Oct 31 2006

The Importance Of Time Management In K12 Classrooms

While data-driven decision-making may be the path to accountability for many districts, administrators need to shift emphasis from data analysis to instructional strategies for improving student performance.

Teachers Need Time to Teach

As a student administrator, the most common complaint I hear from teachers is, “We need time to teach!” With the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind becoming a reality at the classroom level, outside mandates are interfering with, and taking time away from, teaching.

I consider myself a person who is able to find solutions to problems that trouble educators. Knowing that teachers have entered the profession for the sake of the children, I once presented my plan to lengthen both the school day and the school year, thereby giving teachers the time they desired for teaching.

You can imagine my surprise when my solution was rejected. Of course, once I thought it through, the reason for the rejection became obvious. We don’t need to extend the school day; we need to allow more time for planning.

To achieve better accountability, the mantra in many school districts is to provide data-driven decision-making, with the pre-eminent word being data.

Changing the Paradigm

Countless technology and template solutions offer data-driven toolkits to increase student achievement. However, traditional school staff meetings are usually scheduled in increments of 60 minutes, during which 50 minutes are devoted to analyzing, disaggregating and discussing the data. That use of time leaves only the final 10 minutes for adding information into the next day’s lessons.

I call this scenario the 50-to-10 phenomenon.

To provide teachers with the time they need to teach, we must change that paradigm to a 10-to-50 model.

Once the teachers have developed the skills needed to understand what the data means (the first 10 minutes), the next step is to provide them with the time (the next 50 minutes) to collaborate on the instructional strategies that can move students to the next level.

The funniest part about the 10-to-50 model is that my presentations are now much shorter, but the results in student achievement are better than ever. You might almost think that I created this model just to do less work.

Managing Time Wisely

Here are three steps your school can take to give teachers more time for teaching.

1. To enhance data-driven decision-making, be sure to get material and strategy into teachers’ hands, so that they can change instructional delivery.

• Bring the staff up to speed on data analysis and use.
• Use a common, shared vocabulary with common, shared goals.

2. Take advantage of staff meeting time by turning it into an opportunity for improving instruction, not for reviewing procedure.

• Use initial data analysis to define instructional focus.
• Provide accountability in the form of expected outcomes for student achievement.

3. Integrate technology to locate resources quickly and provide differentiated instruction that maps to key standards.

• Use applications, such as a Web-based student assessment platform, so that key standards can be quickly identified.
• Set up electronic indexes and hot links to find standards-based material.

Tony Wold, Ed.D., is the director of student assessment at Rowland Unified School District in Rowland Heights, Calif.