School Board: Schedule boosting test scores at year-round Sumner

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reading and math scores at Sumner are on the rise, and early figures suggest the school’s experimental year-round schedule could be a major factor.

During a meeting Monday afternoon, the Austin Public Schools board heard an update from Sumner Elementary Principal Sheila Berger, who highlighted the year-round schedule, or 45/15 calendar, as a component of rising MCA test scores. This year saw a 5.6 percent gain in the number of students proficient in reading, and a 24.7 percent jump in students proficient in math. Berger said the success was a result of new teaching strategies, better support for students living in poverty, and the implementation of the year-round schedule.

“We felt very strongly the calendar did have a great effect,” Berger said.

Email newsletter signup

Sumner changed in part as a response to Adequate Yearly Progress concerns, but also as a result of concerns about instructional practice and segregation.

So far, the families of Sumner students say they like the chance to recharge during breaks, which come more frequently in a year-round schedule, Berger said. Remedial instruction also reportedly helps students more when interspersed during the year rather than delayed until summer school.

The schedule is believed to help cut down on the amount of review students need at the start of a new school year.

“The three-month break was very detrimental to their progress,” Berger said, adding that the traditional school calendar from the 1800s had not been designed to aid in learning, but instead meet farming needs.

“It didn’t have anything to do about what’s good for kids and education,” she said.

Sumner is still in the middle of a three-year trial period of the calendar, but based on what they’ve seen so far, Berger does not recommend it return to a traditional schedule after the trial.

Other business

—During a closed session before and after the public meeting, the school board discussed Superintendent David Krenz, then met with him to review the evaluation’s results. A full public review of the evaluation will take place at the school board’s next meeting.

—The board unanimously approved an idea from Activities Director Lisa Quednow-Bickler and two students involved in the business extra-curricular DECA to relabel water bottles from Hy-Vee — with permission — and sell them to raise funds. Verizon Wireless will purchase the water for DECA in exchange for being allowed to place its logo and a coupon on the bottles.

—Gifted and Talented Coordinator David Wolff said the district is looking at redesigning the program for grades one through four.

“We are coming to a point where we need to look at our service model since we’re losing the fifth grade,” Wolff said.

A team comprising teachers, Gifted and Talented interventionists, parents and others have begun working on the remodel. Community and staff input will be considered in January through May next year, with final approval coming from the school board and superintendent in May.