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Lesson plans are a hitch in Wichita teacher contract talks

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 27, 2013, at 9:50 p.m.

How teachers plan their daily lessons – how much they write, how they format their lessons and who would read them – has become a sticking point in contract talks between the Wichita school district and the union that represents its 4,000 teachers.

District officials and representatives of United Teachers of Wichita clashed this week over elements of a contract proposal that would require teachers to keep written, detailed lesson plans.

The district’s proposal would require written daily plans that at a minimum include: content objectives, literacy objectives, components of the district’s instructional model (for example, an opening, work time and closing) and references to pacing guides or standards.

Superintendent John Allison said “good instructional practice starts with good lesson plans.”

“I don’t want to get on a plane and have my pilot not have done his checklist and be prepared,” Allison said. “That’s very intentional and specific, and education is no different.

“We’ve got a lot of teachers that do really good lesson plans. … But as we look at how we lift instruction across the district, that’s just a key component to it.”

Randy Mousley, president of the teachers union, said his group acknowledges the value of lesson planning. But he worries that requiring teachers to write out every detail of their plans every day would be just “busy work” to submit to principals and check off a list, not something that helps students.

“That’s going to take away the art of teaching, and it almost becomes like they’re doing cookie-cutter lessons,” Mousley said.

“Good instruction starts with good planning. We’re not going to deny that,” he said. “But there’s only so many hours in a day … and you’ve got to decide which is most important: Is it to produce a piece of paper to satisfy a principal? Or is it putting stuff down – your thoughts about what you’re going to do to impact students in a positive way?”

Under the current Wichita teachers contract, lesson plans are required “only in sufficient detail to provide guidance to the teacher.” They could range from general phrases or page numbers jotted down in a notebook to more elaborate, detailed plans, Mousley said.

Teachers also must make lesson plans and other teaching materials available to their principals upon request.

“As we look at expectations, rigor, all of that increasing, we know that there’s a direct correlation to appropriate planning,” said Allison, the superintendent.

Lesson plans were a topic of debate during last year’s contract negotiations, which went to impasse, required a federal mediator, prompted protests outside school board meetings and eventually ended with a contract that gave Wichita teachers their first raise in four years.

District representatives and union leaders met Wednesday to negotiate this year’s contract, which is set to take effect Aug. 1. It was unclear Thursday when talks would continue.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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