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Archive for Monday, September 10, 2001

Collaboration

September 10, 2001

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Lawrence Education Assn., the union representing district teachers, also learned through their survey that some teachers -- most prominently at the junior high level -- are suspicious that colleagues aren't deriving maximum benefit from the 90-minute collaboration period created by sending students home early each Wednesday.

Wayne Kruse, president of LEA and a teacher at Quail Run School, said the survey showed a thorough study of collaboration programs would be useful.

"Consistency does come to mind," Kruse said. "Is it consistently implemented from building to building?"

In 1998, LEA and district officials agreed to designate time for teacher collaboration in elementary schools and junior high schools. The original idea of adding it at high schools was dropped.

Collaboration was intended to allow teachers, counselors, nurses, principals and others to put their heads together to solve problems hindering the education of students. Other districts have similar programs.

It was controversial in Lawrence from the outset, because the community wasn't made aware of the change until the school board voted on the teachers' contract.

Key findings of LEA's survey:

l Forty percent of junior high teachers and 11 percent of elementary teachers strongly disagree or somewhat disagree with the statement that it was "imperative" for the district to continue collaboration time.

l Forty-three percent of junior high teachers and 16 percent of elementary teachers strongly disagree or somewhat disagree with a statement that all staff in their school used the designated time for collaborative work.

l Ninety-one percent of elementary teachers and 78 percent of junior high teachers strongly agree or somewhat agree that collaboration allowed them to better meet individual needs of students.

Ted Juneau, principal of Central Junior High School, and Mick Lowe, principal of West Junior High School, said disenchantment with collaboration in the junior highs reflected frustration with the disruption of Wednesday classes.

On Wednesdays, junior high students only have time to complete half their class schedule. Part is done the first week and the rest the second week.

"That causes some problem with continuity," Juneau said. "I don't really think they don't like collaboration. They don't like what it does to the schedule."

Lowe said the majority of the teachers at West would vote to keep collaboration time. But, he said, there's no doubt the alternative schedule on Wednesdays was disturbing.

"The net effect: Their classes get kind of off," Lowe said.

From the LEA survey, the strongest opposition to collaboration time came from teachers at Central and South junior highs. In the elementary schools, dissent emerged from Hillcrest and Wakarusa Valley schools.

Al Gyles, the chief negotiator for LEA and a math teacher at Free State High School, said collaboration might be a better fit for elementary schools rather than secondary schools.

"Mostly because elementary teachers have the students all day long. Whereas, in junior highs, they're more specialized. It's a different ballgame," he said.

He said there was modest interest among teachers in launching collaboration at the high schools. But he feels high school teachers have enough time to collaborate with other staff during two 30-minute seminars each week.

"It's our feeling that we do not need it. That's the majority of the thought right now."

-- Staff writer Tim Carpenter's can be reached at 832-7155.

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