Thursday, July 18, 2019

Elizabeth Moje interviewed about Flint's new “balanced” calendars


Flint Community Schools will be starting their academic year sooner, ending it later, and holding six breaks throughout the year. This new “balanced” calendar system can reduce summer learning loss and provide more learning opportunities for students.

A balanced calendar features 180 days of instruction, just like a traditional school calendar, but students in Flint will attend school from August 7 until June 18. Their six breaks, called “intersessions,” will be spread throughout the academic year. Flint is the first major city to use this schedule district-wide. 

Interviewed by both The Detroit News and NPR's Morning Edition, Dean Elizabeth Moje explained that current academic calendars with September start dates and early June end dates are not based on academic research, but are traditional for Michigan schools. The research on balanced calendars is not definitive, Moje noted, but they have the potential to be beneficial if the district gets buy-in from staff and the community and also adopts practices that leverage the new schedule.

With balanced calendars, “the biggest plus is the reduction of summer learning loss,” she said. Intersessions, she added, can also give teachers more flexibility and time to plan lessons and develop new units of instruction.

“Sometimes people make calendar changes, but don’t change anything else about instruction, and they don’t make changes to take advantage of the new structure,” Moje said. “It’s how they use that intersession. It’s not just vacation.” Research shows that distributed breaks are likely to be productive for both students and teachers, she added.

Across Flint public schools, proficiency rates for third-grading reading and college readiness are well below the state average. In the 2017-18 school year, 10.8% of third graders scored proficient or above on the state’s English language arts assessment, while less than 5% of high school seniors were deemed college-ready based on SAT scores.

“A balanced calendar is an equity move,” Moje said. “It reduces time out of learning and can provide new opportunities for more distributed learning and reduce stress and anxiety.”

Elizabeth Birr Moje is George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Dean of the School of Education

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