A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Prisoners Of Time - April 1994


WE RECOMMEND that teachers be provided with the professional time and opportunities they need to do their jobs.

The daily working life of most teachers is one of unrelieved time pressure and isolation; they work, largely alone, in a classroom of 25-30 children or adolescents for hours every day. Unlike teachers in many systems overseas, who can take advantage of continuous, daily opportunities for professional development, American teachers have little time for preparation, planning, cooperation, or professional growth.

The Commission believes that time for planning and professional development is urgently needed-not as a frill or an add-on, but as a major aspect of the agreement between teachers and districts.

The whole question of teachers and time needs to be rethought in a serious and systematic way. The issue is not simply teachers. It is not just time. The real issue is education quality. Teachers need time to develop effective lessons. They need time to assess students in meaningful ways and discuss the results with students individually. They need time to talk to students, and listen to them, and to confer with parents and other family members. They need time to read professional journals, interact with their colleagues, and watch outstanding teachers demonstrate new strategies.

Districts can provide this time in several ways: extending the contract year to pay teachers for professional development, using the longer day for the same purpose, or providing for the widespread and systematic use of a cadre of well-prepared, full-time, substitute teachers.

The last thing districts should encourage is sending children home to provide time for "teacher professional days." We will never have truly effective schools while teachers' needs are met at the expense of students' learning time.

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