Open Letter to Albemarle County School Board
21 people have signed this petition. Add your name now!
21 people have signed. Add your voice!
Maxine K. signed just now
Adam B. signed just now
In November 2010, the AHS staff wrote and signed a letter in which they expressed the frustration and concerns of high school teachers across the county with three major ACPS initiatives: the GradeSpeed SIS, the 4x4 (semesterized) schedule and the switch from a seven-period to an eight-period schedule. All of us breathed a sigh of relief at the resolution of the first two issues. However, we still need your help to address what we see as a seemingly intractable problem, the eight-period schedule. This schedule has produced an adverse impact on learning and instruction. Faculty, staff, students, and parents are experiencing stress due to the increased workload and new schedule, which both seem unnecessary and burdensome. This letter is a plea for educational quality.
Instruction, Schedule and Workload
As predicted last year, the additional course-load has handicapped both teachers and students in their academic efforts and achievements. Less contact with teachers, little to no remediation time, and increased student and teacher workloads are contrary to good educational practice.
Mathematically speaking, students must either work harder to keep up with an additional class, or do less for each class. Teachers must either give less feedback on student work, or provide fewer opportunities for students to create products for feedback. Neither of these options appeal to us as educators. The move to the 8-period day has left precious little time for intervention, remediation or for make-up time for students.
Collaboration - Lack of Time
For ten years, the county’s emphasis had been on rigor, relevance and relationships and providing time for teacher collaboration. The move to the 8-period schedule has not only reduced the number of contact minutes teachers have with students in each of their classes, it has also reduced the time we are provided within the schedule for professional collaboration. At the high school, we now teach more classes and more students. While the division was able to apply federal stimulus funds to the hiring of 17.5 FTE’s to reduce the class size increases that were experienced last year with the move to the 8-period schedule, the division has already made it clear that those monies are not renewable and class sizes will probably return to the levels seen in 2010-2011. That results in higher teacher loads, substantially reduced time to teach and remediate a larger number of students, and reduced time with our colleagues to discuss, develop, and plan the implementation of effective teaching strategies. We have less time to meet to create authentic learning opportunities for our students because we have more to plan for, more to grade, and more to remediate. We wonder what Rick Dufour would think of our self-proclaimed “world class education system” given this situation.
One of the rebuttals (to returning to our seven-period schedule) we have heard from Central Office and the School Board is the issue of equity, especially relative to teachers at the elementary level. When teachers taught five of seven classes and had a full period for remediation, (therefore effectively responsible for students for 6 periods), they still had half of a planning period of an assigned duty. Under that schedule, then, teachers were responsible for students for 81% of their workday. Ultimately though, it is simply not valid to compare the work that secondary and elementary teachers do. This concern over equity was not brought up before the change to the eight period day was effected and to bring it up now is disingenuous and distracting. The issue of equity involves more than measuring the hours in the school day. There are time management issues related to the number of students, the number of grades, the planning for the material being taught and the type of assignments being graded that increase work loads. None of these has been considered with this heavy-handed and narrow evaluation of equity.
Reasons and Results?
In wondering why this change in schedule was effected (and we have heard competing versions of the story from the same decision makers) we feel compelled to ask the following: Was the system underperforming prior to 2010-11, and if so, what indicators show improvement since? What is the evaluation of efficacy related to the changed schedule? (i.e., searching for evidence of its success without acknowledging evidence of its failures)
ACPS teachers do not live in an isolated environment. We communicate with colleagues in other schools, as well as with students and parents. We have consistently heard that they share our concerns. For this reason teachers from all three high schools are voicing their concerns about the schedule.
In order to plan effectively and instruct our students, in order to maintain the integrity of our curriculum and, we believe, of our school system, we propose the following:
1) That ACPS secondary students return to a seven-period schedule; and
2) That teachers are again responsible to teach only five out of seven classes (or eight with a built-in remediation period depending on the wishes of each individual school.)
We wish to make clear that our sole proposal is a return to the seven period schedule. All three high schools would retain the flexibility to maintain their current mix of year-long or 4x4 classes as they have seen fit.
Teachers are the single most influential factor in determining student achievement. We ask that you take this opportunity to listen to and support your teachers.
WASH Teachers AHS Teachers MoHS Teachers CASE Citizens of Albemarle Supporting Education