Optimizing Teacher Time in Kentucky

There’s no question that teachers, administrators, and parents must collaborate to find answers to the challenges facing students and schools. Before teachers and administrators can engage regularly in these conversations, we must design a schedule that grants both of them time to do so.

Flickr credit: cinderellasg

When it comes to teachers and administrators, time is tight. Often, teachers and administrators fail to have critical conversations about school improvements because of the complex (and often segregated) system we call “school.”

Think about a school with an overburdened principal who has to manage the athletic department, a new teacher evaluation system, concerned parents, and myriad other challenges.  Teachers are shielded from much of the day to day minutiae because of a principal’s leadership, yet that principal often has little time for much else.

Or, consider the standard practice of delegating responsibilities for buildings and grounds to one administrator, instructional leadership to another, and testing or school culture to a third.  With the barrage of immediate problems to solve in the course of a regular school day, it seems improbable that administrators could step back enough to make connections between these isolated areas.  Yet, sometimes new furniture and a revised schedule can solve a teacher’s discipline challenge.

Administrators might have a birdseye view of a school, while teachers have an in-depth understanding of the students. Yet, teachers must supervise students for 5/6th of their day, leaving minimal time for the two to plan or collaborate.

There’s no question that teachers, administrators, and parents must collaborate to find answers to the challenges facing students and schools. Before teachers and administrators can engage regularly in these conversations, we must design a schedule that grants both of them time do so.

Recently, a group of Kentucky teacher leaders from the CTQ Collaboratory collaborated to rethink teacher time. This TeacherSolutions team of 15 teachers and 1 administrator analyzed current teacher schedules and produced 3 recommendations for re-allocating teacher time in the best interests of administrators, students and teachers.

In the course of the work, we met virtually four times and engaged in a three-day intensive chat around the idea of optimizing teacher time.  A few themes emerged:

Jennifer Wright, an elementary teacher in Grant County says that in order to meet her many obligations, “lesson planning gets pushed to the back burner.”

Angie Gunter, a high school English teacher in Daviess County, worries that there is, “no in-school time to analyze, discover trends, or implement changes with data collected” from her students’ work.

Kip Hottman, high school Spanish teacher in Oldham County, suggests that, “If the public learns about the load of responsibilities that teachers carry, can we create a solution that helps students learn more?

 

(Read more of this discussion of teacher days here.)

From this process emerged CTQ-KY’s three recommendations for optimizing teachers’ schedules, rethinking professional development, and restructuring the school day:

Recommendation #1

Recommendation #2

Recommendation #3

In addition to the recommendations, we learned a few things in the process:  

  • Coming to consensus around these recommendations took patience and time.  We must make time for teachers, administrators, and the rest of the school community to come together for extended periods to create innovative solutions to other local concerns.

  • Teachers’ needs vary across districts and academic level. The group worked hard to identify key similarities, including extended professional learning time, teacher-driven PLCs, and restructured classes.  

  • A collection of unique perspectives was important. In addition to diversity of teacher perspectives, the inclusion of one administrator helped us understand what teacher actions and dispositions may look like from the front office.

  • Teachers and administrators alike are passionate about improving student achievement and creating a richer learning environment for all kids. When we take the time to focus together for an extended time, no shortage of possible, positives solutions emerge.

Putting our ideas into action

Teacher-led initiatives are critical to driving school improvement. Equally important is the receptive ear of administrators and policymakers to receive these recommendations and conclusions. All three collectives can (and should) work together, using their synergy to make a positive impact throughout the educational system.

One classroom at a time

Passionate educators looking for positive change led the Optimizing Ky Teacher Time initiative. Yet, teachers in many states–not just Kentucky–struggle to meet the responsibilities placed on them in the fixed the amount of time they have in a day.  We hope that our state, but also the national groups working to support education, will take a good, long look at the immense responsibilities  placed on teachers and the limited time they have to meet them.

We hope that these recommendations encourage other teachers to make the most of the structures that exist today, while continuing to put forth and ask for support in restructuring teacher time for tomorrow.

 

–Brison Harvey and Lauren Hill

Optimizing Kentucky Teacher Time Team Members

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