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Teacher time survey indicates heavy workload

Douglas County educators spend many hours on non-instructional activities


Each year, Douglas County School District teachers are spending about 1,035 hours of their time on non-instructional activities, according to a new survey commissioned by the district.

District teachers are contracted for 185 days per year. This means educators are spending an estimated 5.6 hours per day on tasks that do not involve face-to-face interaction with students. It is the equivalent of 43 round-the-clock days each year.

“So, I think the myth that teachers only work nine months per year is busted by this,” said board of education member David Ray said.

The school board contracted Denver-based RMC Research to conduct the survey and the group shared its findings at the March 7 school board meeting.

Dr. Shelley H. Billig of RMC said little research had been done on the subject and that the only comparable study they could find came out of Nova Scotia, Canada.

“You are at the forefront of looking at these type of things,” Billig said.

The online survey of about 1,500 teachers focused on the 2015-16 school year. The survey looked at the nature and extent of the non-instructional responsibilities and requirements of DCSD teachers.

Non-instructional time is time not spent working with students face to face. Some of this time takes place during the school day, but also includes additional time outside of the classroom.

Another focus of the survey was the amount of time spent by DCSD teachers on non-instructional activities, including: professional development, in-service days, planning activities and administration of required state testing.

Teachers spend the largest potion of their non-instructional time (43 percent) on planning. Assessment (17 percent) came in second, then school management (15 percent). Assessment includes the grading of papers, and school management encompasses things like administrative tasks and school events.

Parent communication commanded 9 percent of teacher's time and using the CITE Evaluation tool took 6 percent.

CITE, Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness, has six components for measuring teacher effectiveness: Outcomes, Assessment, Instruction, Culture and Climate, Professionalism and Student Data. Each of those categories contains a number of standards with a subset of criteria — totaling 31 in all — against which teachers are evaluated, according to the district website.

The evaluations are part of DCSD's pay-for-performance program. Based on self-evaluations, evaluations by administrators and other factors, such as use of the district's Guaranteed Viable Curriculum, each teacher is rated “highly effective,” “effective,” “partially effective” or “ineffective.”

Pay increases are tied to those ratings, as well as a market-based pay scale that pays some instructors more than others depending on what they teach.

Interim Superintendent Erin Kane said she “never met a teacher that worked a 7 1/2-hour day.” She said she hoped to eliminate excess time teachers spend on the uploading of materials for evaluations and other district-mandated activities.

“We absolutely need to look at what we are asking our teachers to spend their time on because their time is incredibly valuable,” Kane said.

RMC found that teachers with more than five years of experience at DCSD reported spending more overall time on non-instructional activities and more time on assessment, school management and CITE evaluation.

Total non-instructional time use was significantly higher for elementary teachers (1,127 hours) than for middle (1,045 hours) and high school (943 hours) teachers.

Elementary teachers said they spent more time on instructional planning, school management, parent communication and CITE evaluation.

The survey of district teachers was confidential. An advisory group of 39 teachers aided researchers in developing the survey.

“I think it's alarming for us to think about the (number of days) teachers are spending beyond their 185 day contract on non-instructional things,” Ray said.

Board Vice President Judith Reynolds said the board “needs to recognize that we do ask people to do things outside of the time they spend in the building.”

“I think having a better idea of what those activities are is really, really important, but let's try and find that balance as we look at this information,” Reynolds said.

Board President Meghann Silverthorn said she was not surprised by the findings and that she hopes the board can make changes that will “help relieve some of that burden.”

The board said it would revisit the issue of how teachers spend their time at a future meeting to offer suggestions and strategies to help.


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