Archive for Monday, March 7, 2011

Review is due

It’s time to take another look at the Lawrence school district’s collaboration and early dismissal policy.

March 7, 2011


Lawrence school board members deserve our thanks. Probably no group in the community will have more difficult and controversial discussions over the next year as the board will on budget cuts, possible school closings and consolidations.

But board members really ought to add one more difficult discussion to their list. Now is the time to seriously consider the value of the district’s policy on teacher collaboration time, which includes releasing elementary and junior high students 90 minutes early each Wednesday.

Budget concerns are evident throughout the school district. Those concerns should prompt district leaders to evaluate this program, because — make no mistake — collaboration time comes at a price.

What that price is, we’re unsure. Many residents don’t know much about the program, and that’s a problem. The policy was established in the late 1990s as part of negotiations between the school district and its teachers. The idea of early-release was never properly explained to the public.

School board members ought to fix that by answering several questions:

• Are teachers being productive during collaboration time? As one teacher who supports the program recently wrote in a letter to the Journal-World, some teachers probably use the time better than others. What percentage of teachers are using the time properly?

• Could the district save money by eliminating the early-release program? Students are required to attend school a certain number of hours per year. How many extra days are added to the school calendar every year because students are released early every Wednesday? In Eudora, district administrators added minutes onto their district school day and were able to cut 10 days from the district’s calendar. Cutting those days saved the district about $100,000 in transportation, food services, utilities and other costs. Eudora has only one junior high and one elementary school. Lawrence has 15 elementary schools and four junior highs.

• Do the benefits of collaboration time outweigh the costs the program creates for parents? It is a simple fact that many parents have to pay for day care on early-release Wednesdays or else lose hours at work. The economic times are much different than they were in the late 1990s when this program began. Are parents being asked to pay too much for this program?

• Could collaboration time be reduced or perhaps done at a different time of day? Perhaps teachers could have collaboration time once per month. If it is needed on a weekly basis, perhaps teachers could collaborate in the afternoons following the normal dismissal of school.

Any changes to the district’s collaboration time are likely to produce concerns from the Lawrence teachers union. Making a change could be difficult. But that’s just a sign of the times. Nothing has come easy lately, but school board members owe it to the community to make sure this issue is on the table as they chart a future course for the district.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

This poll might well represent how strong USD 497 taxpayers feel about teaching professionals:

cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

Would that whoever wrote this editorial had run for the Lawrence school board, joined by three other like-minded individuals. People who are capable of analyses like this one always seem to be too busy with what they're doing in their own lives, and very seldom, if ever, run for any public office. Here's hoping that at least one of the candidates running this time is capable of preparing an analysis like this one and asking the legitimate questions that go along with it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

I hope we don't have school board candidates who operate under the assumption that such reviews and considerations aren't ongoing, as you and this editorial writer do.

But I seriously doubt that either you or this writer could care less about the policy of teacher collaboration on Wednesdays. More likely, you're both just looking for another opportunity to imply how lazy and incompetent teachers are-- after all, they work for the government.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, I've forgotten more about this than you'll ever know.

Wayne Propst 6 years, 10 months ago


windex 6 years, 10 months ago

wprop, thank you so much for policing our school parking lots. Ever occur to you that since our schools have different start times, they also have different END times? Ever occur to you that those "missing" cars might be paras? Part time teachers? Custodial personnel whose days have ended? Part-time secretaries? Parent volunteers? Cafeteria workers (lazy bums leave after serving two meals!) Teachers who have meetings at the district office? Teachers who have medical appointments and they'd rather miss a meeting than contact time with their students? It sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands. Maybe you should stand outside schools on Wednesdays with a clipboard and interrogate the various adults walking out and driving away in their cars.

Getaroom 6 years, 10 months ago

wprop, I doubt you are a teacher in the LPS system. Furthermore, I doubt you have driven the entire town to check out every schools parking lot. Most teachers in this community work their rears off, not for the pay check but for the good of the kids and most deserve even more pay for serving the greater good of this country, future leaders and workers. I have been a teacher and I know that this is valuable and necessary time spent preparing for classroom programs. Whatever cynical bitterness you carry needs to be refocused.

conservative 6 years, 10 months ago

Getaroom it's a perk and it's grossly abused in this district. If this perk produced real improvements in education it would have been enacted by other districts but it hasn't been. At 90 minutes a week times 36 weeks in school we're having to add 54 hours to each calendar year or more than 7 days. The cost to the district is staggering and the benefits are questionable. Teacher pay is actually quite competitive for other people coming out of degree programs. What teachers don't like to admit is the perks of added time off, guaranteed raises just for staying with the job, difficulty to get fired. Plus for other salaried positions the idea that you shouldn't have to put in more than 40 hours is ridiculous. People in salaried positions usually work 50 to 60 hours a week.

TNPlates 6 years, 10 months ago

You're exaggerating about the 50-60 hours per week. I've been in several salaried positions that always required 40-50 hours per week, but only occasionally more than 50. I know individuals who work that much regularly, but it's not "most" salaried positions - at least not the folks with any semblance of a life.

