Sunday, July 26, 2009

One thought from EduStat University

I attended Edustat University last week in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia right down the road from my home at Monticello High School.  Often times, I will attend a big conference and come away with just a few random thoughts.  Well, one thought I came away with is how teachers' professional lives are structured here in our country.  In Tony Wagner's keynote, he spent a bit of time on international comparisons.  America, as we are well aware, is well behind many or most of the industrialized world in terms of student achievement in all academic areas.  We are also well behind in another factor, according to Wagner: teacher planning time.  In Finland, the top performing education nation in the world, allows teachers to meet and plan for about 40% of their paid time.  Now, I am sure that time is well focused and well used, or Finland would not be the best in the world.  But, they can't use the time if it is not there.  In our country, I would hazard to guess based on my limited knowledge that teachers teach (meaning responsible for many children) about 80% of their day have 20% left to plan, meet, and reflect both individually and collaboratively.  We never talk about this issue in this country.  In fact, we tend to highlight successful charter schools where teachers teach at the same 80/20 ratio for even longer days (and have high percentages of burnout).  What about schools that focus on teacher learning as much as it does student learning but holds teachers and administrators to high levels of accountability.  Wouldn't this be "innovation" as well or just another bone thrown to "lazy" teachers who already have two months off in the summer and have those darn unions over protecting them.  Why are we so afraid to learn from more successful structures and innovations in other countries?


  1. As a consumer of elementary education I can't agree more. My family has seen multiple public schools, a private school, traditional, Montessori, and this fall we will be adding "Montessori Charter" to the list. We have seen teachers that were prepared and felt supported and teachers that felt isolated and overwhelmed. I can't help but think that prep time contributes to this, even when the teacher or school has other limitations. I would actually be surprised if it were not more like 90/10, and I don't recall that my parents ever had prep time other than maybe the study halls they were supposed to supervise in between classes. Both my folks often wrote lesson plans at home at night.

  2. So did my mom, so does every other good teacher I know. Every professional takes work home to a certain extent but I do feel that we have to make the profession of teaching more engaging, and more supported if were are going to go anywhere in education. Unfortunately, that is usually at the bottom of the list when it comes to reform because most of the time teachers are seen as the problem, not the solution.