Blended-Learning PD: Minimizing Classroom Disruption

In the initial stages of Chrome Warrior's development, we asked district leaders about the challenges they encounter with traditional “sit-n-get” PD, and looked at how building our blended-learning platform could address these issues. One of the recurring themes we discussed was class-time disruption, and its impact on student performance. Mandating PD workshops or conferences during the school year involves finding substitute teachers or having in-service days--which means students are losing valuable face time with their teachers.

Student achievement
A 2014 study from the National Council on Teacher Quality found that “when teachers are absent 10 days, the decrease in student achievement is equivalent to the difference between having a brand new teacher and one with two or three years more experience.” Some school-year absences are unavoidable, like catching the classroom cold or tending to family obligations--these types of "life happens" absences make up about 70% of overall absences. The opportunity lies within the 20% of time that involves professional activities. Traditional "one-and-done" PD opportunities are generally ineffective, and cause disruptions for teachers and students. What if teacher in-service days could be more productive?

Hidden costs of class-time PD
Taking teachers out of their classrooms not only takes a toll on student performance, but also has a significant financial impact on districts. A study conducted in 2012 by the Center for American Progress found that the annual cost of hiring substitutes was at least $4 billion dollars. In spite of these costs, many public schools opt to mandate professional development throughout the school-year.

“Districts routinely generate teacher absences themselves by conducting PD activities during class time. Charter schools are less likely to engage in this practice, but traditional districts tend to see the costs of absence as lower than the costs of lengthening teachers’ contract year with a proportional increase in salary. This false dichotomy provides a glimpse of how rigid, traditional compensation systems stifle creative, cost-saving, and strategic thinking.”

Minimizing the impact
One of the simple ways districts can improve student performance and reduce costs is to give teachers the tools they need to remain in the classroom. Reevaluating how  time and resources are invested in PD is the first step in minimizing the impact of classroom disruptions. Expanding teacher contracts to allow extra time for out-0f-school PD, and utilizing blended-learning platforms that can be accessed in the classroom are some of the ways districts can address PD-related absences.

"Given the time and attention spent on school programs, new curriculum and strategies to strengthen teacher quality, we may be overlooking one of the most basic, solvable and cost effective reasons why schools may fail to make educational progress. We owe it to our children to have the most effective policies and practices to make sure that teachers are present when the roll is called." -NCTQ study, 2014

How does your district minimize classroom disruptions? What are some other ways schools can give teachers more face-time with their students? Let us know in the comments below.