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November 17, 2010
Please find below the concerns and suggestions that were shared with Shirann Lewis and Jeanne Crocker.
Elementary Teacher Concerns
ELEMENTARY TEACHER MORALE – Across the district, elementary teachers are feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Veteran teachers report stress/frustration levels higher than their first year of teaching. Teachers are spending more and more time in the buildings and continuing to work at home in the evenings and on the weekends. The result is a workforce that is exhausted and frustrated. This does not promote effective teaching. Steps must be taken to reduce the elementary teacher workload.
TOO MANY DISTRICT CHANGES AT THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL: New grading requirements, new Science curriculum, UBD plans, 21st Century Skills, PLC’s, Promethean Boards, Performance Tasks. Changes in the district come from above with little input, notice, or training for the teachers charged with delivering instruction. New things are constantly added, but nothing is taken away.
1. Seek more input from teachers – We know the students and what does/does not work in the classroom and what we are capable of accomplishing. Changes cannot be successful unless teachers are actively involved in the process. C&I (Curriculum and Instruction) receives lots of training, information and input on new initiatives, but teachers do not. C&I doesn’t always know what’s best. . .input from teachers has to be meaningful to administration in order to be relevant to teachers.
2. Provide a timeline for proposed changes. When a new program is adopted, materials should be available in advance for teachers to organize and become familiar with the new materials. Training should be provided that gives practical suggestions for using the materials and an opportunity to plan for instruction
3. Provide teachers with grade specific examples of activities to promote 21st Century skills.
4. Allow teachers to give feedback on Performance Tasks. Many teachers are not familiar with them and don’t feel comfortable doing them. This is also very new to students. 4th grade teachers did not receive adequate information about the IPT.
5. Scale back expectations for the Promethean Boards – It will take time for teachers to learn the technology. Creating lessons for the boards is time-consuming. Provide training geared to teacher skill levels (beginner, more advanced). Promote sharing of ideas on the Sandbox – many teachers are not aware of this resource. Acknowledge that it’s at least a 2 year process or more, especially for beginners and training absolutely must be geared to the level of comfort /skill of the participants with trainers not allowing the advanced participants taking over a beginning session. . . differentiated instruction in this area is a must!
6.Reinstitute district-wide Grade-Level Coordination meetings. District teachers would meet quarterly with other teachers from their grade to hear updates from C&I, share ideas, and receive grade-level specific training. (for PDP points)
PLANNING TIME: Teachers need unencumbered planning time to plan and prepare for instruction and complete all the paperwork and data collection they are being tasked with at the building level. Too many planning sessions are being taken for administrative meetings, meetings with specialists/coaches, and for Promethean board training. Elementary school teachers have much more material/manipulative prep than middle/high school, but receive less planning time and now that time is being taken away. The lack of planning time for kindergarten teachers is a critical concern. Collaborative planning is a wonderful concept, but we need the time to do it. There is not enough time to do it effectively during the school day and the demands of after school student activities, along with personal/family obligations make it difficult to schedule these meetings after school.
***1. Allow grade level teachers to dictate the content of any mandated collaborative planning time with specialists so that these meetings help teachers rather than being information dumps – i.e. You need to do this and this and this and prove to me that you did it. ***
2. Develop ways to give teachers longer planning periods – Schedule specialists back-to-back with PE when possible.
3. Provide PE in the gym with the PE staff for ALL kindergarten students. Provide ½ hour of library instruction for all K students EVERY week so that K teachers can have planning time. Investigate other ways to make the K teacher work day more equitable.
4. Work toward a calendar where Elementary schools have a ½ day once a month and earmark this time for collaborative grade level planning.
5. Offer workshop pay for teachers who commit to collaborative planning after school.
Teachers are not being given enough notice about pull dates/due dates for Progress Reports/Report Cards. We received 2 days notice for Progress Reports. We were told that the ½ days were for preparing progress/report cards. Now we are told they are for Staff Development.
1. Provide a minimum of 1-week's notice of due dates for elementary grades. A schedule could be provided for the whole year. Allow time on ½ days to work on grades. Grade calendar/deadlines should be district driven not site-based decisions and principals should be precluded from scheduling other activities on days set aside for grading.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE In today’s shifting society, the only way to make sure that our students become 21st century learners is to make sure that all the stakeholders – teachers, students, and parents are part of the process and are all accountable. In the current climate, only school personnel are held accountable.
1. Student behavior and motivation are areas of concern within our schools. Teachers need more support as they try to deal with challenging students. Teachers should receive follow-up on all discipline referrals.
****2. Principals should discuss expectations for parents/students at the beginning of the year and throughout the year as problems arise. ****
3. Educate parents about 21st Century skills and how they can support this initiative at home.
The high school and middle school advisory committees will be meeting with the appropriate assistant superintendents within the next few weeks.
The accounts of the meeting will be shared with the School Board and Dr. Merrill.