December 13, 2023

Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) Survey Highlights Educators Overwhelming Workloads and Safety Concerns in Denver Public Schools (DPS): 

DENVER, CO – In response to the concerns raised by its members, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) conducted a survey to better understand the most significant challenges faced by educators in the Denver Public Schools (DPS). Over 2,600 educators participated in the survey, providing their feedback on many topics, including professional development training, workload, school safety, healthy start times, and substitute coverage.

Survey Highlights:

  • School Safety/Discipline: While schools have improved their safety plans overall (70% of educators stated they did not receive discipline plans in the Spring of 2023),  about 48% indicated their school lacks a detailed safety plan familiar to staff.  Respondents indicated they are more familiar with how to properly handle instances of outside violence compared to students that display behaviors reflective of types 4, 5 and 6 on the current discipline matrix. Despite 89% of schools using restorative practices in their discipline plans, 79% of respondents indicated that they received 0-1 hours of restorative practice training. 
  • Safety Needs: Consistent with the DCTA safety survey in the Spring, respondents expressed overwhelming support for smaller class sizes and caseloads and a full complement of student mental health supports to feel safe in schools. This was followed by less paperwork and more student and educator contact time. Metal detectors and school resource officers ranked lowest in priority for feeling safe at a combined 10%. 
  • Time for Required Training: This year educators have been sent additional district mandated training modules via email. 80% of respondents reported that district mandated training takes place mostly outside the 40-hour work week or during self-directed planning time. More than half had to use personal or planning time for the Intersections of Equity Training. Three-quarters reported completing additional Equity Modules Trainings during personal or self-directed planning time. We’ve expressed the importance of integrating the equity training into a school’s professional development plan. Equity work should be done collaboratively and meaningfully instead of in isolation. 
  • Professional Development Units (PDUs): Since the 2022 bargaining cycle, DCTA has been advocating with DPS to change policy regarding the PDU Guidelines to make PDUs more accessible to educators. 52% of respondents indicated that they did not complete PDUs due to time constraints and school based professional development. Lack of available PDUs in specific departments, such as special education, was also mentioned. 85% of survey takers indicated willingness to take PDUs if they were allowed school time to complete two or more components. 
  • Substitute Coverage/Contingency Plans: DPS has seen a significant substitute crisis since the pandemic. DPS administration has stated that they have made gains in substitute coverage. 69% of respondents indicated they are invoking contingency plans daily or at least once a week due to a lack of substitutes or staffing within the school. This is impacting 63% of educators in terms of their overall workload.

The survey findings highlight significant challenges for educators, including overwhelmingly high workloads caused by large class sizes and caseloads, and an excessive amount of professional development training. They urge the district to reconsider certain training requirements that don’t directly benefit students. A majority of educators are utilizing planning time and personal time to complete professional development and they are requesting reimbursement or dedicated workday time for completion.

“Educators, already stretched thin, are overwhelmed by excessive professional development demands. We urge the district to review and eliminate unnecessary training requirements that don’t directly benefit students,” said Rob Gould, special education teacher and president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. “Treating us as professionals means providing the time or compensation necessary to complete our job requirements.”

Similar to challenges in professional development, educators face large class sizes and limited support, narrowing their ability to meet students’ needs. Member concerns were also mentioned about the development of the unreleased revised discipline matrix, about increasing permissibility without sufficient support, exacerbating existing challenges.

“Educators remain steadfast in their belief that every student deserves a high-quality education with a full complement of wraparound supports regardless of their race, background or zip code. When classrooms are overcrowded, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure that every student’s needs are met,” Gould adds. “With the upcoming release of the new DPS discipline matrix, there’s a growing concern that it might become more permissive without offering the necessary support for students, further stretching educators thin. ”