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Hemenway School first-graders were short by 12 teaching hours, state says

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 20, 2011 05:10 PM

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State education officials determined that first-graders at Framingham’s Hemenway Elementary School fell 12 hours short of the state-required minimum instructional time last year, according to department officials.

The state requires school systems to keep students in elementary schools for 900 structured learning hours over a period of 180 days per year. But state education officials found that the Framingham school fell short by 12 hours and five minutes.

State officials determined that numerous factors contributed to the 12-hour gap, including hours racked up from early dismissal days and misbudgeted leisure time, such as minutes spent in passing between classes, lunch and recess, said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman JC Considine.

“Noncompliance was found for the first grade, so we have to make sure during the current school year, the first grade is going to meet the minimum,” Considine said.

State officials contacted Framingham Superintendent Steven Hiersche, who must restructure the elementary school’s curriculum schedule to remedy the situation and submit the plan back to the state by Nov. 10, Considine said.

“We have gotten a signal from the district that one thing to increase student learning time is to eliminate early release days,” Considine said. “The district is paying close attention to this and appearing to be taking the appropriate measures.”

Last year’s first-graders will not be required to make up the time they missed and will not affect future graduations, as the state does not require compensatory services for general education students, Considine said.

“This is corrective action against the district, not against individual students,” he said.

Considine said the 12-hour gap was found by reviewing documentation provided by the district, including the school calendar, notifications about early release days and snow days, and information on block scheduling.

The investigation currently remains isolated to Hemenway Elementary after officials received a parent complaint in April. The state will examine the whole Framingham district during its Coordinated Program Review, which scrutinizes each school district every six years to make sure they reach compliance across the board – including meeting the minimum structured learning hours, Considine said.

Hiersche said the district will make several changes at the elementary school level, such as converting three half-days to full days, and eliminating leisure time for first-graders to gather their belongings before boarding school buses at the end of the day.

The three converted half-days included the first day of school and two parent-teacher conference days, he said.

Hiersche also said releasing school early due to snow last year contributed to the time shortfall.

“I may have to make a decision this year where we don’t do early release but call school off, in which case we will make up a day” instead of losing school hours, Hiersche said.

He said the district will continue discussing corrections to the school’s schedule, and emphasized his focus on lengthening the learning hours.

“This is only at the elementary level in Framingham,” Hiersche said. “I made a commitment since I got here to pare back the half days and make them full days. I believe strongly in more instructional time; we made some changes in the half days this year at the elementary level and we strongly hope to make more changes for next year.”

Hemenway PTO co-president Nancy McElwain, who has a daughter in third grade, said she is not overly concerned about the hour shortage.

“I think that for the majority, our parents and board are comfortable with the schedule that our school is keeping and the way our children are being moved through the school day,” McElwain said. “So we appreciate their attention to this issue to make sure we are compliant, but we feel that Hemenway offers an outstanding education for the kids.”

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