Charleston Co. School District moves eLearning days to help teachers

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 9:37 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 11:36 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After a grim teacher climate survey showing a high-level of teacher fatigue and disillusionment, the Charleston County School District is making moves to make the lives of teachers a little easier.

Chief among the issues highlighted by teachers is a lack of time to prepare for class and lesson plans.

“Please god can I get a planning period,” read one of the comments from the study. “I have one planning period a week not impeded by meetings. One hour of planning a week to plan and grade and breathe.”

Clear skies have left the district with several eLearning days slated for bad weather that they won’t need to use. Instead of letting those days go to waste, school administrators proposed keeping those dates to give teachers buffer planning days during busy times of the next semester.

“We had no inclement weather this year, so we were able to repurpose the eLearning days that we had scheduled for the first few days of Thanksgiving week and reassign them as teacher work days later in the calendar,” Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said. “Students will be at home learning through an eLearning set up but that gives us an opportunity for teachers to get ahead, to grade their work and our plan is to not have structured professional development so they can really use that time to get ahead.”

The school board approved three eLearning days at their meeting on Monday. Those days will be Feb. 4, Mar. 11 and April 29. Jody Stallings, a teacher and director at the Charleston Teacher Alliance, the organization that sent out the survey, says he’s happy the district is responding to the survey.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s a great move on their part to try and get teachers more planning time, more time to collaborate with other teachers,” Stallings said. “We would still like to see more of the daily planning time given back to teachers. We’re still hearing from teachers that a lot of that is being taken up with unnecessary bureaucratic meetings. . .but we definitely have no complaints with that plan.”

Teachers are also concerned about the number of assessments they are required to essentially proctor, especially in elementary schools. At that level, students are given more tests to help determine academic progress and placement, learning disabilities and even technology competency.

“We hear on our recent survey that some of the teachers quantified it as 12 missed days out of the year due to standardized testing, that sounds about right to me,” Stallings said. “I don’t need 12 days of testing to tell me what my kids don’t know. I need to teach them.”

The district announced it is rolling back a new assessment they implemented at the beginning of the year for the elementary school.

“Mrs. Belcher has arranged to stop the benchmark assessments in the elementary schools. The benchmarks were the only new assessment that CCSD added this year,” said Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait. “We didn’t realize that the state was going to add some new assessments, so we are assessing too much.”

In addition, the district is looking at options for reducing the amount of staff training sessions teachers are required to attend. Stallings says they are cautiously optimistic about the steps the district is taking.

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