From the Department of Playing Catch-Up, two more-or-less related quick hits:
To the mounting evidence that it’s time to radically restructure the American teacher workday, add this: The status quo forces teachers to choose between precious time with their students and the continuing education that helps them refine their instructional practices.
A new study finds that nearly 40 percent of Minneapolis teachers were absent 11 or more school days in the 2012-2013 school year; 11.5 percent are absent 18 or more days — or more than 10 percent of the student instructional calendar.
This makes Minneapolis’ teacher attendance rate one of the best in the nation, according to a survey of 40 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas released by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
“We never have enough professional development,” said Allyne. “We always want more, but this is what we have without reducing the amount of instructional time. Our focus is to keep our children in class.”
Overall, the study found that teachers show up for work 94 percent of the time and take less time off than their contracts provide for.
Because it was geared to determining the amount of time students spent without the regular classroom teachers, the absentee rate was calculated using data that included time teachers are expected to spend in professional development. Long-term leaves of absence were not included.
In the worst performing districts, teachers were absent for 25 percent to 38 percent of instructional days. Nearly four in 10 teachers in Buffalo, N.Y., missed more than 18 days in the 2012-2013 year, for instance.
Huffington Post carries an excellent wrap-up penned by the Education Writers Association’s Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn, to which I want to add one point.
Teacher attendance is directly correlated to student outcomes. Students whose teachers are absent 10 or more days per year fare worse than their peers who have brand-new teachers, for instance.
Yet given the way teacher professional development is currently structured, teachers must leave their classrooms in order to participate in continuing education. And just to further muddy the waters, the conventional one- or two-day PD sessions, research shows, are not terribly effective.
Better is professional development that takes place in the teacher’s workplace — in his or her classroom and those of their peers — and that last months, if not the entire school year. 100 hours of practice can have a dramatic impact on a teacher’s skills, the data show.
So how do you squeeze all that extra time into an already packed calendar? There are a number of possibilities, including an increase in co-teaching, something currently starting to take place organically in Minneapolis classrooms. If one of a pair of co-teachers is absent, some have hypothesized, the disruption for students may be lessened.
Similarly, schools elsewhere have experimented with changing the way teachers are placed in classrooms. By assigning groups of students to teachers by team, some schools are able to create time for joint teacher planning and for meaningful professional development.
Lucy Laney co-teaching funds
Will Mauri Melander, principal at Minneapolis’ Lucy Laney Elementary, get money to expand her promising co-teaching program next year? Good question — one that may or may not be answered Tuesday night when members of the Minneapolis School Board take up next year’s budget.
At the board study session held two weeks ago, staff struggled to answer questions from board members regarding the origin of the funds used to pay for the co-teachers in place at Lucy Laney this year.
(Are you playing catch up, too? Your Humble Blogger’s story about Lucy Laney’s efforts to expand its co-teaching program can be found here.)
Having committed themselves to transparency in the budgeting process, board members who are not typically political allies expressed frustration with the, um, opacity of the process.