Five things you need to know about this school year

8/24/2015

Today was the first day of school for students in Duval County, and by all accounts it was a smooth one. This is set to be an exciting school year — here are five things you should know as school gets under way.

  1. The new code of conduct is working, and tweaks will further improve it. Last year, the school board passed major updates to the student code of conduct, and made some adjustments for this year’s code of conduct. You can read more about those changes from the perspective of 2013 Teacher of the Year Apryl Shackelford here. Thanks to these and other changes, suspensions were down 34 percent between 2012-13 and 2014-15, the district reported in its 2015-16 profile. Other improvements for this year include the introduction of the Non-Violence Project (NVP) to 24 middle schools, and ongoing partnerships to increase mentorship.
  2. Teachers will have to do less paperwork. Thanks to a new agreement between the district and Duval Teachers United, teachers will be able to maximize their instructional time as the documents they are required to complete are reduced from 47 in previous years to 13. That’s an improvement teachers have asked for — it was mentioned often when we surveyed teachers for a policy brief in 2013.
  3. Teachers were hired earlier this year. Speaking of teachers, schools were more fully staffed today than they have been in years. Having just a handful of jobs still open is huge when it comes to ensuring students are learning from day one. Some of that is due to lessons learned from the full staffing of Quality Education for All schools last year. You can read more in this Times-Union story.
  4. More students will be using technology in the classroom. The district’s device-to-student ratio is continuing to improve, and schools now have about one device for every two students. In addition, teachers have each received a new computer this year. All of it is mostly thanks to Qualified Zone Academy Bond funds, which are federal, no-interest bonds leveraged from private philanthropic dollars. You can learn more here and here.
  5. More students are attending pre-kindergarten in DCPS schools. The district has expanded its Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program by 60 percent. Students attend VPK in 80 classrooms in 57 schools, according to the district's 15-16 profile.

What do you think are some of the most important developments this school year? What was your first-day experience? Share it in the comments.

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