Reacting to complaints, the Shelby County Schools administration will lift a few tasks from teachers to help them make the transition to new curriculums that more closely align lessons with Tennessee’s new math and English standards.

The changes, which Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said came from a meeting last week with teacher leaders, include more planning time, less paperwork and more professional development focused on modeling lessons.

“It’s very clear to me now that we simply have not done the best job possible supporting you and equipping you to be successful in this instructional shift,” Hopson said in an email to teachers. “We have to do better, and I’ve made it a personal priority to ensure that we are.”

Since the instructional shift, Hopson has challenged teachers to get on board with steep changes to curriculum to boost lagging test scores. Teachers have said it’s not just the shift but what they see as unnecessary busy work on top of it.

“They’re telling me, ‘how could people who used to teach not understand how to give me this in a different way that won’t create more work for me?’ ” said school board member Teresa Jones to Hopson and members of his cabinet last week. “It’s not that they don’t want to shift, it’s that they feel like the administration is asking them to shift in the most difficult way possible.”

In the email, Hopson promised teachers:

  • Collaborative planning support should take place in professional learning coach meetings
  • Remove the weekly lesson planning template from Eureka (the math curriculum) and Expeditionary Learning (the English curriculum). Teachers will still be required to annotate.
  • Dedicate at least one faculty meeting per month to content lesson planning.
  • Provide model lessons implemented by other teachers and offer more variety of professional development sessions to accommodate teacher schedules, including live and virtual sessions at multiple times.
  • Provide example lesson plans for high school end of course test subjects beginning in the second quarter
  • Provide weekly meaning-based guide for teachers in grades 9-12
  • Exclude administrator feedback on instructional planning guides from the district’s online tracker for professional development.
  • He and Chief of Schools Sharon Griffin would communicate more regularly to clarify and reinforce expectations and next steps.
  • Hold biweekly collaboration sessions among district leaders, teachers and union representatives

Tikeila Rucker, president of the United Education Association of Shelby County, attended the teacher meeting last week and praised Hopson for his efforts.

“This is a huge win for teachers and the UEA,” she said. “We appreciate Superintendent Hopson and his team for showing us they are listening through their actions.”

Below is the full text of Hopson’s email: