Teachers on a paper trail. Does it lead to greater learning?

One of the surprises in talking to teachers over the years is that their biggest complaint is not unruly students or uninvolved parents. What really discourages teachers is the paperwork, the ever-increasing and ever-changing litany of demands from the central office, state agencies and federal government to fill out this form and churn out that report.

Across grades, systems and states, teachers are overwhelmed by the pressure to submit detailed lesson plans, agendas and daily goals. A survey earlier this year of 43,000 Maryland teachers found that while they are generally happy with their class sizes and teaching conditions, they despair over all the paperwork.

A 1987 study found that teachers on average spent eight hours a week on paperwork. The hours may well be higher now since many current school reform models seem to measure success by the stacks of reports produced.

The emphasis on relentlessly documenting their every move in the classroom whittles away at their autonomy and their discretion, teachers say. They also maintain that there’s no evidence that better record keeping inspires better teaching.

A top researcher once told me that his best advice to new teachers was ignore all the central office notices and directives in their mailboxes for the first three months and concentrate on their craft.

A mentor teacher shared with me that her inexperienced colleagues seldom come to her in frustration with students. It’s the impositions of the administration that brings them to her door.

What bothers me is that these paperwork laments also come from seasoned teachers, the pros in the classroom with long histories of success with students. I am stunned at the bureaucratic shackles put on even proven teachers.

I met a lot of effective teachers a few weeks ago at an Education Trust conference in Washington, D.C., honoring schools around the country making great strides with high need kids.

At the National Association for Gifted Children conference in Atlanta more recently, I  listened to other acclaimed teachers talk about how they strive to accommodate the advanced learners. And in recent classroom visits around Atlanta, I watched as clever teachers engaged their students in innovative math and reading classes.

Struck by the commitment and talents of these high-performing teachers, I had a sudden idea for a reform that would be cheap, easy and could start tomorrow:

Leave the terrific teachers alone. Allow them to devote all their time to their students.

Decide which teachers in each school building are performing well. Most principals already know their stars, but student achievement data could also be used as a determinant.

Free those teachers from meetings, professional development, lesson plan submissions, data collection and every other piece of minutiae, paperwork and reporting that diverts them from their students.

Not forever. Start with six months and see what happens.

Enable these professionals to chart their own course, set their own goals and trust them to do well. Focus on the struggling teachers instead.

Don’t fret if the great teachers are doing it their way and departing from the system-wide script. If they’re succeeding with their students, who cares who wrote the script?

A friend in the computer industry has been through multiple reorganizations and has come to recognize two signs that a company is sinking fast: No more free bagels in the break room and a sudden insistence on written and detailed records of time on task, forcing employees to devote precious time to writing about selling computers rather than getting out and actually selling them.

That insanity appears to be spreading to education  where documenting classroom performance is preventing teachers from performing.

Yet, I can’t believe that Superintendents Cindy Loe or Beverly Hall want their best teachers harangued over incomplete lesson plans. I don’t buy that J. Alvin Wilbanks or Fred Sanderson think their top teachers should alter successful practice because an off-the-shelf reform model calls for a different approach. Edmond Heatley can’t care if teachers write daily goals on the board if their students are learning.

The late British historian C. Northcote Parkinson aptly summarized the cost of focusing too much on paperwork: “The man whose life is devoted to paperwork has lost the initiative. He is dealing with things that are brought to his notice, having ceased to notice anything for himself.”

–By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog

70 comments Add your comment

toto: exposing the man on the cross

November 28th, 2010
8:27 pm

Take a few lessons from the greatest teacher of all time…


November 28th, 2010
8:42 pm

Stepford teachers in Stepford classrooms. I’ve been told how I have to begin each lesson, what needs to be on my chalkboard, and what should be on my walls and bulletin boards.

And maybe the children would be better served if we retained them and actually remediated them when they haven’t mastered the skills.

