Legislature puts a lid on LIDs

The Legislature giveth, and the Legislature taketh away.

That was the lesson the Central Kitsap School District learned last week, when lawmakers handed down a budget that trimmed funding for one of the district’s three learning improvement days (LID). The move cut $192,939 from the CKSD budget.

LIDs are designed to give school faculty time to plan for state education reforms like the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). They typically last six or seven hours, and the hours count toward teacher certification maintenance requirements.

Learning improvement days were started in 1999, when the Legislature budgeted money for staff enrichment.

“The content of what teachers learn to do on those days is high. It’s not just a day for working in the classroom, it’s a staff training day,” said Jody Scott, the director of elementary teaching and learning for CKSD.

The cut is part of $856,090 in budget reductions handed down to the CKSD March 14 by state lawmakers. Other cuts include $384,361 in Better Schools grants, $28,556 for drivers’ education and $59,959 for learning assistance programs, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

How LID days are used varies from building to building, but most schools focus on student assessment and the WASL.

“We spent three-fourths of our day working on math assessment,” Tim McNett, a sixth grade teacher at Jackson Park Elementary School, said of the March 15 LID.

McNett said he learned valuable math-teaching strategies which he will use in class, including one which used a napkin to illustrate shapes and math vocabulary.

At this point it is not clear if the district will use its own money to make up for the reduction, Scott said.

Current plans would make passage of the WASL a high-school graduation requirement by 2008. Eliminating LIDs might make that a tougher goal to reach, teachers said.

“Everything they do and talk about these days is related to students meeting the standards — the WASL or the (essential learnings),” Scott said. “It will be more difficult for staff and students.”

Central Kitsap High School hosted University of Washington professor Michael Eisenberg, an information literacy expert, to talk about teaching students to perform research at the March 15 LID.

Jay Jackson, who helped organize Eisenberg’s visit, said such educational seminars would be virtually impossible without LIDs.

“These are the best times to bring people in to present for us. It gives us a block of time, basically uninterrupted. Otherwise things get done more piecemeal,” said Jackson, a CKHS English teacher.

LIDs are also valuable for building a cohesive vision among staff members, Scott said, and helping teachers understand what kids should know by the completion of a given grade level.

In addition, LIDs help newly-hired teachers get up to speed and make lessons more relevant, Scott said.

“The benefits to students for having teachers work together are enormous. When students complete a piece of writing, teachers can bring it to use as an example in a scoring writing workshop. (A LID) is so much more meaningful in the context of the school year,” Scott said.

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