Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Expanded school schedules offer many advantages

Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers examines 17 high-performing and fast-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze students data, create new lesson plans, and develop new skills.

On average, U.S. teachers spend approximately 80 percent of their time on instruction, while the international average for countries reporting data to the OECD is 67 percent. Meanwhile, teachers in the schools featured in Time for Teachers spend 60 percent of their expanded school schedule on direct instruction with 40 percent of their time on collaboration, coaching, one-on-one support, and other activities.

Time for Teachers explores the ways in which an expanded schedule creates opportunities for schools to invest in six teacher development practices:

(a) collaborative lesson planning
(b) embedded professional development
(c) summer training
(d) data analysis
(e) individualized coaching
(f) peer observation

The report includes examples and vignettes from the 17 schools, and extensive guidance for districts and schools looking to improve their professional development programs. As educators interviewed for the report attest, additional time is a lever that allows them to collaborate without sacrificing instructional time. That said, the practices described in the report are transferrable to schools with conventional schedules that are looking to improve how they are using existing time in their school day.

Three overarching themes emerge from these practices across the Time for Teachers schools — themes that reinforce what other effective-practices research on teacher development has revealed. These themes have important implications for how practitioners and policymakers organize and optimize time for teacher development.

• Professional culture matters. Educators share a commitment to continuous improvement. Teachers and administrators embrace feedback, reflect openly on challenges, and value the input and ideas of their colleagues. School leaders work to create a climate that fosters professional growth.

• Teachers are leaders. Teachers serve as mentors and coaches for their colleagues, lead team meetings, design curricula, model instructional practices, and share their expertise. All teachers are deeply invested in strengthening instruction, not only in their classrooms but across the whole school.

• The school is the locus of learning. Professional development efforts are school-directed, strategically designed to meet the needs of teachers and students, and driven by school-wide instructional goals. The variety of activities are complementary, synergistic, and embedded in practice.

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