Instead we socially promote them, put them in classrooms where they can’t read the textbooks and can’t do the work, and we teachers have to document layers and layers of “interventions” we are required to implement to somehow try to make the content “accessible” to students who don’t have basic reading and math skills.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

November 28th, 2010
8:42 pm

The focus on paperwork takes away from the time I need to plan truly engaging lessons for my students. With that time, I could plan activities that would reach both the students who need enrichment and those who need remediation. There’s only so much time in a day, even when that day stretches until nearly midnight.


November 28th, 2010
8:43 pm

…and who can tell whether or not we’ve succeeded when the same children can’t read the standardized test they are required to pass to show mastery?

Middle Grades Math Teacher

November 28th, 2010
8:43 pm

Agreed, Science Teacher!

You are kiddidng, right?

November 28th, 2010
8:45 pm

Maureen you are being naive. But I do like your ideas in this piece) The very people that the superintendent E.H. hired for his central office are demanding the detailed plans, gallery boards, walls papered with all kinds of objectives, standards, and essential questions, and reams of assessment data for each student. Meanwhile there is no xerox paper or working printers.


November 28th, 2010
8:47 pm

Maureen — see if you can sit in on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for a special education student. Watch the amount of paperwork that takes place. I swear…every time I sit down in an IEP meeting, I’m reminded of the mountain of paperwork and endless signatures that occurred during our mortgage closing. The parents’ rights alone are around 12 pages!

Just wait until the Class Keys hit the schools. You would not believe the paperwork I had to submit last year to prove my worth in the classroom…all of which had to be tied to the performance standards in the Class Keys.


November 28th, 2010
8:53 pm

Actually in APS they already do this, Maureen. The principals pick out their stars, who are usually fraternity brothers and women whose pants they want to get into. These people either don’t have the desire to do their job, or more frequently, are just not that bright. The principal lets these staff members do whatever they want. Don’t want to come to work on time? That’s OK! You want to smoke cigarettes all day in the parking lot? Fine! Doing paperwork? Of course not!

NW Georgia teacher

November 28th, 2010
8:55 pm

Six hours of the weekend were devoted to paperwork. To catch up before Christmas break, I will work about an hour each evening and every weekend, just on paperwork. This will enable me to prepare for the new flood of paperwork in January.


November 28th, 2010
8:59 pm

by the way….I agree with everything you say. What frustrates me to no end is the paperwork that is basically CYA stuff.


November 28th, 2010
9:01 pm

Just before the decision was made in DeKalb to end the 4.5 week benchmarks in favor of an End of Semester (given a full month before the end of semester mind you) bench mark, I asked our Interim Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning about his expectation that 70% of students pass with 70% on all benchmarks when they were coming into their senior year without the necessary skills to complete the coursework. His response – scaffold them…… Ok, so I spend time developing basic skills and then a benchmark deadline approaches and I haven’t spent the necessary time on the actual content of the course. All I ever ask is to let me do my job. If I need to help develop base skills for a student to do my coursework, allow me to show that progress. We have been told numerous times the GPS represents the “minimum to teach, maximum to test.” Heaven forbid, though, I go above the GPS and teach something more – but then again, scaffolding isn’t in the GPS either.

OK, I know I’ve ranted here a bit but I do remember, smile, do my job to the best of my ability, it’s for the children. I just want to remind certain individuals in the central office of the various school systems – our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions. Take care of us and let us do what we spent years learning how to do and student performance will increase. There is a reason you wanted to leave the classroom, and that’s fine. I am where I want to be, just let me do my job.

Veteran teacher, 2

November 28th, 2010
9:04 pm

Maybe this will be one time that people actually listen to teachers. It is all true!! The so-called accountability that people have supposedly called for have caused all of this. Does anyone really want us to document everything, do it, explain why it worked or didn’t work, and write down what we are going to “try” as a result? There are only so many hours in the day, and I am personally with students at least six hours during the day, and another one to two hours after school. Add another 2-3 hours of paper work on top, and the “easy” working hours we always have thrown up in our faces seem to go away.

NW Georgia teacher

November 28th, 2010
9:07 pm

Don’t forget to reflect, and don’t forget to document your reflections. That’s part of the paperwork.

