As a classroom teacher, you’re entitled to dedicated time for planning and preparation, otherwise known as conference time.
Planning and Preparation Time
Under the Texas Education Code, every classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent-teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and lesson planning.
You must be given a prep period of at least 45 consecutive minutes on any given instructional day; your prep period cannot be divided up throughout the day. During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher cannot be required to participate in any other activity.
Unlike your duty-free lunch break, however, planning and preparation periods are duty time. This means you are not free to leave campus or engage in non-school related activities during your designated planning and prep times.
Other Meetings During Planning Periods
Your planning and prep period is to be used at your discretion, and it cannot be hijacked by administrators without your consent. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas has ruled that during the preparation and planning period, it is unlawful to mandate attendance at group sessions or meetings.
That said, that only applies for the 450 minutes required by law for every two-week period. Any prep time beyond that is a different matter. For example, if your preparation period is 50 minutes every day, over the course of two weeks, you’ll have 500 minutes of prep period. The 50 extra minutes beyond the required planning time could be co-opted for a required staff meeting once every two weeks during your prep period.
You are not prohibited from volunteering to participate in a meeting or planning session during your planning period, but you cannot be coerced to do so during your 450 minutes of planning and preparation time.
Guidance from the Texas Association of School Boards, which informs most districts’ policies, advises administrators not to make a request for voluntary participation in such a meeting during the teacher’s planning time.
The Texas commissioner of education has ruled repeatedly in favor of teachers who were called for meetings, sessions, or additional instruction during their planning time. Unfortunately, not all of these cases have been digitized, but here are the decisions to know:
- William Strater v. Houston ISD, No. 129-R8-685 (1986)
- Linda Chaffin v. Los Fresnos ISD, No. 128-R10-1290 (1990)
- Alicia Gonzales v. South San Antonio ISD, No. 086-R10-704 (2007)
- Canutillo Educators Association v. Canutillo ISD, No. 042-R10-203 (2010)
- Selene Carbajal v. El Paso ISD, No. 035-R10-0308 (2012)
- Tommy Bledsoe v. Huntington ISD, No. 033-R10-1103 (2014)
If you have questions or concerns about your planning and preparation period, please contact your local union. If you’re a member of the Associate Membership Program, please contact the AMP service department.