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CSD survey asks parents to consider schedule changes to accommodate teachers

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CSD survey asks parents to consider schedule changes to accommodate teachers

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This story has been updated. 

City Schools of Decatur (CSD) recently released a survey for parents to fill out, asking them to consider a list of possible changes to future school schedules in order to give teachers more time to meet all of their responsibilities.

“We expect a lot from our teachers and staff, and to keep those high expectations I want to ensure the district invests as much as we can in supporting our staff to be the best educators they can be,” Superintendent David Dude said in an email.

In a follow up post on his personal blog, Dude said he would not be making these changes any time soon.

“I will not be bringing a recommendation to the Board in May to make any changes to our schedule next year or the year after,” Dude said.

All families of CSD are encouraged to take the following survey as it affects all schools. To take the survey, click here.

The survey is open through April 30.

Some of the changes that CSD is asking families in the community to consider include implementing a monthly day with no students, a half-day every other week, and weekly two-hour early or late dismissal.

In addition, it is important to note that the survey is not a vote, but instead a place for people’s opinions in order to make a good decision for those affected.

For more information about the proposed changes for CSD teachers, click here.

Following the initial publication of this story, CSD sent out a lengthy press release that answers questions parents may have about it. Here’s the full press release, from CSD:

Looking forward to next year, we are exploring options to adjust our schedules and/or work days in order to provide staff with more frequent, protected time to focus on professional learning; staff, department, and team meetings; parent-teacher conferences; and other such professional responsibilities. The survey linked below is an opportunity to provide feedback on some ways to implement such a change. We expect a lot from our teachers and staff, and to keep those high expectations we want to ensure the district invests as much as we can in supporting our staff to be the best educators they can be.

All members of the CSD family are encouraged to thoughtfully consider the options presented and share their opinions. This survey is not a vote. The information gathered will be used to help make the best decision for the CSD community.

The options we are asking you to consider:

Weekly Two-Hour Early Dismissal

With this option, each week there would be a day of the week (the same day every week) when students would be dismissed two hours earlier than their normal dismissal time. Depending on the day of the week chosen, this would provide approximately 72 hours for professional activities at no additional cost.

Weekly Two-Hour Late Start

With this option, each week there would be a day of the week (the same day every week) when students would start school two hours later than their normal start time. Depending on the day of the week chosen, this would provide approximately 72 hours for professional activities at no additional cost.

Half-Day Every Other Week

With this option, students would have a half day every other week when they would be dismissed about three-and-a-half hours earlier than their normal dismissal time. This would provide approximately 67 hours for professional activities at no additional cost.

Monthly Day with No Students (no impact on breaks)

With this option, each month there would be one additional work day with no students. There would be no impact on the regularly-scheduled week-long breaks during the year, the school year would start earlier and/or end later by about nine days, and nine days would be added to teachers’ contracts. This would provide approximately 72 hours for professional activities at a cost of approximately $1,500,000 per year.

Monthly Day with No Students (cancel September and February breaks)

With this option, each month there would be one additional work day with no students. There would be no impact on the start and end dates of the school year. September and February breaks would be canceled, with those 10 days reallocated to provide the monthly work days.  Nine days to be added to teachers’ contracts. This would provide approximately 72 hours for professional activities at a cost of approximately $1,500,000 per year.

Add Nine Days to the Teacher Contract

With this option, nine days would be added to teachers’ contracts before the start of the school year and/or after the end of the school year. There would be no impact on the start and end dates of the school year for students, nor would there be any impact on breaks. This would provide approximately 72 hours of time for professional activities at a cost of approximately $1,500,000 per year.

Please provide your feedback by completing the survey at https://forms.gle/RKbh1RvoRsixbwJB6.The survey will close on April 30.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Protecting time for teachers to learn and prepare is one of the most important steps we can take as a district in our efforts toward educational equity and preparing and building the foundation for all students to be their best.

Q&A

How will this benefit students?

The teacher is the most important factor in students’ learning and success at school. The most immediate benefit will be a decrease in the amount of time teachers are out of the classroom while simultaneously increasing the amount of job-embedded professional learning (PL). While we hire qualified substitutes to steward our students’ learning as necessary, there is no doubt that the presence of the regular classroom teacher is preferable. This time would also be an investment in developing Professional Learning Communities at each of our sites, a research-proven practice that improves student achievement. Additionally, staff often request to have additional PL opportunities throughout the year; we anticipate being able to offer this will increase staff retention, morale, and our attractiveness to highly qualified prospective employees.

Why are we presenting these particular options?

Research shows that job-embedded PL has a significant impact on teacher effectiveness, subsequently having a positive effect on student achievement. Research also shows that regularly scheduled PL for teachers in lieu of “one-and-done” type sessions builds higher teacher capacity to implement new learning – in other words, a few hours each week or one day a month has a higher impact on learning than clumping PL opportunities into September, February, and summer breaks.

The District is undertaking a great deal in our efforts at continuous improvement, including tackling equity gaps in achievement and discipline. This takes a significant investment of time and focused effort. To make these improvements, we need to invest in professional learning for our staff. We also need to recognize the significant time commitments expected of our professional staff outside the typical work day. Currently, we have very limited time for professional learning and therefore have to take teachers out during the school day while students are present. This is not ideal for either teachers or students.

How often are teachers absent from the classroom for PL? What other professional needs might be addressed by this change?

So far this school year, one fifth of partial- or whole-day teacher absences have been for PL, and 90% of those absences required a substitute teacher. Over half of our teachers have had at least one PL-related absence. For example, REAP training provided to kindergarten teachers took 40 hours per teacher, with all of those hours during the school day (requiring 5 days of substitute teachers for the 30 teachers involved in the training). Other training like Beyond Diversity requires 16 hours spent out of the classroom. In addition to PL, teachers are also tasked with attending other after-hours activities such as parent conferences, staff and intervention meetings, etc.

When does the survey close?

The survey closes on April 30.

How will the decision be made?

The results of the survey will be analyzed by a team of district administrators. That team will use the feedback to develop a recommendation to take to the Board at their May 14 regular meeting. The Board will consider the recommendation and will be able to choose to take no action, to accept the recommendation, or to develop another solution.

How will the decision be communicated?

Following the May 14 regular Board meeting, the decision will be communicated on the District website and via school and District newsletters.

Where can families learn more about the benefits of job-embedded professional learning?

Learning Policy Institute – Effective Teacher Professional Development Report

Professional Learning Communities

Following the publication of this press release, Superintendent Dude posted the following update on his personal blog:

First, please take a deep breath through your nose. Hold for a bit. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat as needed.

A survey we released yesterday has disrupted the space-time continuum so to restore the order of the universe I thought an update may be helpful. As you will see in the survey results thus far, below, our parents and our teachers (the two largest groups to respond so far) are worlds apart on their preferences for finding additional time for teachers. If this pattern continues as additional responses come in, and I expect it will based on the number of responses received so far, I will not be bringing a recommendation to the Board in May to make any changes to our schedule next year or the year after. Instead, we will develop and implement a larger stakeholder engagement process to help all interested parties better understand the situation we are in and to have further two-way communication about that and potential solutions (those already presented and others that may arise during the engagement process).

So, if this has been a stressful moment for you, please know that we do listen carefully to your feedback and adjust course as needed. Everything will be okay. Namaste.