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Teachers could get extra development time

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District is trying to carve out some extra time for teachers to get better at doing the job of teaching.

School board members talked at a Monday night workshop about adding three additional half days per year of professional development time for teachers to work on grades and work with each other on items like best practices and curriculum alignment.

Superintendent Jane Berenz told board members teachers have expressed frustration with their workload and asked for additional time outside of their teaching responsibilities.

The state of Minnesota sets a minimum number of contact hours between teachers and students, but District 196 is above those minimums by several days at all levels, allowing for flexibility. The district's schedule currently includes 15.9 days beyond the state's minimum for elementary students, 19 extra days for middle school students and 15 extra days for high school students.

Berenz said staff development time is increasingly important as teachers are asked to do using testing data to assess students and their needs.

"Teachers really need time to look at data, to talk to one another, to talk about what is working best with certain groups of kids," Berenz said. "We keep adding on to what is expected of them."

Board chair Jackie Magnuson said the need for more time was mentioned frequently during contract negotiations with teachers.

The proposal discussed Monday might also have classes for elementary school students start a day or two later than classes for the rest of the district. Teachers could use the additional time to meet with parents and students so they're more familiar when the school year starts.

The additional time would not take effect until the 2012-13 school year, but some teachers could get a little bit of a break later this year. Board members offered support for a plan that would add a staff development day March 9 for elementary and middle school students. High school students are already off that day.

There was no formal decision at Monday's workshop, and the final number of professional development days might change. But board members supported the idea. They told Berenz to put together a proposal that made sense.