructional strategies are meeting the needs of each individual student.
As an illustration of their commitment, I’ll also point out that in addition to early-release days and inservice trainings, many of our teachers invest their own time and money in the summer to read, study, and develop best practices for their students. A few early-release days pale in comparison to the personal hours our staff contribute to providing a quality education.
If you’re curious, feel free to contact your school’s principal to find out the agenda for early-release days at your local school…and, if possible, join your student(s) in celebrating a couple extra hours of free-time.