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Carving Out Time for Teacher Team Collaboration

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

The article: "Finding Time for Collaborative Planning" by David Rosenberg, Rob Daigneau, and Melissa Galvez, Education Resource Strategies, January 2018,; the authors are open to suggestions on school schedules that create blocks of professional collaboration time; you can send them to
In this Education Resource Strategies (ERS) white paper, David Rosenberg, Rob Daigneau, and Melissa Galvez report on the huge difference in the amount of common planning time teacher teams are given in most U.S. schools compared to high-performing systems around the world - 2 percent of teacher time in the U.S. versus as much as 35 percent in British Columbia, Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong. There are exceptions in the U.S.: authors contrast the 45 minutes of weekly collaborative planning time in most U.S. districts with 300 minutes a week in the Achievement First charter schools.
Rosenberg, Daigneau, and Galvez suggest that school and district leaders should do an inventory of the amount of time that "shared-content" teacher teams (those teaching the same or very similar content) have for collaboration. Time for "shared-student" teams (same students, different content), standard professional development, and other duties shouldn't be counted in this inventory because they don't have nearly as much instructional impact. The gold standard, the authors believe, is at least 90 consecutive minutes for shared-content teams each week - enough for teachers to get into deep conversations, review data, examine effective and ineffective practices, refine upcoming units and lessons, practice, and do the kind of group work that has a direct impact on the quality and rigor of daily instruction.
"Of course, teams need more than just time with peers who teach the same content," say Rosenberg, Daigneau, and Galvez; "they require expert support to guide the team through rigorous lessons, as well as access to student data, sample agendas, and protocols that guide the conversation. Teams also need to operate within a professional adult culture that encourages learning and sharing. But without enough time, these other substantial investments often fall flat." Here are six ways that schools create blocks of time for team collaboration (the full paper - see link below - has case studies of schools with each configuration):
o Back-to-back - Stacking two blocks of planning time together to create 90 minutes of uninterrupted time. Considerations: This may mean teachers don't have a planning block one day of the week, and schools must ensure that teachers have duty-free lunch or other non-instructional time every day.
o Banking time - Reduce planning time on a few days to increase time on another day. Consideration: This is useful when teachers have at least 40 minutes of planning time each day, to ensure shortened blocks are still useful.
o Beginning and end of the day - Reorganize time that teachers have at opening and closing time into more team planning time. Considerations: Useful when teachers are mandated to arrive before and depart after students; staff may need to arrive earlier or stay later on certain days under this model.
o Recess and lunch - Schedule non-instructional blocks next to planning time and have other adults cover those activities. Considerations: Schools must have staff to cover recess and lunch and must ensure that teachers still have sufficient time to eat lunch.
o Longer specials - Increase the time that special subjects take so fewer special classes can cover more core teachers' time. Consideration: This works best when specials are not already at or near class-size limits.
o Enrichment periods - Create enrichment or intervention periods, covered by other adults, to open up teacher team planning time. Consideration: This is useful when schools have staff or community partners to cover enrichment periods effectively, not as a time filler.

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