Report: School Schedules Crowding Out Valuable Teaching Time

“I need time to teach,” says Antoinette Roche, a special education teacher who has been teaching for five years at LaVergne Middle School just outside of Nashville, Tenn.

A good portion of her time is spent preparing for state and county assessments. She says, “In the first week of May our teaching stops and we go into review preparing for assessments, losing about one-fourth of the school year.”

Roche would rather spend that time collaborating with her peers or creating spectacular lesson plans or having the time to develop assessment tools that show meaningful and valid results, instead of the one-day snapshot statewide tests show.

The National Center on Time and Learning is speaking her language. The organization recently issued a report that challenges the conventional school schedule, which can often restrain teachers from working collaboratively to plan and improve instruction and provide individualized support for students.

Called Time for Teachers: Leveraging Expanded Time To Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers, the report highlights the work of 17 expanded-time schools that have added hundreds of hours of learning time per year for students—boosting student achievement and increasing involvement in enrichment programs. Moreover, it’s afforded educators the opportunity to master new content, plan and reflect on lessons, and hone instructional methods.

The schools featured in the report are among 1,500 nationally that has expanded the day or year. The national average of time students and teachers spend in session is nearly 1,200 hours per year. Expanded schools have added an additional 300 hours to the regular school calendar.

The report explores six detailed practices that allow educators to strengthen their instruction:

1. Collaborative Lesson Planning
Invest in time for teachers to collaborate on lesson plans, which increases the quality of instruction. When working in teams, individuals bring varying, and often complementary, skills and experience to the process.

2. Embedded Professional Development
Embed high-quality professional development opportunities into teachers’ schedules. Successful models will take into account content driven by school goals, peer-to-peer learning, and differentiation of content.

3. Summer Training
Start early by hosting professional development and planning sessions during the summer. This will help schools lay the groundwork for deep collaboration that takes place during the school year.

4. Data Analysis
Use valid and meaningful data to drive the lesson planning and identify actionable next steps to improve instruction and targets students’ needs.

5. Individualized Coaching
Connect teachers with instructional coaches to help them grow their skillset.

6. Peer Observation.
Allow educators to observe their peers instructing students.

The Time to Teach report is intended to guide policymakers and educators who are looking to use school time more effectively. Educators are offered achievable recommendations to help grow their practice, which, in turn, will benefit students.

Click here to watch the launch of the Time to Teach report via the National Center on Time and Learning webcast.