Tuesday isn’t just the second day of the week for Johnnie Cochran Middle School. It’s the prime time for teachers to collaborate with other faculty members on teaching methods. They’re called Professional Development Days, or “PD,” and these days are super important, says Cochran Principal Scott Schmerelson.
Here he talks about what teachers will do for PD on this particular Tuesday:
‘It’s time during the day, not after school. It’s during their paid workday where they’re not looking at the clock and can get together as a department since most of them all have the same kids anyway; they can talk about their issues and successes,” he said.
“Everybody has concerns, everybody thinks they’re the only teacher who has a certain problem, and a lot of times teachers will go into a shell. This day helps them develop common assessments and find out why some classes are doing well and others aren’t because there are reasons why classes are getting it in great numbers and others just are not,” Schmerelson says.
When the bell rings for school to be out, class is still in session for Cochran instructors. They are revising school plans, devising ways to raise standardize test scores and reviewing a heap of data from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Assistant Principal Deanna Hardemion says Professional Development works well for teachers after school because even though they may be tired, they have that day to discuss, versus having the meetings in the morning before school, which could delay classes starting on time if a meeting runs long.
My only concern with the Professional Development time was that it shortened the school day, allowing students to leave earlier and miss out on more in-class instruction. I thought it would greatly affect parents as well, who needed to pick up their kids or arrange for someone to be home with them, when hardly anyone clocks off their job around 1:30. But Principal Schmerelson assures that Cochran Middle School has been doing these development days for years, parents know about it well in advance, and despite having to release students early on Tuesdays at 1:37 p.m. instead of their normal release time at 3:02 p.m., he says the school actually exceeds the limit of education time, so no instruction is lost by having this teacher development period.
‘If you really look at the number of minutes we have our students in class, they are not missing a thing. Our school day is set up to have a longer day, we add a few minutes each day, and those minutes add up,” he said.