Cobb Teacher

November 28th, 2010
9:37 pm

I can’t tell you how many computer programs my school has purchased in the past two years. They are supposed to help us with all of this paperwork, but I’m sorry to say they have just made things more difficult. First there is the new online lesson planning we’ve started this year. It’s taking me three times as long to plan a week of instruction as years past, and our administrators have stopped posting comments on them.

Then there are several computer programs for reading and math. The kids enjoy them and they provide data for interventions and documenting progress, but with only two computers in the classroom it’s hard to get everyone on the programs for a long enough time to make a difference. Plus you have to monitor all of your students’ activities.

With all of these programs, along with SMART boards, I-responds, etc. there has been a lot to learn and implement this year. Some of them help me teach, but most are just fluff. We have to decide what really works and invest our time and money in those programs only. Buying everything coming and going in the name of student improvement isn’t practical.


November 28th, 2010
10:03 pm

I don’t think this is just about teaching. I think the same degree of scrutiny and micromanagement happens in every public (tax-funded) institutions. Most (maybe too generous?) of those requirements were there for good intentions, but the fact remains that those requirements make public institutions less efficient, schools included.


November 28th, 2010
10:11 pm

“Stepford teachers in Stepford classrooms. I’ve been told how I have to begin each lesson, what needs to be on my chalkboard, and what should be on my walls and bulletin boards.”

If the Central Office tells you how to teach, then they should be taking the responsibility for student achievement. We must hold the Superintendent and the Central Office personnel accountable when students succeed or don’t succeed if they micromanage the classroom. Until that happens, they have no skin the game.


November 28th, 2010
10:14 pm

I got a real kick out of the last few years I taught by handing in the same lesson plan, blank papers, or useless information from previous years. I knew no one was actually looking because I was a good teacher and had been teacher of the year twice for the whole system. I actually sent in documents with the by line of “I bet no one reads this” and then gibberish. So many administrators at the board office are useless paper pushers that generate the requirements just to justify their worthless over paid positions earned because of degrees of dubious value. I still gave 110% to my students everyday until I retired, I just had more time because I did not put up or support the Bravo Sierra.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Proulx, Connie Jackson. Connie Jackson said: Teachers on a paper trail. Does it lead to greater learning? http://t.co/Tqeoz4C #1 Complaint in Cobb – paperwork! [...]

Garry Owen

November 28th, 2010
11:19 pm

When Gov. Joe Less Than Frank Harris introduced QBE in the State of Georgia the only good thing that came out of this awful legislation was a reported reduction in paper work. What happened? Is this like the super speeder fund for trauma centers that mostly went somewhere else? How many Georgia school systems are receiving QBE funds while other school systems see their state allotment reduced so other systems can receive more money? How many so called “rich” county school systems have reduced or cut local teaching positions and programs because of QBE? When is someone going to wake up and ask teachers what works, and I am not talking about a Blue Ribbon Committee but a down to earth in the trenches Master Teacher. One can find them all over Georgia. They go into their classroom each day and find or try to find a way to reach each student in his/her classroom. They come back the next day, prepared for the day, and start anew with each student. They do not ask for recognition, or merit pay, or glory. They only want to see a job well done through the successes of their students. Find these teachers and use their knowledge!

HS Public Teacher

November 28th, 2010
11:53 pm

There is so much truth in this blog!

As a new teacher years ago in DeKalb County, I saw first hand how more and more required documentation and paperwork ate away at the time I used to create lessons for my students. However, the “powers that be” in the central office claimed that by doing this documentation, I would be a better teacher – what bunk!

They wanted a “word wall” and refresh it at least once a week. They wanted me to find a way to always display student work in the room. They wanted me to write the Georgia Performance Standard and the number on the board every day. They wanted blah, blah, blah. None of this made me a better teacher and none of this made my students learn any better. What it did do was to make it easy for some administrator to swing by my room in 30 seconds and glance around to see if I did everything they wanted – none of which had anything to do with the students.

Needless to say that I quickly left DeKalb County – and wow, am I glad that I did!


November 29th, 2010
12:38 am

re: “… where documenting classroom performance is preventing teachers from performing.

