Planning Periods

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UPDATE: Language was added to House Bill 2711 (Governor's education bill) during the 2017 regular session of the Legislature that is positive for teachers across the state. New language in state code now says:

"Educators shall receive uninterrupted time for planning periods each day. Administrators may not require a teacher to use the planning period time allotted to complete duties beyond instructional planning, including, but not limited to, administrative tasks and meetings."   

WVEA worked with Senate Education and House Education leadership and Gov. Justice to include this language about planning periods in the final version of House Bill 2711.

For more details about the new language in code, see the link at right.


Below you will find remarks WVEA President Dale Lee made to the state Board of Education about planning periods:

President Manchin, Board members and Department Staff --

I am WVEA President Dale Lee and I am here today to talk to you about Planning Periods.

Planning Periods are important for teachers. It is the only time of the day in which they are without students and they have time to prepare for the instruction of students. They use the copier, they double check their technology, they prepare labs, they grade papers, they review their lesson.

The planning period statute was created in 1982. In part it reads – “Every teacher …shall be provided at least one planning period within each school instructional day to be used to complete necessary preparations for the instruction of pupils. Such planning period shall be the length of the usual class period in the school to which such teacher is assigned, and shall be not less than forty minutes. No teacher shall be assigned any responsibilities during this period.”

The intent of this statute is clear. The intended use of the planning period is not so a teacher can cover someone’s class when a sub is not called out or be required to help answer phones in the office. The intent is not to have half of it taken each day for a mini principals’ meeting or a required book reading. I have heard of schools where teachers have not had a planning period in a month because of responsibilities and activities assigned to them by their administrator.

Planning periods are not for county training. We have specific days built into the calendar for those purposes. And if that time isn’t enough – then we need to add more days to the calendar for that purpose. Planning time is not meant to replace a CE or ISE day.

It is because of those types of abuses currently occurring in our schools that SB 477 was drafted and introduced. Senators asked WVEA to assist them in drafting language to ensure teachers had a planning period they could use to actually prepare for instruction. They had teachers in their districts come to them with the same abuses I have outlined to you today.

I am disappointed with the State Board and with the superintendent. This bill was not like the Greenbrier bill that emerged and passed within 2 days. It was a bill that was introduced early in the session, went through every committee and was being debated in committee and on the floor for weeks.

Superintendent Phares voiced some concerns regarding the bill in the Senate. Language was drafted to address his concerns. He then indicated to both the senators and I that the bill was OK. Donna Peduto and various state board members were also at the capitol as the bill was debated and no one…no one…voiced concerns. So I was surprised to hear your concerns last month since they were not voiced during the legislative process.

What I truly cannot comprehend is how your objection to the planning period bill is in direct opposition to your own recommendations & findings released in your December 2013 Status Report. It found that 60% of educators indicated that planning time is an important issue to them. 

You found in your survey that the central theme was that planning time is critical to effective teaching and learning and that there is currently not enough planning time. Other themes of your survey said that other duties often usurp planning time and that planning time is often interrupted by other distractions. In addition, your report indicated that the limited amount of time available for planning can lead to job dissatisfaction, stress and burnout.

Shame on you for opposing the planning period bill! Your own report and survey indicated the importance of planning time to teachers. You know how important that time is for teachers and that it is frequently abused by administrators. Yet when you had the opportunity to clarify the issue you didn’t.

I am also intrigued by your statement that allowing teachers to have their mandated planning time has a cost to the state. Allowing teachers time to plan is already built into the day at each school throughout the state. The true cost comes when you take planning time away. Losing that time has a cost to both students and teachers.

Your actions are just another sign of the lack of respect you show to the teachers of our state who are doing their very best, under very trying conditions, to educate our students.

I would very much like to continue the planning period discussion with you but I am limited to my 5 minutes today. I hope to hear from you soon so we can begin some constructive conversations on the issue of planning time.