Wichita teachers union balks at thorough lesson-plan requirements

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Representatives of United Teachers of Wichita reached a tentative one-year contract agreement on Friday, following a heated dispute in which the union balked at a proposed clause that would require teachers to keep well-crafted daily lessons plans. The Wichita Eagle reports that the agreement was reached late Friday, and it is not yet clear which side prevailed in the lesson-plan fight.

A deal proposed by the district would require teachers to prepare lesson plans containing various mandatory details such as learning objectives and pacing references, according to the Eagle.

The current labor contract requires teachers to make lesson plans “only in sufficient detail to provide guidance to the teacher,” which leaves room for a range of different planning methods. Teachers must also provide their lesson plans and other teaching materials to school principals if asked.

Leaders of United Teachers of Wichita, which represents some 4,000 currently vacationing teachers, call compulsory daily lesson plans “busy work.”

“That’s going to take away the art of teaching, and it almost becomes like they’re doing cookie-cutter lessons,” Randy Mousley, president of the teachers union, told the Eagle.

“Good instruction starts with good planning. We’re not going to deny that,” the union leader said. “But there’s only so many hours in a day.”

Mousley argues that the requirement to create formal lesson plans on a daily basis adds unnecessary red tape that does nothing for students.

“You’ve got to decide which is most important: Is it to produce a piece of paper to satisfy a principal? Or is it putting stuff down — your thoughts about what you’re going to do to impact students in a positive way?”

John Allison, superintendent of Wichita Public Schools, disagrees.

“I don’t want to get on a plane and have my pilot not have done his checklist and be prepared,” Allison told the Eagle. “That’s very intentional and specific, and education is no different.”

The superintendent suggested that a number of teachers are already doing what the proposal mandates.

Also, as, a school reform advocacy website, suggests, teachers typically aren’t recreating the wheel each year. They can save effective lesson plans on their computers and use them again and again.

Wichita is no stranger to unhappy teachers. Last year, a federal mediator had to intercede to bring labor peace between the union and the school district. The resulting contract gave teachers their first salary increase in four years.

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Eric Owens