I don't think we should expect teachers to "usually" work 50-60 hours per week nor should they expect to never work more than 50 hours in a week. Any idea how much the average teacher works during the week? I'll bet it's well above 40 - and more for the good ones.

voevoda 6 years, 10 months ago

I don't have a problem doing a cost/benefit analysis about the 90 minute-per-week teacher training/consultation time. I don't assume, like the editorial writer and some of the posters on this forum, that that time is wasted. I certainly don't think that teachers are underworked and overpaid, and I don't begrudge them payment for out-of-class time to coordinate with their colleagues. I do have a problem with the "Eudora plan" to shorten the school year by adding a few minutes onto each school day. That's a recipe for students to learn a lot less. Why? An extra 5 or 10 minutes devoted to instructional time in the day won't result in a significant increase in the amount of material that students engage with that day. However, extra days of instruction do result in increased learning. That's partly because the consolidation of those minutes into larger units of time permit the implementation of additional lessons. It's also because the students have the intervening time out of school for homework, increasing the value of the lessons. Rather than cutting the length of the school year, American schools need to increase the length of the school year. Year-round school, with 2-3 week vacations three times a year, would be ideal.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

Or why not combine some of this and have year round school with shorter amounts of instruction time and larger recesses. That may seem silly, but the recess gives the kids some time to get the wiggles out and recharge between lessons while the teachers have some of that planning time back.

Wendy magillicutty 6 years, 10 months ago

I am really disgusted by any assumption or presumption AND the current climate in the "news" that teachers aren't worth every penny and more and aren't fulfilling their work or time requirements on the job. How about some of you volunteer to student teach? well, that is after you complete all the continuing education to even be a viable candidate. How many of you even have children in school? If so, how much time do you devote to getting to know that teacher and PERSONALLY evaluate the teacher?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

kugrad 6 years, 10 months ago

Once you start asking questions like, "Could we save money by having a shorter school year?" You can no longer make the claim that you are trying to do what is best for children. Shortening the academic year is not going to improve the education of our children. Plain and simple. If you want to use that same Wednesday time as additional instructional time so that children learn more; if you are asking, "Could that time be better spent on direct instruction of children?" Then you have my attention and I could see a productive discussion. Can we save money by adding a few minutes to each day and then having a shorter school year? That is just a lose-lose question to explore. The teachers won't actually gain opportunities for instruction with 5 or 10 more minutes a day - that isn't enough time to add anything rigorous to the day's work. Add an hour and a half per Wed;, that would allow for more instruction. Now, if you are going to take away the collaboration time teachers use (and at least 6 days of which are used for district professional development activities), then you have to find paid time during which to make up for all the activities that occur during this time. Unlike some jobs, you can't just pick up your work tempo in teaching and increase productivity. The day is already full. The lunch period for teachers is about 25 minutes. There are no breaks. The 40 minute plan time (which is actually shorter due to dropping off and picking up the class at specials) at elementary level is already filled with obligations. So, where will the collaborative time come for grade-level meetings, coordination with special education staff, training, meetings with parents, meetings with related services (gifted, speech, ot, pt, etc.) time to work with intervention teams to develop plans for students with special needs (gifted or with learning problems) and so on and so forth. It isn't like nothing happens during those collaboration times.

I don't think all the questions asked are poor, I think it would be great for this sort of discussion to occur. I'm just saying these things: 1) Don't just dump more onto the backs of teachers, they are working hard 2) Don't pretend you can get rid of collaboration without finding another time for all the things that occur during this time and, most importantly 3) Don't make it about saving money, make it about improving the quality of our kids' education. If you get a monetary savings, bonus! But don't make that your motivation or you'll only get what you ask for.

BigPrune 6 years, 10 months ago

Wacky Wednesdays is the proverbial pain in the ass for parents. How much does it cost the parents who have to take off work or have their children transported to daycares or the hiring of a nanny/babysitter?

What about the cost to the parents, does anyone give a damn?

Obviously not!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

OK, you view teachers as mere babysitters. When your kid tanks on his/her ACT's, remember what your expectations of teachers are-- especially when you want to dole out respect and paychecks based on those expectations.

kugrad 6 years, 10 months ago

The cost to parents isn't the point.There is no principle that says parenting should be easy and convenient. On the other hand, children in Kansas do have a constitutional right to a quality education. The considerations need to focus on what produces the best education for children. Period.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"The considerations need to focus on what produces the best education for children. Period."

How horrible!! Think of the Koch brothers, please!!!

BigPrune 6 years, 10 months ago

So bozo thinks the have's should have the upper hand when it comes to wacky Wednesdays, and the have not's should suffer financially. Wacky Wednesdays do NOT bring a stuctured environment to the children, because it disrupts their week as well as their parent's. Kids can pick up on that - if you have any children

beaujackson 6 years, 10 months ago

When I was in HS, hours were: 9:00 - 12:00 & 1:00 - 4:00. Band, orchestra, sports, & other "activities" were either at 8:00 or after 4:00.

School started right after labor day & was out the last week of May, with 2-days off at Thanksgiving & a day before X-Mas until Jan. 2nd.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

"merrill (anonymous) says… This poll might well represent how strong USD 497 taxpayers feel about teaching professionals:..." Because nothing's changed in 8 years, right?

Lori Nation 6 years, 10 months ago

working at a doctors office we always get the calls that teachers are always asking for a Wednesday so NO you are not in meetings on Wednesday's so stop playing the public.

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