You conveniently overlook the fact that it was the overwhelming lack of performance that brought about the call for increased documentation.


November 29th, 2010
5:28 am

Let teachers teach! The more paper work, .. the less teaching! Our kids are falling behind becasue of mandated, politically correct paper work. Our Gov. has done it to it’self.

Peter Smagorinsky

November 29th, 2010
6:02 am

Amen Maureen. Looks as though you’ve touched a nerve–the readers’ comments are pretty unanimous in supporting your perspective.

Teaching Family

November 29th, 2010
6:02 am

I’m trying to balance a teaching career in the public school system with a young family. After 1 1/2 years back at work (after staying home with my kids), I’m close to deciding that teaching is no longer a family friendly profession. It’s not the needy, undisciplined students that make it tough. (They make the job interesting.) It’s the administrative paperwork, the 7 step lesson plans for each period of the day, the SST documentation, and the constant meetings – particularly the 7am meetings. I’m recognized as a strong teacher and my admnistration leaves me alone. I can’t imagine teaching under the scrutiny of a heavy-handed principal or the coming Class Keys system.


November 29th, 2010
6:32 am

Maureen, do you suppose that our education and political leaders are reading the truth written here from the trenches, where the rubber meets the road? Or, have blogs been relegated to the hinterlands because they are renowned for grousing and dissing?
Class Keys are here. For every teacher, pages and pages of documentation, on the part of both the teacher and the administrator. Great idea, in theory. In practice, consumptive of every precious commodity, time, energy, paper, focus.
You are not naive in wondering what would happen if teachers were allowed to focus on teaching rather than the latest template, current haute couture of reform, the most recent innovation in computer based quantification — whether we teach four year olds, fourteen year olds or young adults — in public K-12 institutions, this is a common burden. How do we foist this yoke and get down to brass tacks? We are too busy proving mediocre results to produce exemplars!

Rex Winn

November 29th, 2010
6:38 am

I was a teacher until recently when I decided to retire. The reason? The insane mountain of required paper work. It is beyond unbelievable. I am reminded of the collapse of Soviet Union. It was not so much because of Reagan and the West’s pressure to reform. It was their top-heavy bloated bureaucracy. They imploded. The thundering sound was not the wall in Berlin, it was the protective walls of paper with which their leaders surround themselves. Public education is on that same track. Teaching is not rocket science, it is much more complex. Most school leaders had very little if any classroom experience or if they did it was long ago. Those are the geniuses that are trying to protect their position with ever increasing walls of paper. Get ready for the thundering sound.

East Cobb Parent

November 29th, 2010
6:49 am

@Maureen, you wrote, “I don’t buy that J. Alvin Wilbanks or Fred Sanderson think their top teachers should alter successful practice because an off-the-shelf reform model calls for a different approach.” Watch a few board meetings and you will find the opposite in Cobb county. Fred Sanderson has put in several practices that increase paperwork, cover up scores, and allow less time for actual teaching. The Board has been a rubber stamp for his pet projects for several years. Hopefully we will see that change. Teachers scramble for supplies, but Fred is pushing every Marzano idea in the book. The only positive thing he has done was NOT sign for RTTT.


November 29th, 2010
7:13 am

It is actually worse than the teachers here present, Ms. Downey. You have to document your documenting. “Anything that isn’t documented DIDN”t happen.” That is the motto of our school system. So we spend endless hours documenting what Sammy didn’t learn. Yet, we have no time to teach him (even if he were not years behind) because we have to document every breath he takes (precious few breaths on his own).

When our reading coach came to me years ago and said, “Hey, we want you to document everything you are doing to catch up these kids!” I said, “Here is the deal: I will create documents or I will teach. Your choice. Which one?”

It is all a part of de-professionalizing the profession. ASK me what I have done or why I have done it. I can tell you. But don’t give me busywork to justify YOUR job!

Class Keys will be even more theft from the students, as it takes away teacher time and energy.

ASK us what we are doing and why, if you are too stupid to figure it out (or have been out of the classroom too long!)

