There was some confusion among parents when the Houston ISD Board of Education approved the 2021-22 academic calendar in April.
The news release with the announcement said the calendar “included 15 additional academic days to help address learning gaps caused by COVID-19. ... These additional days were added to the calendar after input from teachers, parents, students and educational experts.”
The 15 days are marked as enrichment days on the printed version of the calendar. An email from former HISD interim superintendent Grenita Lathan asking for feedback on two calendar options further explained the addition and clarified the days would be made available for students who needed them.
“In planning, our main objective has been to ensure additional instructional days were added in order to provide needed supports and interventions as well as enrichment to mitigate the learning gaps caused by COVID-19," the email said. "We have added additional instructional days compared to last year's calendar for all students, and 15 additional instructional days for select students.”
As The Leader reported, HISD students' performance on the STAAR test this spring declined at all grade levels in both math and reading compared to 2019, the last time the standardized test was administered.
The drop was especially stark in math, with at least 41 percent of HISD students failing to meet state standards in each of the grade levels tested - 3-8 - while more than half of the district's students in fourth, seventh and eighth grades failed to meet the math standards.
Gov. Greg Abbott previously announced that STAAR testing requirements will be waived for the 2019-20 academic year so students would not be penalized.
“(Evaluation of STAAR scores) provides the district an opportunity to address student academic needs and utilize resources to regain learning,” HISD said. “That informed the decision to add the 15 additional days of instruction as well as a full return to in-person instruction in the fall. We expect this will produce better student outcomes. Additionally, we are formulating plans that will mitigate students’ lost time and improve educational performance.”
Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, told ABC 13 that she talked to several HISD educators who said the district's summer school program, held both in person and online, did not do enough.
“They are very disappointed with summer school this year,” Anderson said. “It remained hybrid, which was an epic failure during the school year. Summer school did not go as anticipated, and there was low attendance, (which) saddens me because many students who needed summer school didn't get it for the same reasons they fell behind during the school year.”
New HISD superintendent Millard House II said that learning in the fall will be 100 percent in person and he told ABC 13 that he has been in close contact with health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in preparation of opening schools safely.
The 2021-22 calendar consists of a one-week Thanksgiving break, two-week winter break and a one-week spring break. Students will be off on Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Chavez-Huerta Day and Memorial Day. The school district will also observe a fall holiday on Sept. 16 and spring holiday on April 15, 2022. The last day of school will be June 7, 2022.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the first instructional day must be no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. A school district also may not schedule the last day of school for students before May 15. Each district must operate so that it provides 75,600 minutes of instruction, including intermissions and recesses for students.