Teachers, students, schedulesIn preparation for the...

Letters

January 31, 1999

Teachers, students, schedules

In preparation for the Carroll County Board of Education's regular meeting of Dec. 9, 1998, I carefully considered the instructional needs of elementary school students vs. the planning needs of elementary school teachers.

I concluded that the instructional needs of students outweigh the planning needs of teachers and that the board erred a couple of years ago by trying to address the planning needs of teachers via numerous two-hour late openings for elementary schools.

Although I firmly believe that even with the late openings elementary school teachers suffered from too little planning time, I likewise believe that elementary students suffered an injustice when their total instruction time was reduced. Moreover, the student injustice was compounded by two-hour early dismissals that were added to the calendar to eliminate the instructional time disparity between morning and afternoon kindergarten students caused by the late openings.

After the Board of Education unanimously rejected the 1999-2000 student calendar recommended by the superintendent, it directed the superintendent to develop a new 1999-2000 calendar without two-hour late openings or early dismissals.

Furthermore, the board directed the superintendent to meet with elementary teachers to investigate ways to provide teachers with sufficient planning time. One solution is contained in the superintendent's proposed operating budget for 1999-2000: Seven new teaching positions address the planning issue.

Everyone involved with public education agrees that teachers today are faced with far more complicated and time-consuming tasks than teachers of, say, 20 years ago. Nevertheless, little has been done to provide teachers, especially elementary teachers, with sufficient planning time to effectively address the educational needs of their students.

With the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program scores of Carroll County students leveling off, with the persuasive evidence that student performance is directly related to the amount of time on task, with the overwhelming need for collaborative effects by teachers, and with teachers being assigned an increasing number of documentation tasks, it is time for profound, systemic changes in how Carroll County public schools addresses the issue of elementary-teacher planning time.

Given that there is no time available in the proposed 1999-2000 student calendar for additional elementary planning time and that there is no time available in the existing elementary teacher work year, it may be time need to increas both.

If the student calendar was lengthened by five days without increasing the number of days students attend school, and if the work year for elementary teachers was increased by five days (with pay, of course), it would be possible to strategically place the five "new" elementary teacher planning days throughout the school year.

This would achieve the duel objective of not reducing student instructional time and of providing elementary teachers with more than 35 hours of additional planning time.

While some elementary teachers will object to working an additional five days, it is worth remembering that most people work well in excess of the 190 days a year that Carroll County teachers presently work.

In closing, let me share thoughts that were shared with me by a recently hired Carroll County elementary teacher:

"I have come to the conclusion that this job requires more time than the contract allots.

"It is not humanly possible for me to get done all that needs to get done between the hours of 7: 30 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. It can't be done.

"My contract does not take into consideration the actual responsibilities of my job.

"The job forces me to do certain things regardless of whether or not my contract allots enough time to get them done.

"To my dismay, I see that the quiet life of the teacher which I had envisioned becoming an unattainable goal, a mere apparition. And in realizing this, I have struggled with my doubts. Is this job one that demands too much for what it returns? Does it make sense for me to be doing this? Is it worth it to put this much time in for so little money?"

We are at a crossroads in public education in Carroll County. Either we can improve the framework from which we deliver student instruction by significantly changing the way we do business or we can merely shuffle the deck chairs on what could become a Titanic rooted in resistance to change and fear of the unknown.

C. Scott Stone

Hampstead

The writer is a member of the Carroll County Board of Education.

Bog turtle uncovers Gourge's insensitivity

I am responding to comments made by Carroll County Commissioner Julia Gouge in a Jan. 14 article about bog turtles and the proposed Hampstead bypass ("Tiny turtle slows bypass in Carroll").

If the quotes attributed to Ms. Gouge are correct, she hasn't read much about urban sprawl, its causes and effects.

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