APS Teacher

November 29th, 2010
7:51 am

After our ridiculous “collaborative planning” meetings, we have another meeting to write up the minutes documenting our collaborative planning. We call it “the meeting about the meeting.”

Maureen- I agree with you that effective teachers should just be left alone, but Karma is correct that (in APS at least) principals are, by and large, incompetent themselves and simply choose their sorority sisters and pets as “effective teachers” and harass the teachers they don’t like.


November 29th, 2010
8:43 am

The mark of a good administrator is how well she/he shields teachers from the insurmountable paper work and allows them to teach. This just clearly doesn’t happen very often. Instead administrators increase the paper load to cover their own butts. We just had a meeting on how much paperwork will be required just between now and the first of January.

Maureen Downey

November 29th, 2010
8:43 am

@Peter, Do you deal with this issue in teacher education?

Maureen Downey

November 29th, 2010
8:46 am

@Behind, I understand that, but the demand fell even on teachers outperforming their colleagues. I understand why administrators would want to keep close tabs on struggling teachers, but demanding that top teachers document their every move seems a waste of time to me. Part of it is the lockstep mentality in education and the belief that every teacher has to be treated the same. I think this is one of the example of where that “one for all” approach hinders good teachers.


November 29th, 2010
8:58 am

DeKalb voters in school districts 1 and 7 don’t forget to vote in the runoff election tomorrow!

District 1
Nancy Jester
James Redovian

District 7
Zepora Roberts
Donna Edler


November 29th, 2010
9:16 am

Can’t agree with you more about your concern over the paper trail that school leaders are insisting teachers complete and the shackles it puts on their direct student-instructor time. Unfortunately as a retired school head, I can attest to the fact that other than mandates passed down to local systems from our federal Department of Education (with purse strings attached), putting the blame on the school systems of today is misplaced. For it is not them, it is the demands of our litigious society and even the news media for that record-keeping that is at the root of the problem. After all, as ridiculous as it may seem to most, if “research” is to confirm one of those new and/or even proven unorthodox methods by experienced teachers to be effective, the courts and news media sources of today require hard data that answers the question “where’s the proof????” And what sometimes is even more damaging, investigative reporters evidently encouraged by their superiors just love to “raise questions” to the public – often in areas and ways that discourage innovation and take even more time than the required documentation referred to in this op-ed piece to defend.

Hey Teacher

November 29th, 2010
9:24 am

I don’t have time to respond to this post the way I would like because I have to document the parent e mails I sent over the holiday break, the collaborative planning I did with colleagues (so we get “credit” for planning over our break), and documenting the 2 504 meetings I attended before school this morning. The problem is that every admin thinks that their little piece of documentation will “only take a minute”, but those minutes add up.

Any diploma on her wall?

November 29th, 2010
9:26 am

But you see, Maureen, the excellent teachers are supposed to collaborate with the new or ineffective teachers to make them excellent as well. Collaboration is intended to make sure all teachers teaching the same course are teaching the same material at the same time and no student gets cheated by having the “bad” teacher. And you have to have the same test items on your tests that the other teachers teaching that same course have on theirs, then meet to chart and compare the results and discuss what the teachers did for the students who got those items correct with the teachers of the students who missed those items. Blah, blah, blah…total waste of time.
Collaboration is just another word for mediocrity. Teaching by committee I call it. Planning and testing together (with no actual school time devoted to this process, mind you, except common lunch periods) leads to abandoning your brilliant ideas to adopt those common ideas all agree on.

Dr. Tim

November 29th, 2010
10:06 am

Brilliant, Ms. Downey, and BRAVO from an educator with forty years in the game. Over the years I have come to despise “new ideas” and “inniovations” which invariably bring reams of paper and little achievement.

What's best for kids?

