This week the board approved the new calendar so the first semester will end before the winter break. Classes will start Aug. 15 and the first semester will end Dec. 21. The second semester will begin on Jan. 9, 2017 and school will finish on June 1.
This will allow for a three-week break over the holidays. The first full week of January, after the holidays end, is an ideal time to travel because resorts and hotels—whether in warm climes or the mountains—are eager to fill beds.
The action follows negotiations with the various employee unions that all agreed to the new calendar. It makes sense educationally for students and will work just fine for teachers and families once they adjust. This week’s action capped a months-long process to solicit community comments and explain why a change is better educationally.
Meanwhile, the Pleasanton trustees approved the questions in a calendar survey they will start distributing to interested parties. The trustees already had approved a calendar similar to what San Ramon adopted (it started a week earlier and included an October vacation week), but the rationale for students was the same.
Trustees overturned their earlier approval and went back to the traditional calendar for this year. The process will have to move quickly to allow consideration of a revised calendar for 2016-17.
Also on the educational front, Congress this month officially eliminated the “No Child Left Behind Act”. It was a bipartisan vote to end the requirements just as it was a bipartisan vote that passed the law—now retired Rep. George Miller led the Congressional effort and stood with President George W. Bush when he signed the legislation.
Educators have complained about the requirements that drilled down in sub-groups (students learning English, ethnic students, students from financially strapped homes) to ensure that while a school’s overall performance may be good, there wasn’t a small group of students who were failing. That’s why some Pleasanton schools, that had excellent overall test scores, were faulted because sub-groups were failing.
There’s an exceptionally valid question to ask why the federal government is messing around in the fundamentally local function of education. That said, the accountability that the testing brought required administrators and teachers to focus, particularly when it came to groups of students who were struggling.
The responsibility now shifts to the states. Here, the California Teachers Association exerts great influence on lawmakers. The state will establish the benchmarks and the accountability. Rigorous testing to develop school scorecards for parents and the community is the correct outcome.