Elementary teachers to receive more time for curriculum planning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New school board member Susan Cox made good on her promise to take a look at teacher workload during her first meeting on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
Cox questioned how district officials are helping elementary school teachers implement the state’s new common core curriculum standards.
“Elementary teachers have no planning period and have the workload of four subjects,” she said. “There’s quite a bit of difference in trying to get this started in elementary schools versus middle or high schools.
“I think this year with everything being so new, they’re really working double-time.”
Alesia Burnette, the district’s director of elementary education, said it’s not gone unnoticed that teachers have been working extremely hard and provisions are being put into place to help them.
“This is the first time that I can recall that everything has changed, all the curriculum in all the content areas, all the assessments in all the content areas, so it’s a daunting task,” she said.
Burnette said the district is already posting both statewide and locally-created resources such as lesson plans online.
“We have a lot of work that we still need to do because it is so new,” she said.
The district is also trying to set up additional collaborative planning sessions to allow teachers time to work together on writing lessons.
“The big hurdle, of course, is providing substitutes so that teachers can have that time together,” Burnette said. “We are looking at repurposing some Title I funds to provide some time for teachers to work collaboratively.
“It’s something that we recognize the need for and certainly something that we’re working to begin to provide.”
Those sessions can range from several hours to all day.
“We’re trying to figure out the best way to do that so that it is least disruptive to their instructional time with students,” Burnette said.
Burnette said some elementary schools have found creative ways to etch out time for their teachers to meet and plan.
“One school worked with their enhancement teachers to plan an exciting day for groups of students to move through P.E., art, music and media,” she said. “Personnel had planned some extended activities so that children could rotate through and do some of the things that are hard to do in 30 minutes.”
Burnette said that minimized the need for substitutes and gave teachers who were itching to do specific lessons the time to implement them.
“I think every teacher would tell you ‘I’ve run out of time to teach this subject area or do this project,’” Burnette said. “This was used to satisfy multiple goals.”
Burnette said implementing the curriculum will be an ongoing process.
“They have a general understanding, but they really need time to plan lessons,” she said. “We’re all learning this together, but the things that are happening in the classroom are exciting.”
Board Vice-Chairwoman Kay Wright Norman asked if in the future elementary teachers could teach two subjects instead of four and students could rotate between two classes.
Although Burnette said that does occur in some of the schools, research shows its best for elementary children to stay in one classroom.
“Common core stresses the importance of integration,” she said. “So during English language arts, I’m reading about social studies.”

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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