A large majority of elementary school staff members are in favor of the switch to grade-level schools this year, West Deptford Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kristin O'Neil told the school board last week in an update on the effects of the switch.
Three in four staff members in a survey of 73 elementary school teachers, secretaries and administrators said they’re in favor of the move, which caused some controversy when it was first decided last year.
The changeover wasn’t an immediate success with everyone; O’Neil said nearly a third of staff who responded to the survey didn’t like the idea initially, but had come to like it since September, and roughly one in five staff members was still on the fence about the switch.
About a tenth of the respondents were against the idea at the beginning and still don’t like it now.
O’Neil said it was easy, from an administrative standpoint, to see the benefits of the switch, noting especially the ability for teachers to be able to talk with each other in person, day in and day out, instead of having to correspond via e-mail or via a shared network server.
She also emphasized the importance of aligning the curriculum and getting all teachers on the same plan, instead of everyone teaching the district curriculum in slightly different ways.
“That’s an absolute necessity,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil wanted to get feedback from teachers to get a complete sense of how things were going, which is where the survey came about.
Besides the raw numbers of how many like and dislike the changeover to grade-level schools, O’Neil sought out specific feedback from respondents.
On the positive side, she said, teachers mentioned things like schoolwide activities, the opportunity to share ideas and compare pacing with other teachers and the access to materials in one spot.
On the negative side, however, O’Neil said teachers raised concerns that their input wasn’t solicited when the switch happened, as well as the increased workload on teachers who were moving to teach a new grade level.
“Teachers who teach the same grade are working on weekends, as it is, let alone when they’re teaching a new grade,” O’Neil said.
There were also concerns about an increase in discipline reports at Green-Fields, which O’Neil said seems like a notable rise in one building.
Ultimately, though, O’Neil said the negatives can be worked out, and the benefits are significant.
“You cannot underestimate the important of collaborating among teaching staff,” she said.