EDUCATION
11/08/2012 03:05 pm ET

Dallas Independent School District Trustees To Discuss Controversial 45-Minute Extension Of Teacher Workday

Dallas Independent School District trustees will meet Thursday to discuss their controversial decision to extend teacher workdays by 45 minutes — a move that has left many teachers exhausted and frustrated.

The change, which trustees approved in January, prolonged the workday from 7 hours 45 minutes to 8 hours 30 minutes.

According to the Dallas Morning News, first took issue with the increase, which came without added pay, reasoning that they already work eight hours or more daily to grade papers and prepare lessons.

Now, teachers say principals are filling their time with busy work, including memorizing the district’s core beliefs and reading self-help books. It’s left them without opportunities to work with students one-on-one and meet with parents after school, the Morning News reports.

In an august blog post, fourth-grade Dallas ISD teacher John Pearson wrote:

The reason that so many teachers – including myself – are up in arms over this change is that those extra 45 minutes are being tightly scheduled and devoted to certain extra activities. We will not be allowed to go about our normal teacherly duties – lesson planning, grading papers, conferencing with students and parents – during these 45 minutes. We will be required to conduct book studies, hold staff-wide meetings, sit through unnecessarily frequent data sessions – and then we will STILL have to find the time to do those other things!

A Change.org petition circulated earlier this year encouraged the trustees to reverse their decision. It garnered nearly 400 signatures.

Meanwhile, Dallas ISD board President Lew Blackburn has received over 100 teacher complaints via email and phone calls, prompting the trustees to address at Thursday’s board briefing whether the policy requires modification.

“This will give the board a chance to talk about what’s going on,” Blackburn said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Sometimes we have some consequences that we haven’t thought about. I don’t mind going back and revisiting a policy, especially when it comes back to possibly impacting our students.”

Administrators will also have the opportunity to voice their concerns at the meeting, Blackburn said.

In March, the Florida state Legislature passed a law requiring the 100 lowest-performing schools on the reading FCAT to provide an extra hour of reading instruction beyond the normal school day. The new law was pushed by Republican state Sen. David Simmons, who for years has advocated for a longer school day, claiming other industrialized nations provide more instructional time for their students than the U.S. does. The state reportedly earmarked $30 million to pay teachers for the additional hour, though some claim that amount is not enough.

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