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DC Teachers Are Up In Arms Over 20-Day Extension Of Calendar Year

Reuters/John Gress

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A 20-day extension of the calendar year for public schools in Washington D.C. is setting off a firestorm of criticism from teachers and their union.

The Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU) will file a labor complaint against the Public Employees Relation Board, which allegedly failed to consult the union before making the decision. The extension applies to 11 schools in the District in order to combat the “summer slide,” where students, particularly from low-income areas, recede educational gains made during the year, reports WAMU.

“They tested their students when they left,” Council member David Grosso told WAMU about Cooke Elementary. “They were at 68-69 percent proficiency in reading, and when they came back it was dropping down to 30 percent.”

Cooke Elementary is among the 11 schools that will move from a 180-day calendar to a 200 day calendar in the 2016-2017 school year, according to a Thursday report. The move extends teacher contracts at the schools from 10-month to 11-month contracts. Elizabeth Davis, head of the Washington Teacher’s Union, said members are furious over the move, calling it “unfair labor practice,” but are worried about keeping their jobs if they speak out against it.

“Now they’re being told if you’re not willing to stay and be a part of the extended-year program you have to leave,” Davis told WAMU. “It’s unfair and it’s very frustrating.”

District of Columbia Public School Chancellor Kaya Henderson rebukes these claims however, saying that many of the teachers she spoke to are happy about the decision. The extension will open up new vacation opportunities during the cheaper travel season for teachers and staff. She also notes that teachers will be paid for the extra month of work.

“We want to be very clear, we’re not Chicago where we’re asking you to work more but we’re not going to pay you anymore,” Henderson told WAMU. “We believe that compensating our teachers and staff members is incredibly important.”

Candi Peterson, WTU general vice president, said in early February that the achievement gap that reportedly occurs over summers might not have merit in research. Peterson claims in an opinion piece that Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is backing this initiative, used “un-named research” in her arguments. She also lambastes the mayor and other District politicians for forcing the proposal on teachers.

“The Bowser administration now attempts to ram an extended school year down the throats of DCPS teachers without input from stakeholders,” Peterson wrote in The Washington Teacher. “Education critics view these as political band-aids and gimmicks designed  to fool the public that this administration will raise student achievement and close the achievement gap.”

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