Blueprint For MD’s Future fine print requires teaching time for school principals
MARYLAND – The Blueprint For Maryland’s Future (Blueprint) is set to overhaul the state’s education system. It includes sweeping reforms, geared towards equity and improving educators’ work conditions. However, buried in the fine print of the lengthy legislation, are many individual requirements.
School Leaders in the Classroom
For one, principals are encouraged to use 10% of their time for in-classroom instruction. And, vice principals are required to spend 20% of their time teaching students in the classroom. School leaders and education officials are now figuring out how to balance their existing duties with the new requirements.
“In theory, this part of the Blueprint sounds great. Now, we have to figure out the nuts and bolts on how to make it happen,” said Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent David Bromwell.
Bromwell worries about how much those “nuts and bolts” are going to cost school districts.
“The only way I’ve figured it out right now is you need more people and more staff. Any time you say that, then that means there’s a dollar sign attached to it,” said Bromwell. “We’re already looking at possibly modifying our secondary schedules to be able to do that. When you do that, that usually costs money.”
Information has been gathered on varying financial power throughout jurisdictions. However, Bromwell says the formula used to determine education funding was created in the 1980’s, and needs to be updated to accommodate Blueprint requirements.
Stacking the Schedule
While Bromwell says vice principals and principals should be well equipped to lead any classroom, the question of which ones they’ll be in, and when, remains.
Another provision in the Blueprint says that teachers must spend 60% of their day instructing students, and use the other 40% for activities such as planning, preparing, and meetings.
Bromwell says that required 40% could help teachers working toward higher certifications and better classroom preparation. However, he suspects additional staff might need to be hired to fill in that time, as well.
An Already Full Plate
Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President Cheryl Bost says principals already have a full plate of responsibilities.
“Principals lead the building. They do a lot with parent interaction, communities. They will also go in and observe and evaluate teachers and staff, and really make sure the overall running of the school is in place,” said Bost.
And for vice principals, the workload is no smaller, says Bost.
“[Assistant principals] may be the special education chair to make sure all the special education services are being provided. They often deal with student referrals to the office if a student is misbehaving. They, too, are in charge of making sure that educators have the resources that they need, helping them with their instruction as needed, through observations and evaluations, and coaching.”
Changing the Language
Implementing required teaching time into school leaders’ days will be no easy task, according to Bost.
“As the career ladder develops, figuring out how this will work is going to be a huge undertaking. The most important voices in figuring this out are the actual practitioners; the people who are doing it,” said Bost.
That’s why Bost says the MSEA is looking to change the wording of the bill: make the vice principal’s requirement to teach more of an encouragement.
“We don’t see the requirement to necessarily be the teacher of record, like ‘You’re in charge of this class no matter what’ because something else could come up in the building,” said Bost. “We’ll be looking for a small tweak in the Blueprint, to hopefully accomplish that language change.”
Changes made or not, Bost says getting school leaders more involved in classroom instruction would be a good thing for both educators, and students.
“Having them a little bit in the classroom, so that they don’t lose touch of why they’re there and how they got there through instruction, is important,” said Bost. “I think when students see everybody in the building is invested in their academic success, that’s a great culture and atmosphere to be in that building.”