Wake Ed

Wake County reviews policies on lesson plans and student grouping

From left, Hilburn Academy sixth-grade teachers Don Goldberg, Michelle Bass and Lauren Boop discuss lesson plans in this 2012 file photo. The Wake County school board is considering changes to the policy on teacher lesson planning.
From left, Hilburn Academy sixth-grade teachers Don Goldberg, Michelle Bass and Lauren Boop discuss lesson plans in this 2012 file photo. The Wake County school board is considering changes to the policy on teacher lesson planning. ccampbell@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board’s policy committee will try to sort out Tuesday revised policies on how teachers should do lesson planning and group their students for instruction.

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting includes reviewing policies that provide teachers more details such as how many days of emergency lesson plans should be available and under what circumstances ability grouping can be used in class. The committee reviewed both policies in September but told staff to come back with modifications that are being presented this month.

Wake’s current policy on lesson plans contains the standard language about giving teachers a reasonable amount of time to do lesson planning and about having detailed lesson plans available for substitute teachers.

The proposed revised policy adds wording such as requiring teachers to have three days of emergency lesson plans available to give to substitutes.

The latest draft also says teachers shall provide the principal with daily lesson plans upon request. It’s different from the language reviewed in September which said detailed lesson plans should be accessible to the principal at any time during the school day.

Other items dropped from the September draft include requiring teachers to maintain lesson plans for one year and providing a detailed list of things for teachers to consider when planning lessons.

A number of changes were also made between September and October in the proposed revisions to the grouping for instruction policy. The October wording still warns against discriminating against students when grouping, but it appears to be more open to using ability grouping that the September draft.

For many years, U.S. schools predominantly used homogeneous instruction to place students with the same ability levels in class pretty much all day. This led to complaints that some students were tracked into classes with lower expectations.

Amid the backlash, schools began to use heterogeneous instruction to have kids of different ability levels learning together. But this drew complaints that it held back academically gifted students.

You now see more use of flexible grouping, where teachers move students in and out of different groups during the day.

Wake’s current grouping policy is pretty short, talking about doing what’s best for the individual student and the group for instruction.

The latest draft policy is far more detailed, including adding a section saying racial and sex discrimination will not be tolerated in grouping practices.

“If the practice of homogeneous grouping materially affects diversity, the person proposing such grouping must demonstrate that the benefits of homogenous grouping clearly outweigh the benefits of meeting the board's educational goals of diversity,” according to the new draft policy.

But this month’s draft drops the sentence from the September draft saying that “heterogeneous grouping usually is the best means of meeting the educational needs of the board.”

Unlike September’s wording, the new draft says flexible grouping “should be used as a tool that provides maximum opportunity for student learning and that is responsive to student needs based on academic performance. The new wording also says that grouping provides time for individualized instruction and learning.

The new draft also drops September’s wording that listed multiple factors that teachers should consider when grouping their students.

The committee will also review Tuesday new or revised policies on copyright compliance, school calendars and time for learning and school trips.

The policy committee is in the midst of reviewing every single current board policy as well as new ones brought by staff. Wake is transitioning its policy manual to match the one offered by the N.C. School Boards Association.

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