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As Demands on Teachers Mount, More Time in School Helps Strengthen Instruction


5/14/2014

New Joyce-supported report highlights 17 high-performing expanded-time schools

As demands on teachers increase, schools across the country are expanding their calendars to give teachers more time to collaborate and build new skills. This emphasis on teacher time is particularly important as states implement the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, new teacher evaluation systems, and strategies to turn around persistently low-performing schools.

“Teachers at the schools we studied have twice as much time as teachers in schools with traditional schedules to spend on activities that are crucial to strengthening teaching and improving student achievement,” Jennifer Davis, National Center on Time & Learning co-founder and president, said.“Teachers need more time to develop new teaching approaches and individualize their instruction. This is particularly important for teachers working in high-poverty schools.”

NCTL’s new report on the subject, which was supported by the Joyce Foundation, released May 14, 2014 at an event in Washington, D.C. co-hosted by Teach Plus. Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education at the White House Domestic Policy Council, was a featured speaker at the event.

Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers examines 17 high-performing and rapidly-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 student 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.

Across the 17 schools it examined, Time for Teachers identified six effective practices that have led to teacher and school success. The six practices are:

  • Collaborative lesson planningNearly all of the featured schools provide structured opportunities for teachers – who have varying and often complementary skills – to work together in teams to plan lessons, thereby strengthening each lesson’s quality and rigor.  
  • Embedded professional development. Through workshops and professional learning communities, teachers at the featured schools spend substantial time with colleagues in active, peer-to-peer learning.  
  • Summer trainingSeven of the 17 schools convene their faculty for two to three weeks every summer before the school year begins for intensive planning and professional development, including to build a common understanding of their school’s vision and to learn new tools and systems.  
  • Data analysisThrough the systematic collection and analysis of data on student performance, teachers at the featured schools identify gaps in students’ learning and create action plans to address those gaps.  
  • Individualized coachingMany of the schools in the report pair teachers with instructional coaches who provide ongoing development, including reviewing lesson plans, observing classroom instruction, and meeting to offer feedback and recommendations.  
  • Peer observationMany of the schools in the report also create opportunities for teachers to observe their peers. These non-evaluative observations help both the observer and the observed to identify ways to improve instruction.

The report also includes a series of recommendations for practitioners interested in implementing the strategies outlined in the report, along with recommendations for policymakers looking to support teacher excellence. Three of the recommendations for policymakers include:

  • Advance policies that enable schools to implement an expanded school schedule that offers teachers more time for professional learning.
  • Incentivize and fund high-quality, school-embedded professional learning communities.
  • Support job-embedded professional development as part of the training for the Common Core.

Download the Report

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