District Trendline

July 2016: How much time do teachers get to plan and collaborate?

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District Trendline, previously known as Teacher Trendline, provides actionable research to improve district personnel policies that will strengthen the teacher workforce. Want evidence-based guidance on policies and practices that will enhance your ability to recruit, develop, and retain great teachers delivered right to your inbox each month? Subscribe here.

In order to be well prepared for daily instruction, teachers need time without students to plan and collaborate. This month, Trendline delves into how long the teacher workday is and how much of that time is devoted to planning and collaboration.

Length of workday

The average scheduled teacher workday across the 148 districts in our database is seven and a half hours. There are, however, 38 districts in our database that do not define the length of the workday in any of the standard documents we collect. 

When we last considered the length of the teacher workday in 2012, 86 percent of districts for which we had data had workdays of at least seven hours. Since that time, we added several more districts to the Teacher Contract Database. Based on our sample of districts today, 89 percent have workdays of at least seven hours, an increase of three percentage points.

Henrico County (VA) and Sioux Falls (SD) are the two districts where teachers' scheduled workday is longer than eight hours, while teachers in New York City, Sacramento, Jefferson Parish (LA), and Toledo (OH) have the shortest scheduled workdays at six hours and fifteen minutes.

Planning time

Although the majority of a teacher's workday involves teaching students, an important aspect of a teacher's day is planning time. Just like last year, the most common amount of planning time teachers receive is 45 minutes per day.

When it comes to elementary teachers' planning time, those in Montgomery County (MD) receive the most at a minimum of 7 hours per week or an average of 84 minutes per day. For secondary teachers, those in Chicagoreceive the most planning time at an average of 100 minutes per day.

Many districts define planning time in terms of periods. In the graph above, among the 49 districts listed as having an "other specification" for secondary teachers, 43 give teachers one period of planning time per day. Guilford County (NC) is also counted in this category and is the only district that explicitly leaves teacher planning time up to each school (though that may well be the policy of the 38 districts that are silent on this issue).

Collaboration time

While the majority of districts in the database do not discuss collaboration time, nearly half (43 percent) do mention collaboration in their bargaining agreements or board policies. Of these districts, roughly one third define specific amounts of time for teacher collaboration, another third explicitly mention collaboration as one use of general planning time, and the final third either mention collaboration as important or say that principals may designate some portion of general planning time for collaboration.

Among the 21 districts that set aside time specifically for collaboration, most offer between 45 to 60 minutes per week for collaboration. In Dayton, secondary teachers get 30 minutes of collaboration time daily while the issue is not addressed for elementary teachers. In Christina (DE), elementary teachers receive a maximum of 90 minutes per week for collaboration and secondary teachers receive a minimum of 90 minutes per week. In some districts, like Davis (UT), students have a shorter day once per week to allow time for teachers to collaborate.

To learn more about planning time and collaboration, or one of the more than 100 other policy questions we track, visit the Teacher Contract Database.

The Teacher Contract Database includes information on over 145 school districts in the United States:  the 60 largest districts in the country, the largest district in each state, the member districts of the Council of Great City Schools, and districts which won the Broad Prize for Urban Education. The database features answers to over 100 policy questions and provides access to teacher contracts, salary schedules, and board policies in addition to relevant state laws governing teachers.