The State of Education
The regular session of the Louisiana legislature is scheduled to begin on Monday, March 14th. The legislature has the power to impact many different aspects of the educational experience for Louisiana’s students and educators. This series will examine some of those most pressing issues.
Every day, teachers find new and creative ways to keep their students learning. Still, a lot of work goes into preparing an excellent lesson. Teachers need adequate planning time to assess student work, review relevant curriculum, prepare their lesson, draft lesson plans, make copies, find resources for their students to use, and more. For many teachers, their planning time is the only point in the day where they have time to drink some water, eat, or use the restroom.
Given the ongoing teacher shortage, many teachers and support staff are being pulled out of their planning time or lunch to cover classes. Not only does this leave them without any time during the day to attend to their own needs and prepare for their own class, but the unpredictability also makes it impossible to effectively create an instructional plan.
Education experts agree that adequate teacher planning time increases student outcomes. According to Edutopia, "Teachers could become more effective with their students if they had more time outside of class for planning instruction and grading student work." Harvard University Graduate School of Education argues that a teacher's time is a schools most valuable resource and school leaders should protect it from little inconveniences that, when added up, can derail a teacher's plan. Kappan Magazine says that, "a productive day of teaching requires substantial planning time to choose effective strategies, design lessons, prepare materials and collaborate with others."
About 55 percent of educators now indicate they are ready to leave the profession earlier than planned. This added stress is one of the top reasons. Teachers are regularly taking their work home, finishing paperwork late into the night and on weekends. Too often, it is taking away from the work they truly love: teaching. For some, additional meetings can encroach on their already limited planning time.
Cluster meetings originated in Louisiana as part of the TAP System in 2011. TAP schools were required to re-configure their schedule to allow for 60 to 90 minutes of uninterrupted, “quality collaborative learning time” in grade-alike or subject-alike groups called cluster meetings every week. While some schools are no longer using TAP, many have continued to use cluster meetings.
These meetings were meant to give teachers the opportunity to collaboratively identify specific student needs and find strategies to address these needs. These meetings have been helpful in some schools, giving teachers a real opportunity to work collaboratively and identify strategies to help students learn. However, these meetings have become a dreaded experience in many schools where collaboration is replaced with a lecture or simply outlining school logistics unrelated to educational development. Regardless, these meetings originated because education experts saw the need to carve out regular time for teachers to plan around the unique needs of their students. Given all the additional duties teachers shoulder these days, daily planning time is more important than ever.
Last year, LFT was instrumental in passing Act 392 by Senator Katrina Jackson, which mandates a minimum of 45-minutes of uninterrupted planning time for every teacher, regardless of the availability of funding. School districts were given a year to figure out how to implement this new law, as it doesn’t go into effect until the 2022-2023 school year, but it is already under attack.
Some school districts complain that they won't be able to meet the requirements of the law because of staffing shortages. But the truth is, depriving teachers of their planning time will only exacerbate the existing shortage. Teachers across the country are feeling burnt out and leaving the profession. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to alleviate their burden, support their work in the classroom, and help them be successful.
Tell your legislators how important planning time is to you as an educator. How has the staffing shortage increased your workload? How would adequate planning time make you a more effective teacher? Click here to send an email to your State Representative and State Senator. Tell them how important planning time is to Louisiana educators and students in your own words.