Planning and Preparation

Planning & Preparation Time (Texas Education Code §21.404)

Each 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 planning. A planning and preparation period under this section may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.

It is important to note that planning and preparation periods are duty time. In other words, this is not a free time when employees could leave campus or engage in non-school related activities. This period of time is to be used at the discretion of the teacher and may not be hijacked by administrators without the consent of the teacher. The Attorney General of Texas ruled that during the preparation and planning period it is unlawful to mandate attendance at group sessions.

The Commissioner went on to say that this law does not prohibit a teacher from volunteering to participate in a meeting or planning session during her planning period. Because planning and preparation time must consist of 450 minutes provided every 10 days, it is also important to understand a few more facets of time allocation. You must have at least 45 minutes consecutively on any day you are given a prep period; it cannot be divided up throughout the day.

In addition, if you receive more than 450 minutes of planning and preparation per two-week period, you may be required to attend a group planning meeting or a departmental meeting. For example if your preparation period is 50 minutes every day, over the course of two weeks you have 500 minutes of prep period and could therefore be required to attend a staff meeting of some kind once every two weeks during your prep period.

Case Law on Planning and Prep

March 15, 2016

Texas Education Code Section 21.404 guarantees that classroom teachers are entitled to a 45 minute planning and preparation period within the instructional day. The teacher, not the school district or principal, gets to decide how to use this time most effectively. Under the law, “a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.” The Commissioner of Education has repeatedly upheld teachers’ rights in this regard.

Case Violation Decision
William Strater v. Houston ISD, No. 129-R8-685, 1986TX Educ. Agency LEXIS 113

(Comm’r Educ. 1986).

The school required teachers to attend in-services, during planning time, designed to “assist teachers in planning and preparation, parent/teacher conferencing, etc., for the purpose of enhancing student achievement.” Teacher won. The statute was enacted to let teachers prepare in ways that “the teacher, not the administration, deems best.” The statute “clearly relieves the teacher of any duty during this period of time and prohibits the district . . . from requiring the teacher to engage in any other activity the administration determines to be useful and important.” There is a difference “between actually planning and preparing for future class periods and attending training concerning how to plan and prepare.”
Linda Chaffin v. Los Fresnos ISD, No.128-R10-1290

(Comm’r Educ.).

The school required teachers to attend “small group planning meetings” during planning time three days per week. The meetings were for the purpose of providing “group guidance” and to allow teachers to plan “a uniform system of teaching.” Teacher won. Planning time is “for the use of the teacher as he or she sees fit, within the statutory boundaries, free from any duty mandated by the school district.” Regarding legislative intent, the bill’s caption read, “An Act relating to prohibiting requirement of other activities during a teacher’s planning and preparation period”—indicating that the legislature intended the teacher’s planning time to be free from district-imposed requirements.
Alicia Gonzales v.South San Antonio ISD, No. 086-R10- 704, 2007 TX Educ.Agency LEXIS 11 (Comm’r Educ.2007). Principal called teacher into office for meetings during planning time. Teacher received a reprimand because she “was asked and directed repeatedly to meet with her principal during her conference time period . . .” Teacher won. Teacher’s attendance at these meetings was not voluntary, as district claimed, considering that she was subject to disciplinary action for not attending. These meetings violated the statute, as “[s]ection 21.404 prohibits a district from requiring participation in any other activity during this time.”
Canutillo EducatorsAssoc. v. Canutillo ISD, No. 042-R10- 203, 2010 TX Educ.Agency LEXIS 9 (Comm’r Educ. 2010). The school scheduled student tutoring during physical education classes. This time had been previously used for planning. Instead, the school scheduled planning time after school. Teacher won. “Instructional day” means “the time when students are receiving instruction at the school where the teacher is located.” The language in the law is clear that a planning and preparation period must take place at a time when instruction is occurring.
Selene Carbajal v. El Paso ISD, No. 035- R10-0308, 2012 TXEduc. Agency LEXIS 16 (Comm’r Educ.2012). Teacher began work day at High School 1 and ended work day at High School 2. The administration gave her planning time at High School 2, after all classes had ended.During that planning time, however, classes at High School 1 were still going on. Teacher won. “Instructional day” means “the time when students are receiving instruction at the school where the teacher is located.” Though planning activities might take place after school, the Legislature “wanted teachers to have planning and preparation time during the instructional day.” Teacher was required to have planning time while students were in attendance at the school where she was actually teaching.
Tommy Bledsoe v.Huntington ISD, No. 033-R10-1103, 2014TX Educ. Agency LEXIS 38 (Comm’r

Educ. 2014).

A supplement to the teacher’s contract required instruction during planning time in exchange for higher compensation. The administration canceled this arrangement, causing loss of compensation. Teacher won. Teacher must not be forced to teach during his planning period. Further, “planning and preparation time cannot be contracted away,” and all teaching duties must be covered by a valid contract. The teacher must be compensated for the reduction of his pay after the 45-day deadline.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: My school says I am required to attend an ARD during my conference/planning period Because it doesn’t take the whole 45 minutes. Is this correct? If not, what steps do I take to ensure that I get my full 45 minutes each day?

A: No, it’s not legal unless you volunteer and are not coerced. Here’s a couple good looks at the law:
http://www.nelilaw.net/pdfs/LSVol1No4.pdf
http://www.yourvalleyvoice.com/blogs/another-lesson-in-texas-law-planning-periods/article_96741b74-4990-11e4-a243-eb51a560d377.html