Parents: It's 2:08 p.m. on a Wednesday. Do you know where your children are?

Not in school.

It's so they achieve more.

That's right, school's letting out at approximately 2:10 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Kingsland school district, thanks to a decision made by the board and administration to release students early so that teachers can get together to learn how to engage students more effectively.

"Wednesdays - 34 of them - we'll have early outs at about 2:08. Normally, the day ends at 3:10, but we're doing this so that staff can become involved in training," said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald, explaining how many Wednesday afternoons students will be released early, beginning on Sept. 11.

"Before, our calendar had days where students were out two hours early and also had full days off for teachers' in-service and other things, but we took those out and converted the time so that the students are here full days except on Wednesdays." McDonald elaborated, "Why? The teachers will be involved in professional learning communities - teachers will be in small groups and working in teams to collaborate on student learning and achievement. Research shows that collaborating effectively and consistently has a great effect on student learning and achievement, and our calendar didn't have a consistent time for teachers to focus on student learning and achievement, so we've been studying and working on this for the past two years, getting ready to work in professional learning communities for this year."

McDonald stated that the point of teachers meeting every Wednesday - with the exception of Sept. 4 and the Wednesdays of Christmas and New Year's weeks - is that they will "create a collaborative culture, clearly define what all students must learn, constantly measure effectiveness and systematically respond when methods don't work.

"It assumes that all students can learn at a high level, and it accepts responsibility for when they don't. It's like the response to intervention (RTI) being used at the elementary school...another process that's being used in professional learning communities. When teachers get together, they have goals, objectives, times and tasks they're working on - it's very systematic and organized. It addresses what we want students to learn, how we know they're learning, and how to respond when they do or don't learn what they're supposed to."

The superintendent noted that "most education tends to isolate teachers, but research shows that if you put people in a collaborative situation, they make more progress and have better achievement of results."

Eventually, the teachers' collaborative groups will convene and present information about their professional development sessions to the Kingsland School Board of Directors. "The other thing...we're creating a segment about 15 minutes long at board meetings called 'Spotlight on Education,' and as the teachers work as a collaborative culture - because there'll be about nine teams of five or six staff members - they're going to be at board meetings and give team presentations for the board on what they're doing. It's a great opportunity for the board to hear about it, for the staff to share about their professional improvements and evaluate the work they're doing, and for the public to hear about it."

Even though it might seem that students are being shorted numerous hours of instructional time, McDonald has the number of hours students are actually in class down to two specific numbers - either including or excluding pass time between classes - and the difference is not even disputable, as the minimum number of hours students must be instructed is 1,025, and Kingsland's new calendar has 1,072.6.

"We feel that the benefits of doing this outweigh any cons it might seem to present, and we'd like parents to know that. We'll also have opportunities for students to go to our school age child care program if a parent chooses, or if a student needs to or wants to stay after school, we'll continue to provide places for them to study," said McDonald. "Our goal is not to change instructional time, but to provide better opportunities for teachers' professional development and for student achievement."