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Austin ISD wants to give elementary teachers an additional planning period

The district said it is providing the additional period to try to boost academic outcomes.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD wants to give elementary teachers more planning and preparation time. 

The district said that student academic outcomes have fallen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic after years of stagnation, and achievement gaps have widened. AISD believes time to plan and collaborate with colleagues will help elementary teachers "address these gaps by personalizing learning for every student."

AISD said that, pre-pandemic, elementary reading data was hovering between 51% and 53% meeting grade-level reading standards from 2017 to 2019. Economically disadvantaged students were about 17% behind, with between 33% and 36% meeting grade-level reading standards during that period.

Now there is a 37% gap between economically disadvantaged students (19%) and non-economically disadvantaged students (56%).

To allow for the additional planning time, AISD is proposing taking the 15 to 20 minutes of Working Out for Wellness (W.O.W.) time out of classroom teachers' schedules and looping them into a 45-minute block of P.E. every day. During that time, homeroom teachers will participate in grade-level professional learning communities (PLC) while their students are in P.E.

Additionally, art and music classes would be a one-hour weekly block to allow students to dive deeper into projects. The district said this would also eliminate the need for traveling P.E. teachers.

Altogether, in this proposal, essential teachers would have daily 60-minute planning periods for a total of 300 minutes weekly. Classroom teachers will get three 45-minute planning periods during P.E. and two 60-minute planning periods during music and art for a total of 255 minutes weekly. The two days classroom teachers participate in PLCs do not count toward their total because they will be required to participate.

The district said under this proposal, there would be a $6 million investment to hire additional essential teachers, including teacher assistants for P.E. classes. 

However, the proposal is still in its early stages. Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Casas presented the information to music, art and P.E. teachers, as well as librarians and counselors, on Wednesday and invited staff to brainstorm ideas, possible needs and suggested training.

The district also said principals can be flexible with schedules and work with AISD Central Office leaders to develop solutions, including finding ways to add additional art and music into the week.

For more on this proposal, see AISD's Elementary Planning Period Proposal FAQ.

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