Extended Bibb school days will be geared to training

jmink@macon.comJune 12, 2014 

Bibb County school days will continue to be extended this coming academic year, but students at only a handful of schools will be affected. The district’s new plan calls for most schools to have longer days, but only for faculty. It will give time for more professional learning, which is vital for the district, interim Superintendent Steve Smith said.

The extension will add up to about two hours a week. This past year, schools added a half-hour onto the end of each day to gain more instructional time, but Smith will recommend another option next academic year. Thirty extra minutes isn’t much time to accomplish anything, he said.

Instead, administrators will be able to choose how they want to extend the days at their school. For example, some of them may designate a couple days to go an extra hour, and some may pick one day to extend by two hours, Smith said.

Still, some schools that receive federal School Improvement Grants will extend class time for students. As part of the grant, those schools included additional instructional time for students in their improvement plans, meaning that they must extend their school days for children, Smith said.

Only a handful of schools will keep the additional class time for students, including Westside High School, and Hartley and Ingram-Pye elementary schools.

About 90 percent of the district’s schools will add time for employees only. Some of that extra time will be used to review the new statewide evaluation system for teachers and administrators.

“In the past, it was not required that teachers be trained in this, but it will be required next year,” Smith said.

Administrators and teachers also will use the extra time to address achievement issues, specifically concerns recently identified in 10 specific schools by the Georgia Department of Education.

At the request of local school administrators, state officials recently analyzed Brookdale, Bruce, Burdell-Hunt, Morgan, Rice, Riley and Williams elementary schools, and Ballard-Hudson, Rutland and Weaver middle schools. A theme among all schools was low student achievement, according to the Georgia Assessment of Performance on School Standards analysis.

Some of the concerns at those schools included low leadership expectations, ineffective school improvement plans and a lack of rigor in the classrooms.

The standards in many classrooms “were the right standards for about two grades below where the kids were,” Bobby Smith, with the state education department’s school improvement division, said at a recent school board meeting.

The additional professional learning time will allow school leaders and teachers to tackle those issues, Steve Smith said.

“They will make sure they modify their school improvement plans to include strategies to address deficiencies in the GAPSS study,” he said. “And also they will collaborate along grade levels ... and make sure everybody’s flowing basically at the same pace.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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