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PD Time Not Easy to Come By

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The decision by the Newton, Mass., school district to add two additional early release days to the school calendar—beyond the existing four—has some parents upset and worried, reports The Boston Globe. The school says it needs the time for teacher professional development. The parents say their children are being robbed of valuable lesson time.

Sharon DeCarlo, executive director of instructional programs in Newton, explained that teachers need planning time in order to provide quality teaching. “This is not time when teachers are off doing their own thing,” said DeCarlo. “The purpose [of the professional development] is for teachers to be planning high-quality learning environments."

Many parents complained that the extra early release days conflict with work schedules and leave children without supervision in addition to the reduced learning time.

Newton schools still meet the state required 180 days of class and 990 hours of instruction time, even with their students leaving 45 minutes early every Tuesday.

Financial constraints play a role in the early release days. Keeping full instructional time while adding professional development time would require longer hours and increased pay in contracts. The current economic climate keeps that from being possible.

6 Comments

In my school district these PD days and early dismissal are planned well in advance and appear on the school calendar that families receive at registration. Some of these parents are concerned with their students losing lesson time, but I beleive that the students need the breaks from intense learning situations. Many schools have already lost daily recess due to the need for attaining NCLB standards. As far as conflicting work schedules - school is not meant to be a baby sitting situation. I am sure that if the high schools in a school district are off at the same time as elementary and middle schools, there are many teens that would like to have a job watching kids on these days. All the parents need to do is ask around the neighborhood. Also, many day cares have room available for just such situations. Parents need to remember that the teachers cannot keep up-to-date on teaching research, techniques, and skills without some time for PD.

Each Monday our district in Iowa has a 1 and a half hour late arrival for students. Teachers meet in their PLC's planning assessments, looking at data and talking about student work and how to help students learn the most important standards.

This is in addition to 4 PD days.

"All the parents need to do is ask around the neighborhood. Also, many day cares have room available for just such situations. Parents need to remember that the teachers cannot keep up-to-date on teaching research, techniques, and skills without some time for PD."

I don't mean to go all cranky parent on you, but we always hear about how teachers spend their whole summers on PD, research and all that. Personally, I have encountered these things done well and done poorly. One of my kids' schools, when they got permission to hold four mid-year professional days, also made an arrangement with the in-school latch-key program to take kids for a full day that day, and to take some extras--at parent cost. This was a fairly considerate way to handle things. There have been other times that I used up a vacation day so that teachers could schedule something without regard to parent's needs.

I am not really opposed to scheduling things during the school year (although I really would prefer to see more professional use of summers--pay teachers for their time and hold them accountable), but have a heart, folks. Try not to do it by leaving parents and students holding the bag--or blaming them for being upset when you do.

Margo,
I agree with you that the PD time is not always scheduled with the parents' interests(and work schedules)at heart. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to accomplish what we need to do just for day to day lessons, as each year we are required to attend more and more meetings during our "planning" periods.

In regards to your suggestion that teachers accomplish this professional development over the summer, many teachers do take courses or attend conferences throughout their summers. However, this is all done on their own personal time, as teacher salaries are based(at least in the states I've taught) on a 180-day schedule. To mandate professional development during the summer would require the districts to find funding to compensate teachers for that time, and right now many districts cannot afford to do so.

When my district started the professional planning days(we have 6 days a year as well) parents were consulted before the school board made the decision. The dates were posted on our website by June so that parents would have ample time to figure out what to do with their child on those days. In addition, for parents who still need to drop off students at the regular time, aides and other non-certified staff members supervise children in the cafeteria in a study hall situation. By doing this, the district is taking the burden off of the parents and making the professional development days more effective for everyone. We are able to use this time to meet in PLCs, to gain additional training,to analyze assessments and to accomplish many things that we do not have time for otherwise. In my humble opinion, it is possible for schools to come up with a solution that can benefit all parties involved.

Li:

I fully understand the issue with summers as they are now structured. But we could choose to lengthen the school year for teachers, or for teachers and students, in order to accommodate this. My sense is that this would be a very unpopular decision. Teachers should also be aware that many other professionals do not receive paid time in order to attend professional development. I have personally experienced everything from a day a year, to using vacation, to scheduling in the evenings or on weekends to keep up in my field.

I absolutely agree that teachers should have planning time together, as well as individually. But in my experience, it is not only lack of time that is a barrier--frequently teachers see planning together, or staff meetings, or PLCs as a waste of their time. There is a culture change that is needed, as well as time.

I would also add the caution that telling parents far in advance means that they are not being dumped on. If there are no community resources, or if they are a financial hardship, it doesn't really matter how far in advance you plan. I recall a school that my son attended that only held intervention meetings on one day of the week, at one time. They provided two weeks notice--so the parent could rearrange their life to meet the convenience of the professional adults. At the time I was working a job (teaching part time, as a matter of fact) that meant that I would have to lose an entire day's pay in order to attend. I contacted the school, offered other days during the week that I could attend. They couldn't budge. I couldn't attend--which they attributed to insufficient interest--and went ahead with "intervention" plans that required no change to anything on their part, but a whole lot of recommendations about what I was to do.

So--yes it's possible to benefit all parties--but it takes a willingness.

As usual, "parent concerns" are traced directly to their ultimate expectation that schools offer free day care.

Comments are now closed for this post.

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  • Peggy Corbett: As usual, "parent concerns" are traced directly to their ultimate read more
  • Margo/Mom: Li: I fully understand the issue with summers as they read more
  • LJ: Margo, I agree with you that the PD time is read more
  • Margo/Mom: "All the parents need to do is ask around the read more
  • Bob Hansen: Each Monday our district in Iowa has a 1 and read more

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