Time is an ongoing challenge in 21st Century education. Despite all that has changed in schools, we remain tied to a 19th Century agrarian calendar. As as a result, time becomes an opponent in our quest to improve education.
Time may be at its most precious in relation to modern teacher professional development. Our school calendars, established generations ago, often provide scant time for teacher training, sometimes only four or five days.
Yet teacher professional development has never been more crucial as schools seek ways to alter and improve classroom instruction. In pursuit of more time for this activity, we shorten school days, having late starts, early dismissals, sometimes even entire days with no students. However, we do so with extreme reservations because we know one of the Correlates of the Effective Schools Research is to carefully guard student time on task (Lezotte, 1991).
As our local economies and our state tax bases slowly improve in the wake of the devastating recession of 2008 to 2015, we may be on the verge of an opportunity to improve education by creating more time for professional development. Most schools in the United States have been cash-strapped for nine years. As a result, teacher salaries have fallen behind, teachers have suffered, and the teacher shortage has approached critical levels in many instructional areas.
Now is the time to put more money toward teacher pay and include additional days as part of the package. This can be done at a local level by re-prioritizing our budgets, but it should also be a state initiative.
Some state legislators believe that fully funding their state's education formula does little to attract attention to themselves, advance their political clout, or garner votes in the next election. However, tying new dollars for teachers to additional time for professional development could be a stirring idea. We know teacher training has the potential to enhance student achievement. This would be using tax money directly for the purpose of improving classroom instruction.
This will be an idea most teachers will support. Most teachers have never been afraid to put in additional time, and many are actively seeking ways to improve. Linking additional pay to time for school improvement could be a winning combination.
I urge us all to talk to our legislators about putting more money into education with the intent of purchasing additional days and ultimately improving education in the United States.
Image Credit: The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí, 1931, Museum of Modern Art, New York City