Based on information from the Alexandria public schools, a story on T.C. Williams High School's school improvement program incorrectly reported on action involving funding for the program. The story should have said that a School Board-appointed panel of teachers, PTA members and school administrators made the final decision to fund the high school improvement program.
Teachers and administrators at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria have begun drawing up a program to lift flagging morale among teachers there.
Ever since former Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell's report "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform" was released two years ago, teachers have been put increasingly under public pressure to raise academic standards, school officials said.
"Expectations are higher from the outside, yet internally the structures haven't changed," said Juanita Illera, who heads T.C. Williams School Improvement Program, the group that is looking at school problems. "Maybe it's the same amount of demands as always, but it seems more demanding than ever."
The burden of raising test scores and overall academic achievement is in addition to the perennial problems of many teachers at T.C. Williams -- overcrowded classrooms, increased workloads for teachers due to new programs and extracurricular activities, discipline problems and an increasing number of immigrant students who need remedial instruction especially in English, Illera said.
"As a result, morale is lower," Illera said.
Those in the School Improvement Program hope to find how the old and new pressures on teachers are linked. Many believe that problems might be relieved by giving teachers a larger voice in operating the school. If the program is successful in bringing changes for the better, T.C. Williams may make the review program permanent, Illera said.
The major administrative change that could result from the program is a role for teachers in decisions about schedules, class assignments, subject assignments, choosing department heads and evaluating fellow teachers, all currently worked out by the principal and his administration.
Another possible change would give teachers four instead of the current five class periods a day, which would require hiring more teachers at an added expense to the school system.
"There's no question that it's going to cost money. It would be naive to think it wouldn't," Illera said.
Team teaching, where four teachers work with a group of 100 students over an extended period of time, is another possibility under consideration by the program's committee on instruction.
Teachers at T.C. Williams began drawing up the program in the spring after they visited Varina High School in Richmond, a school that started a pilot improvement program two years ago at the request of Gov. Charles Robb.
Other program proposals will be designed to reward excellent teachers. Currently the best teachers are rewarded by being taken from the classroom and put into higher paying administrative positions. At Varina, the best teachers continue to teach but also become "master teachers" who supervise and guide other teachers and then receive higher pay.
The program also will examine and possibly change the roles of top school administrators with the support of T.C. Williams Principal John Porter. For example, one idea under consideration by the committee on staff organization and structure, would make the principal the head of instruction, while administrative duties, such as student discipline and maintenance problems, might be divided among several teachers for extra pay, as is now done at Varina.
"I think we could do something like that," Porter said.
The staff organization committee chairwoman Helen Staren said that such a change would be among the hardest, simply because it's rarely been done before. But the shift in the role of principal from a total administrator would allow him more time to concentrate on instruction.
"I fully believe that if change comes through the teachers, it's going to be more lasting than coming from the top down," Porter said. "This has the potential to make some major changes."
So far, supporters of the School Improvement Program have recruited between 80 and 100 of the T.C. Williams' 175 teachers to serve on five committees: curriculum, instruction, management practices and policies, staff organization and communication.
The management practices committee, which deals with student discipline, plans to cut down on the number of unsupervised students, by providing an in-school suspension program. It will also seek ways to enforce the school's attendance and tardiness policy.
As an incentive to teachers, the Alexandria School Board voted to give $9,000 to be divided among those who participate in the program. Illera's request for $10,400 was voted down by the board. The group's goal is to involve 80 percent of the teachers, which would give each one a stipend of about $60 at the end of the school year.
"It's a token to indicate there's support from the central office for what we're doing," Illera said.
Although about half of the high school's teachers have attended weekly committee meetings to make preliminary proposals in each of the five areas, not everyone is interested, Illera said.
"Some people are skeptical. They see it as more demand on their time with no guarantee that things will change," Illera said.
The final School Improvement Program, intended to be long-range, will not be ready until end of the school year. Portions of the program will begin in fall of 1986, and budget requests for major changes must also wait until then.