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Meeting increased common planning time requirements: A case study of middle schools in three Rhode Island districts

Richard E Drolet, Johnson & Wales University


In 2006 the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education approved restructuring of the learning environment at the middle school level. In addition to the implementation of more personalized learning environments and middle level advisories, professional development and common planning time were addressed. The regulations specifically stated, "By the year 2012, common planning time must increase to at least four times per week at the middle level" (RIDE, 2006, p. 8). In this regulation, the means by which administrators and teachers will receive professional development in the effective use of common planning time must also be addressed by school districts. Currently, some Rhode Island middle schools and junior high schools provide little or no common planning time opportunities for their teachers; others structure common planning time once a week; others provide common planning time every other day; and few middle schools build common planning time into their teachers' daily schedule. The purpose of this case study was to determine how middle schools can properly prepare and train their teachers to use more common planning time most effectively. This study also addressed middle school principals' plans for the implementation or increase in professional development due to the upcoming middle school common planning time regulation. A mixed-method case study involving a teacher survey, teacher focus groups, and principal interviews were used. The quantitative teacher survey first documented how teachers (N=147) used their common planning time (e.g., planning instruction, looking at student work, addressing student needs, etc.). This data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, and findings were reported using tables, charts, and narrative relative to how teachers on middle school teams currently utilized their common planning time. The teacher focus groups (N=3) were used to explore themes and check other revealing data derived from the surveys. The qualitative principal interviews (N=5) were analyzed using coding methods to develop common themes based on the principals' perceptions of professional development, structures, and processes needed to make the increase in common planning time viable and effective. The results of this study provide middle school principals, teachers, and state policy makers with useful guidance on how to use common planning time effectively to improve student performance. The implementation of professional development related to middle school teams of teachers utilizing common planning time most effectively may also be facilitated.

Subject Area

Education|Secondary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Drolet, Richard E, "Meeting increased common planning time requirements: A case study of middle schools in three Rhode Island districts" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3350094.