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Districts Offer Additional Training for Teachers Taking Toughest Assignments

Do teachers need additional training to work in struggling schools? Leaders in two large districts say yes.

As educators prepare for the new school year in Jefferson County, Kentucky, which includes Louisville, and Pasco County, Florida, in the suburbs of Tampa, the districts are running special institutes for teachers going into their lowest-performing schools. 

Jefferson County ran an optional two-day training program for both new teachers and veteran teachers who will spend the school year at the district's 18 priority schools. Nearly 150 teachers signed up for the program, reports WDRB, Louisville's Fox affiliate. Teachers who participated had the option of receiving either professional-development credits or a stipend.

"You walk into school the first day, you are thinking about lesson plans, you're thinking about I'm going to teach English, I'm going to teach math but really you have to teach kids the right things to do and how to act," Louisville teacher Hank Rothrock told WDRB. "You're not ready for some of the behaviors and a lot of our new teachers don't know how to respond or work through that."

Pasco County, on the other hand, ran a mandatory training for teachers at their six schools that are under state supervision. The program's mandatory nature raised the ire of the district's teachers union. Kenneth W. Blankenship, president of the United School Employees of Pasco (USEP), sent the district a cease and desist letter, demanding that the terms of the trainings be negotiated.

"It is USEP's contention that the 'mandatory' trainings referenced by your administrators is a mandatory subject of bargaining and is a violation of contract language," wrote Blankenship. "USEP would consider the implementation of this practice as a unilateral change in working conditions for our teachers and an unfair labor practice. The decision to move in this direction would, at the very least, require negotiations, and this has never been done in spite of USEP's request to be engaged in the planning for the DA schools of Pasco County since February 2016."

Districts have long wrestled with providing good teachers to students at academically challenged schools. The idea of providing additional training to teachers working in such schools isn't entirely new solution to that problem. A few years back, teachers at 13 Cleveland schools received additional training.

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