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Report Explores How More Time for School Can Boost Teacher Quality

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UPDATED

A new report looks at how expanded school schedules can be used to boost teacher effectiveness by creating more time for educators to plan with colleagues, analyze student data, and develop new skills.

The report from the National Center on Time & Learning, a Boston-based research and advocacy group, uses examples from 17 schools that serve high-poverty students and are open, on average, 300 hours more per year than the national norm of 1,170 hours. Students at these schools, located in 14 states, show high achievement or strong growth.

While the typical U.S. teacher spends 80 percent of his time on instruction and just 20 percent on other activities, the teachers in these schools spend about 60 percent of their time on instruction and 40 percent of their time on activities like collaboration, peer coaching, and learning new content. A schedule dominated by instruction is a distinctly American phenomenon, according to the report, "Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers."

"Many other countries have structures in place to enable consistent and frequent collaboration and professional learning for teachers—like regular 'research lessons' in Japan and weekly curricular planning sessions in Finland," the report says.

The report highlights several practices that educators at the featured schools believe have improved teaching quality, including collaborative lesson planning, embedded professional development, summer training, data analysis, individualized coaching, and peer observation. Extra hours and days in the school schedule make extensive use of these practices possible.

"When teachers' schedules are structured so that the vast majority of their working hours are spent in the classroom, it is nearly impossible for these educators to find the time they need to work with colleagues, coaches, and administrators to plan, reflect, and improve their practice," the report says. "An expanded school day and/or year, as implemented at the Time for Teachers schools profiled in this report, provides more time overall for student learning and enables schools to expand time for teachers' professional development as well."

UPDATE (12:15 p.m.): NCTL unveiled the report at an event in Washington that featured a panel discussion with educators from some of the schools the report profiles. 

At the event, RaStar West, a 4th grade teacher at the Morton School of Excellence, a pre-K-8 Academy for Urban School Leadership school in Chicago, said the extended schedule at her school had given her and other faculty time to strengthen their skills.

"We use the time to dig deep into our craft as teachers, learn more about the content we're going to be teaching, and the pedagogy," she said. "We become more instructionally sound, and therefore we're able to deliver better lessons to the students." She added, "That time gives us a real opportunity to become learners again and increase our knowledge base which has transformed the instruction throughout the whole entire school."

West said that her school has also set aside time within the school day for teachers to review student data.

"Having an embedded time for a data review cycle has been able to drive our school in the direction of meeting the achievement goals and decreasing the achievement gap for our students," she said.

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