Monday, February 1, 2010

Irving Advisory Group requests extended learning for all Irving middle schoolers

Last Monday, I attended a meeting at the Washington Irving Middle School along with other concerned Roslindale parents and Superintendent Carol Johnson.

Background: Roslindale does not have any K-8 schools. The neighborhood's elementary schools end at fifth grade, and exam schools don't start until seventh grade. The Irving Middle School has not had a stellar reputation in the community. So Roslindale parents have been faced with the dilemma of what to do with their kids in the sixth grade. The Irving Advisory Group, made of of parents of elementary students and Irving students, was formed to find ways to improve the Irving.

The things I came away with:
  • The community and BPS are trying to find creative ways to extend the school day. Currently, the Irving’s school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. That’s a lot of time in the afternoon from dismissal to when most parents get home from work. (My work day doesn’t even begin until around that time.) 
  • One option is to have the school day start an hour or two later, pushing dismissal back.
  • That would still leave several hours in the afternoon. One of the key recommendations of the Irving Advisory Group was to fund extended learning for all Irving students. Currently, only 200 out of 700 students are served in the extended-learning program.  
  • There was a lot of love in the room for principal Arthur Unobskey, who is in his first year at the Irving. Parents said they have seen a lot of improvement in the school and student behavior in the community.
For more on the meeting, I’d recommend this article in the Roslindale Transcript. Unfortunately, that issue of the Transcript also reports on a recent incident at the school where two girls were arrested for fighting. Bad timing.


Sarah said...

I am a neighbor of the Irving and for several years, there was a lot of student vandalism on our street. Houses egged, car windows smashed, recycling bins thrown at cars on trash day, and LOADS of fighting. I've noticed a big improvement this school year. I'm still not sure I would send my own kid to the Irving, but it's nice to hear of improvements at the school closest to my house.

Diane said...

Personally I see a lot of wins if the school day were to start later. There is considerable data out there to support a later start time on several fronts. Unfortunately, I don't have the studies at my fingertips, but these topics should be fairly easy to find online:
1. The unsupervised hours between school release and parent's arrival home are prime time for teens to engage in all sorts of risky behavior.
2.Teens (and other children) require more sleep than adults. One school district (in Michigan I think?) found that SAT scores increased by up to 200 points when controlled for nothing other than the additional sleep allowed by moving the start time later. Also, there is about a one letter grade correlation for ever 15 minutes of sleep gained/lost (A students sleep on average 15 minutes longer than B students, etc.). And then there are the effects on mood and memory...I could go on, but I won't.
3.There is a considerable drop off in participation of activities that once filled the after-school void when moved to early before-school start times.
4.Early start times force new drivers to drive to school in the dark during a season of inclement weather. While not really a BPS issue, it is worth considering in the overall support of later start times. Plus, who wants their kid waiting for a bus in the dark?
5.While I haven't encountered research on this topic, how does such an early start/release time affect reduced/free lunch kids? If they start at 7:30 they probably eat lunch at 10:30. That's a long time to go until the next day's breakfast at school if they are not getting enough food at home.

Just some thoughts...

Luke Hill said...

Geeky Mama, thanks for attending and reporting on the meeting. It's good to here about the work of the Irving Advisory Group. (Kudos to Supt. Johnson and BPS for setting it up; and to the many parents who have participated).

I think adolescence is always a tough time for kids---and for the adults around them. In my experience, every school system struggles with early adolescents, whether it's middle school, junior high school, K-8 schools, 7-12 schools, or some other configuration.

I suspect that if a bunch of the parents from the West Zone Parents Group who have chosen schools like the Manning and the Haley in recent years for their 4 & 5 year olds, were to chose the Irving for their 11 & 12 year olds, we'd see continued improvement at the Irving as well.

P.S. Both my children attended the Irving and had good (not great, but good) experiences there. (They did have great experiences at Citizen Schools at the Irving.)