Richland teachers may be reassigned for Common Core training

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldApril 10, 2014 

Richland School District administrators plan to reassign some teachers to training duties to get other teachers up to speed with the new Common Core state standards and other instructional changes.

Superintendent Rick Schulte proposed during Tuesday night's school board meeting to take four teachers out of classrooms and turn them into classroom support instructors.

Some school board members wanted even more district staff dedicated to the issue.

"It seems to me as we move to the Common Core and (new standardized tests) and all the angst we're going to have, I would appreciate having more than four right off the bat," said board Chairwoman Phyllis Strickler.

The district's teachers union, the Richland Education Association, counters that teachers need more resources, not trainers.

Union leaders said the district's plan would create an uneasy dynamic between teacher trainers and those with assigned classrooms.

"If you need to hire a coordinator, hire a coordinator and leave my teachers alone," union president Jeri Morrow told the Herald.

The Common Core standards are focused on mathematics and language arts and have been adopted by most states, including Washington. The state is field-testing a new standardized assessment based on Common Core that will be used to officially record student progress in the spring of 2015.

While not a curriculum, the new standards are forcing teachers to change how and what they teach. Districts are working to provide professional development opportunities for teachers, including training.

Richland administrators propose that selected teachers would be on special training assignments for a certain amount of time before returning to regular teaching duties. It's a model that has been used elsewhere in the state and has shown promise, officials said.

"The amount of professional development required of an educator to make these changes is more than a person can be reasonably expected to do," Assistant Superintendent Erich Bolz said.

But Morrow said the district made its plan without consulting teachers about what they need, which is more materials and other items to support the curriculum changes.

Instead, the teacher trainers will be semi-managers constantly present during regular classroom hours, making it difficult for regular teachers to trust them, Morrow said.

"It just causes a really gray area," she said.

The union would rather see a model where the teacher trainers offer after-school and summer training sessions but have regular teaching duties during the school day.

Union approval is needed because the district's plan would violate the teacher contract, Morrow said, and the union will veto it if concerns aren't addressed.

District administrators said the contract doesn't give the union the ability to "veto" district decisions, though the matter could go to mediation or arbitration if push came to shove.

"There are points of agreement," said Tony Howard, Richland's human resources director. "There are ways to get around this."

Regardless, Schulte's proposal requires some level of teacher cooperation.

"It's a practical matter of being able to identify the people willing and able to do the work," Schulte said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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