Elizabeth Rogers spent an hour last week helping an Advanced Placement student revise a single paragraph in his persuasive essay. A veteran teacher and the chairwoman of the English department at Lowell High School in San Francisco, she views such time with students as essential to her job.
But as the 60,000-student San Francisco school district negotiates with the city’s teachers’ union for a new contract, one cost-cutting proposal would end preparation classes for many of the district’s 113 AP teachers. The district’s proposal comes as school districts nationwide are embracing the rigorous coursework and encouraging more students to take AP classes. (“Advanced Placement Courses Cast Wider Net,” Nov. 3, 2004.)
District leaders argue that if teachers want a raise, they must also agree to some of the cutbacks being discussed. Scaling back the extra prep period for those who teach AP, which costs the city schools $4 million a year, is one of those options.
Ms. Rogers, who has taught AP classes for more than 20 years, believes that’s an unfair proposition.
“If you eliminate the preparation time, you eliminate the AP program,” she said. “The attitude of the faculty is, we are not going to teach these classes without the acknowledgment of the work we put in. This is absurd. You can’t expect someone to do college-level work at the high school level without giving them a college situation.”
Tom Ruiz, the district’s director of labor relations, said he was surprised at the level of anger among AP teachers at a recent school board meeting.
“It is only a proposal,” he said. “We are trying to find ways to compensate teachers. All we have done is say to the union, ‘Can we talk about this?’ ”
United Educators of San Francisco, the local teachers’ union, is asking for a 12 percent raise over two years. The district has proposed maintaining the current salary structure for this year, and has offered a 1.5 percent raise for next year.
The most recent contract expired last June, and the district and the union held their first negotiating session earlier this month. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23.
Constraints in state funding for school districts, Mr. Ruiz said, have left San Francisco and other districts struggling to stretch dollars. “We are trying to be creative and deal with the hand the governor has given us,” he said.
All San Francisco high school teachers already receive one period during the day to prepare for their classes, and AP teachers have an additional period. They use the student-free time to write lessons, meet with students individually, set up science labs, and prepare for classes in other ways.
The proposal, which calls for cutting $1.8 million from the $4 million that pays for the extra AP preparation time, would still allow new AP teachers and some others to hold on to the period.
Other cost-cutting ideas include suspending or scaling back a sabbatical program and ending a $5,000 bonus for certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
“It’s a bargaining strategy by the district, who is saying they don’t have the money for raises without cannibalizing other programs,” said Dennis Kelly, the president of United Educators of San Francisco, an affiliate of both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association that represents 6,000 teachers and classroom aides.
But Mr. Kelly believes that since the district gave Superintendent Arlene Ackerman a 12 percent raise last fall, money for teachers’ salaries and other programs like AP preparation periods should not be sacrificed. “What’s good for the goose,” he said, “is good for us little chickens, too.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2005 edition of Education Week as S.F. Eyes Cutting Prep Time for AP