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A modest proposal on teacher planning time

Posted by Apr 1st, 2008.

Yesterday’s Rocky Mountain News reports that bargaining talks are once again underway between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA):

The union’s recent survey of 1,878 teachers – about two of every three were union members – show lingering concerns about time to prepare for and teach classes.

Only about 15 percent of teachers say they have adequate planning time, a drop from 32 percent last year and 42 percent in 2005-06.

And so the union has made its opening gambit in negotiations. The survey (available online in a difficult-to-maneuver slideshow presentation) has lots of interesting questions and results, but the one highlighted in the Rocky makes the strongest case for DCTA at the bargaining table.

DPS teachers currently are guaranteed a minimum of 40 minutes planning time during the contract day—which, excluding duty-free lunch, is 7 hours and 15 minutes long. Of course, some teachers work beyond the contract day, and many take work home with them. But the bargaining agreement doesn’t address this. A more flexible approach is needed.

The 40 minutes of daily planning time is a one-size-fits-all mandate that limits the effectiveness of educational delivery in Denver schools. So it seems we’re left with a clear, two-step solution:

1. Eliminate the provision in the collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing a minimum amount of planning time for teachers.

2. Insert a provision in its place that allows each non-probationary teacher to decide for him/herself how much planning time (s)he needs during the 7 hour, 15 minute contract day. Even if a teacher needs six hours to plan for one hour of teaching, neither the district nor the principal should be able to override the decision.

This would make the coming months a landmark period of reform in DPS, as the lingering problem of instructional planning time adequacy would be solved. Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all.

(Yes, it’s April Fool’s Day)


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