Friday, January 26, 2018
Kalamazoo, MI- Each year, students in districts across the country return to the classroom after an extended summer break having lost a significant portion of academic gains made during the previous year, particularly in reading. While the effects of this yearly loss are seen among students of all backgrounds, research shows that the aptly named “Summer Slide” is a leading contributor to the widespread achievement gap between children from low-income families and their wealthier peers.
In partnership with the Kalamazoo Education Association, Kalamazoo Public Schools believes it has found a possible solution and has recommended Woodward School of Technology and Research as well as Washington Writer’s Academy as pilot schools for the program, presenting the proposal for a recommendation on Thursday.
The Summer Slide Reduction Pilot aims to reduce the number of consecutive days students spend away from the classroom by implementing a Balanced Calendar, often referred to as “year-round school”. By drastically shortening the traditional summer vacation and scheduling shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the year, supporters of the initiative hope to better enable students to retain and build on skills from year to year.
In an official statement to the Board of Education, on behalf of the Kalamazoo Education Association, KEA President Amanda Miller acknowledged the challenges that upending the traditional school year model presents to the community and stressed the importance of partnership between educators and the public to ensure a smooth transition to the new calendar. The KEA urges further research on implementation and outcomes of similar initiatives in other districts, direct collaboration between educational authorities and community members in developing a new calendar, ample opportunity for public comment, and a final community review period prior to implementation. “The Kalamazoo Education Association believes that it is only in partnership with families and the larger community that implementing a balanced calendar will be successful and yield the improved student achievement we all seek.”, the statement concluded. Full text of the KEA’s position on a Balanced Calendar is online.
The proposed recommendation for the pilot won unanimous board approval and must now be submitted to the
Michigan Department of Education for review. If given the green light from the State, the new calendar should go into effect late summer 2018 at the chosen buildings.
Other business on the agenda at Thursday’s meeting included a report by Superintendent Michael Rice on the findings of a bipartisan School Finance Research Collaborative Study, detailing the current per-pupil cost of public education and recommending an increase in state funding for all districts in Michigan, along with percentage according to the specific needs of each district’s student population. The full study is available online.
A new bond proposal, designed to help pay for numerous improvements to infrastructure, technology, and
equipment throughout the district passed unanimously among board members. Slated projects include the
addition of physical education facilities at Phoenix High School and the construction of a new building for Edison Elementary. If approved by voters in May, the bond could add an additional $96,700,000 to the district’s budget and would be, according to Superintendent Michael Rice “The largest bond in the district’s history”.
Kalamazoo, MI, Majyck Radio
Contributing writer-Tandy Moore
On Wednesday evening, S.E.E. Change, local advocates for Social, Economic and Educational Change in Kalamazoo, partnered with the Arcus Center for Social Justice to present a documentary film exploring our criminal justice system’s current response to, and perpetuation of, personal and intergenerational trauma, racism, and poverty in our society.
Produced and directed by Dr. Shakti Butler, Healing Justice relies on interviews with ex-offenders, victims, artists, criminal justice experts and Restorative Justice practitioners to provide stirring personal accounts, historical and cultural context, and data to illustrate the philosophy and effectiveness of utilizing a healing approach in line with Restorative Practices to reduce violent crime and recidivism rates in communities across the country.
During the screening, viewers were invited to participate in small group discussion and share ideas among the larger audience about how we can work together to address the damage caused by a punitive justice system – an ever-expanding prison population, broken family structures, economic disenfranchisement, traumatized children, neglected victims, untreated mental health crises – and move toward a more effective, proactive approach to dealing with crime and delinquency – one that addresses the root causes of harmful behaviors and focuses on the real needs of both offenders and victims.
Wednesday’s event was well attended by community activists, leaders, scholars, and youth, as well as Kalamazoo’s County Prosecutor Jeff Getting, who is reportedly exploring the possibility of implementing Restorative Justice Programming in the local Juvenile court system. S.E.E. Change organizers hope that this is only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and good faith collaboration between community members, criminal justice officials and elected leaders in Kalamazoo.
Those interested in joining the conversation are encouraged to connect with S.E.E. Change via facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on Healing Justice and other World Trust films can be found at www.world-trust.org/films
A complete listing of upcoming events at the Arcus Center for Social Justice is available at https://reason.kzoo.edu/csjl/