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Metzler Announces Class Time Audits

May 18, 2014


[A]t the May 8th meeting Dr. Metzler announced a full audit of the amount of time teachers and students are actually spending in class and he has vowed a crackdown on classroom absences by students for competing activities.  Dr. Metzler says that he will be curtailing these competing activities during the instructional day and moving more of them after school.  This is long overdue and could go a long way to helping academic achievement.

At my first meeting with Dr. Metzler, I challenged him to ensure that our children, his students, were in the classroom 180 full days each year with their assigned instructor learning the subject of the class.  Apparently, this is now on his radar.  Apparently, Dr. Metzler finally sees that there could be a link between teaching the right things well 180 days each year and performance.  While I applaud this, I am concerned that he is focused on a small piece of this problem.  Pulling kids from classes for ‘other activities’ is disruptive, but in Timberlane’s ocean of disruption, this is only a small ripple.

You have to start with the instructors.  A school board member once confided in me that Timberlane teachers average 12 absences for illness each year.  When there are only 180 days, 12 days represent 7% of the academic calendar.  Teachers are routinely removed from the classroom for parent meetings and professional development.

Then there is the Timberlane Vacation Club which pulls students and teachers from the classroom to vacation in Orlando, New York, DC, Montreal, and Europe.  When the school board sanctions one of these vacations the vacationing students miss all of their classes while other students miss any classes taught by the vacationing teachers.  During the last Disney vacation, kids and teachers missed two days of school or a little more than 1% of the academic calendar.

The 2013-14 calendar includes four planned early release days — more than 2% of the academic calendar.  Of course, there were also unplanned early release days and late starts for weather and two Blizzard Bag Days.  In February, students had a winter break, preceded by a teacher development early release day, a weather related early release day, and a Bag Day.  One one of the bag days, one teacher let the kids complete their assignment in the preceding class sacrificing another day of teaching.  Just last week, classes were truncated to celebrate being awarded the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award.  That’s right, Timberlane celebrated Academic Excellence by cutting class.  (This award is not a measure of student performance.)

The last time I studied this problem, I found that my Timberlane student was only in the classroom with all of his assigned instructors for an unabridged lesson for only 155 days — about 86% of the academic calendar.  Anecdotally, the problem is worse today.  My freshman was in a science class in which no student would have been allowed to pass if he or she had missed as many days as the instructor.  The problem may be much worse since absenteeism data is unavailable for reasons of privacy and TRSD does not track the days a teacher is in the classroom.

For me, the metric of this problem is straightforward: for each class, have the instructor submit a teaching plan with a measure of how much time was spent on the plan and how much of the class the instructor was in the room.  When we learn how few days our kids are in the classroom working with their assigned instructor on the assigned subject matter, no one will be surprised at the poor performance of the school district.

Dr. Metzler, please publish a report showing how many days this year my TRSD student was in the classroom with his assigned instructor learning the assigned subject.  As soon as you start measuring this, things will improve.


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