November 29th, 2010
10:35 am

Hear hear! Even though my school does a stellar job of keeping teachers away from it as much as possible, I hate the little bit that I am required to do.

tired teacher

November 29th, 2010
10:39 am

–I have to make 5 two-way parent contacts each week and send documentation on Fridays (if I call a parent and leave a message, and they don’t return my call, it doesn’t count).
–I have to call the parents of every failing student weekly until they are passing, and send documentation on Friday.
–I am required to have 5 parent conferences each semester, and I must send documentation for each one (IEP’s don’t count)
–I have common planning meeting minutes that must be sent each week.
–Lesson plans are due Monday mornings at 9:00, with standards and essential questions for each day, differentiation and enrichment strategies, and levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy that my lessons incorporate.
–I have to submit an exemplary lesson once a month that shows relevancy for the students, complete with assessments, differentiation, and enrichment strategies.
–I must submit three common assessment questions for my course once a month.
–I am required to keep a yearly pacing guide where I list a standard and the assessment method that I will use each day.
–I have to observe one teacher each month during my planning period, and then send the observation form at the end of the month.

CLASS Keys will only make it worse.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 29th, 2010
10:41 am

ScienceTeacher671@8:42PM: Well-put! Do our “leaders” not appreciate the necessity of our kids’ developing reading and math skills? Do GA taxpayers appreciate our state’s students’ abysmal history on nationally-normed Reading and Math tests?

What's best for kids?

November 29th, 2010
10:48 am

@tired teacher: You work in an elementary school, don’t you?

tired teacher

November 29th, 2010
10:54 am

I am a high school teacher, actually. I forgot to mention the paperwork and documentation for RTI.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 29th, 2010
11:14 am

Most practitioners entered teaching to help kids learn. They didn’t suppose that, with the rise of the litigious society and its demands for documentation and “good faith effort,” much of their instructional time and energy would be diverted to the performance of clerical and bookkeeping functions. But, might electronics offer a partial solution to the time- and energy-draining legal demands teachers now face? Why not place video/audio recording devices in each classroom; set each device on a random, numerous-episode recording schedule; and use the resultant recording/documentation as a means of documenting what teacher(and student) behaviors are transpiring in each classroom? Such video and audio documentation could provide proof-positive the degree to which each teacher is conforming to the highest instructional standards without wasting his/her time and energy in writing notes on lesson plans, in SSI folders, on IEP forms et al.


November 29th, 2010
12:04 pm

School system administrators care little about the reliable results of their paperwork and much about the fact that it gets completed on time. Giving them the paperwork completed and on time is the simplest way to keep them off your back so you can teach.

This idea is not discrete to educational administration. Before I came back to teaching I spent a decade working for the largest corporation in the world AT&T (1,000,000 employees) which had similar ideas about paperwork (must be a bureaucratic phenomenon).

I was in sales at AT&T, and one year they suddenly asked us to be “certified” by developing a “portfolio” in order to keep our jobs. The head of IBM came to run AT&T and brought a lot of marketing and sales vice presidents with him. They decided AT&T salespeople should “sell” the IBM way using their closely prescribed sales steps. The portfolio was to “document” that all of us sold the IBM way. However, half our pay was bonus pay for our sales results. When we learned that the IBM way was not effective with many of our customers ad products, we abandoned the IBM way and used whatever pitch made the sale – the point was to get results so we could retain our jobs and get paid as much as possible. We still had to document we were using the new CEO’s way so that new management could get credit for the increase in sales (quite Kafkaesque). Our immediate supervisors depended on our sales for their bonuses which couldn’t occur if we were sitting in the office documenting and typing away (this portfolio was huge and complex) so they began to condone the MIU method. I quickly became versed in the MIU method so that I could concentrate on my sales = dollars for me (and the company as well). Soon, using the MIU method, the paperwork became no more than a small distraction for me. With increased sales (double my quota) I made so much money for me and my boss that she was very happy. My district manager was happy with me because he got a bonus for results too and so on up the line.

This is how I learned to use the MIU method whenever possible for inane paperwork so I could get my real job done. I later brought the MIU method to teaching with similar results. The MIU method worked well for me for close to 40 years. It dispensed with at least 50% (or more) of the effort I put into nonsensical paperwork. I was able to re-employ my efforts into planning for instruction and the actual instruction.

