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Three Reasons Why Parents Should Welcome Late-Start Days
When a call comes through announcing a late-start school day, we groan a little bit. As parents, a late-start day means adjusting drop-off and pickup times, reconsidering before-school care needs, and working with children underfoot for the first few hours of our day.
Our school district holds late-start days about every three weeks throughout the school year. The school’s first bell is delayed for two hours so that teachers can work collaboratively or enhance their teaching skills through professional development (PD). As a parent, late-start days are annoying; as an educator, however, I understand how they benefit students’ education.
3 ways late-start and in-service days build better teachers
Professional development for educators and administrators plays a significant role in a school’s ability to provide high-quality education. Late-start, early-release, and PD days allow teachers to participate in individual professional development and work collaboratively with instructional leaders and instructional teams to align learning within districts or schools themselves.
Students enjoy improved instruction as a result of consistently supported professional development and grade- and school-level curriculum alignment. Rather than interrupting students’ educations, late-start days enhance their learning. Parents who understand the connection should embrace their school’s commitment to continuously improved education.
1. Support and growth for new and established teachers
Nearly half of all teachers exit the profession in their first five years. This high turnover rate can be lessened by adequate support, particularly if new teachers are assigned to at-risk districts or are working in charter schools. Professional development for new educators helps them align their training with the realities of their classroom and collaborate with mentors to adopt best practices. In addition, mentoring relationships have been shown to have a significant overall effect on student achievement.
For established teachers, PD serves to reinforce content, introduce new teaching strategies, and support educators’ adjustment to new technology or legislation that might affect their teaching. Likewise, school administrators and principals benefit from professional development relevant to their unique roles, the efficacy of their leadership, and districtwide alignment of goals.
2. Professional learning and collaboration
A 2013 study by the National Center for Literacy Education found that educators thought working with colleagues was their most significant and effective professional learning, but that the availability of time for this work was minimal and decreasing. A later study showed that co-designing and examining student assessment data were two of the most effective things teachers accomplished during this development time.
One district has noticed the benefits of supported and continuous professional development and acted to promote it. At Duquesne City School District in Pennsylvania, employees are given the opportunity to attend weekly enrichment meetings in a model classroom. Teachers attend sessions in the model classroom in order to discuss adaptation to new academic standards, share concerns, and encourage and support best practices. The district has found this to be financially beneficial but also a very effective kind of professional development.
3. Improved teacher retention
Research has shown that professional development support for teachers and principal leadership has a significant effect on the retention of talented educators. This highlights the importance of districtwide professional development to ensure that principals and other administrators, who are key to school culture and teacher support, receive the best possible training and that teachers are allowed time for collaboration, curriculum alignment, content training, and other professional development activities.
Parents who know that professional development time is an investment in retaining great teachers, making good teachers better, helping principals develop excellent school culture, and improving overall student performance may begin to turn their late-start grumbles into cheers.
Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.
Hayes Mizell, “Why Professional Development Matters (PDF),” Learning Forward
Catherine Nelson, “Collaboration as a Change Force: The Power of ‘Know How’ Over ‘Have To’,” Literacy in Learning Exchange
Jennifer R. Vertullo, “New Classroom Gives Educators in Duquesne a Professional Edge,” TribLive
Ann Blakeney Clark, “A Key Teacher Retention Strategy,” Yale National Initiative