2014-05-09 / Columnists

Eye On Rockaway

Student Instruction v. Teacher Development
By Miriam Rosenberg

Students in the city are getting a raw deal when it comes to their education. The new teachers’ contract takes 30 plus minutes a day, or 150 minutes a week, away from struggling students who need extra help and gives it back for teacher development.

Most of the time being returned to the teachers will go to professional development. There would also be time for peer to peer collaboration and time for teachers to communicate with parents.

Increasing communication to engage parents more about their children’s education is important. But taking away instructional time from students so teacher development time increases does not seem right. This is not a first. Over the years students have had valuable time taken away from them.

There is an age group out there, like myself, who never remembers having a mid- winter recess in addition to Easter Break. Why? Because there wasn’t one.

Schools were first closed for one week in February of the 1977- 1978 school year as a way to save energy during the oil crisis of the 1970s. The idea of a weeklong break was brought back as a result of the city/ teacher union negotiations, and eventual contract, in 1991.

The idea was to bundle Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays. It was reported in the New York Times in February of 1992 that no instructional days were to be missed because two of the days were already teacher training days. But critics believed a way to schedule the two student instructional days and teacher training days could have been found. In the end, teachers training trumped students instructional days.

Fast forward 23 years. As a result of contract negotiations between the city and the teachers union, once again, student learning is taking a back seat to teacher training.

In addition to all the above, the 2013- 2014 school calendar shows there is one day in both November and June for a Chancellor ’s Conference Day for staff development. Of course you can’t be too upset about the June day because the Department of Education is just making use of a day children already have off — Anniversary Day (formerly Brooklyn/ Queens Day).

Students should have more instruction not less. With the talk of adding more religious holidays, we should see which days could be given up. How about Anniversary Day? What is it for? I always thought it honored Brooklyn and Queens. But it actually dates back to the 1800s and celebrated the founding of the first Sunday School on Long Island. In 1959, the State Legislature passed a bill, at the request of the Queens Federation of Churches, that allowed schools in Kings and Queens Counties to be closed on Anniversary Day. Now schools are closed all across the city. But I digress.

Teacher development and training educators about the Common Core and other issues should not come at the expense of taking away instructional time from students. Chancellor Carmen Farina called the new peer to peer teacher development time “a dream come true.” A dream come true would be for students to get the education they need and deserve.

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