How does the MIU method work – well, MIU stands for MAKE IT UP – so I guess you can figure it out for yourself. I used it time and time again, and believe me it works just fine, since your nonsense paperwork is always done quickly and on time. My criteria was consistent. Does this paperwork help me make sales and make my quota? Does this paperwork make my planning for instruction and the actual instruction more effective for my students? If the answer was no – then the always reliable MIU method was used.

If they want more than “garbage in – garbage out” data, administrators and managers need to give lower level employees a reason for the paperwork that makes sense to them. If an employee perceives it helps them do their real job – sales, instruction, etc. they will do the paperwork. If the employee cannot see tangible results for his paperwork, then the result will be less than reliable data and faulty conclusions.

wanna be teacher

November 29th, 2010
12:07 pm

BehindEnemyLines “You conveniently overlook the fact that it was the overwhelming lack of performance that brought about the call for increased documentation.”

No, you conveniently overlook the fact that it is politicians trying to get reelected and central office administration trying to justify their existence that brought about the call for increased documentation.

And Dr. Spinks either didn’t read 1984, or he read it and thought it was a great idea.

Lisa B.

November 29th, 2010
1:10 pm

The new Bully law also creates massive paperwork. If the law is implemented correctly, teachers are to document every glance, gesture, or utterance than can possibly be construed as bullying behavior. I was always told to ignore students who annoyed me, but ostracism is now also considered bullying. Since ignoring others is bullying, does that mean shy kids are bullies if they don’t respond when addressed? I realize that bullying is a huge problem, but all this documentation of every single movement, expression, comment, etc., is ridiculous!

HS Math Teacher

November 29th, 2010
1:16 pm

I am thankful that my school system doesn’t over-burden us with paperwork. We have administrators and a principal who will look for ways to maximize your teaching time, and to keep you from having to do excessive paperwork outside of class. I wish all teachers on here had it as good as I do in this regard. We have other problems that need fixing, but not when it comes to paperwork. I have to give credit to our principal, who has taught for over 25 years in a high school classroom & coached a varsity sport. He goes above and beyond the call of duty to help make teaching just what it should be……..TEACHING.

Warrior Woman

November 29th, 2010
1:19 pm

@Maureen – If you free the “good teachers” from data collection, assuming you can define good teachers consistently and accurately, you have no evidence to show what works. Other than those 2 items, your recommendation is pretty sound.

The best teachers I ever had, and the best ones my children have had, were or are constantly being nagged for paperwork because they spend their time with the students instead of the central office requirements. As a parent, there are only a few pieces of paperwork I consider essential. My student and I need to know the course content and outline, the performance expectations, and the grading requirements. If the course requires major research papers or projects, it’s nice to know that early in the term, because school is not the only thing on the kids’ calendars. If my child is not performing, I want to be notified. If the school uses Pinnacle or i-Parent and the teacher enters grades in a timely fashion, that is notification enough.

It is absurd to treat experienced master teachers like they are new to the profession by requiring submission of detailed lesson plans, dictating teaching approaches, specifying wall, bulletin board, and blackboard content, etc. Maybe monitoring new teachers, failing teachers, or teachers moving to a new subject to this degree can be justified, but for many it’s a waste of time and effort.

@ East Cobb Parent – You are right on about Sanderson. He’s a disgrace and an impediment to improving learning.


November 29th, 2010
2:43 pm

Just working with the ‘teachers as professionals’ theme that comes up on the blog. Other professions have office staff, i.e. paralegals, secretaries/receptionists, records librarians, lab assistants, etc. Some of those positions are used to deal with the paperwork generated as part of the profession.

Maybe this is making a case for classroom teachers to have secretaries to take care of the documentation paperwork? If it’s taking 8 hrs per teacher per week you could have about 1 secretary for 5 teachers at full employment. Too bad budgets definitely don’t have the money to implement such an idea.


November 29th, 2010
2:46 pm

@ Dekalbite,
I LOVE your MIU method! Most teachers in Gwinnett County use the MIU method on their annual Results Based Education System (RBES) document. RBES has been highly publicized by Wilbanks and his staff as the panacea to educational edeavors – (yea, right.) The amount of time and money spent on Gwinnett’s RBES system could fully fund another whole school system! All a sham!!!