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Professional Development Practices

Coaching Rounds – 2018

University of Hartford Magnet SchoolUniversity of Hartford Magnet School (West Hartford, CT). University of Hartford Magnet School (UHMS) implements coaching rounds at each grade level. A week prior to the coaching round, the grade level team examines class data to determine a focus area. Then the Coach researches best practices to address the identified need and shares the plan and rationale with the team prior to instruction. On the first day of the rounds, the Coach is the lead teacher in a class while the other teachers conduct a focused observation. The team reconvenes during a debrief, and the lead teacher reflects on the effectiveness of the lesson and the team poses questions and shares their feedback. Based on the shared observations, the team then works collaboratively to map out the following day’s lesson for the next lead teacher. Each teacher becomes a lead teacher for a day. UHMS has seen benefits in changes in Tier I instruction, elevated confidence in teachers’ instructional practices, an increase in collegiality, and gains in student performance. Teachers report feeling more at ease exposing their vulnerabilities and seeking advice and support from one another. Teachers leave coaching rounds with new strategies, a clear plan for their own professional development, and a newfound trust in their teammates.

Impact of Teacher Leadership Development – 2018

Proviso Math and Science AcademyProviso Mathematics and Science Academy (Forest Park, IL). The school’s administration believes in “Teacher Leadership in Exchange for Accountability.” A team of teachers worked with administration to develop a project to build teacher leadership capacity through three activities. The activities include: distributive leadership through the development of a School Leadership Team, introduction of grade level lead teachers, and teacher-led professional development. Teacher-led professional development substantially built the capacity for teacher leadership. Teachers interested in leading professional development, aligned with school goals, had to submit a written proposal to the principal at least five weeks prior to the proposed activity. PMSA administration and department chairs provided general oversight, scheduling, and monitoring of the effectiveness of the teacher-led professional development. These activities led a successful translation to school goals and instructional growth plans that included research-based best practices and data analysis. The project’s effectiveness was measured by positive evaluations, optimized teacher participation, and strong gains on teacher leadership indicators on the 2017 Illinois 5 Essentials Survey. PMSA has deduced that teacher collaboration is the most powerful form of professional development. The project accomplished its ultimate goals: increase teacher efficacy and create a healthier overall school culture that leads to increased student growth and academic achievement.

Fish Bowl Lesson Development – 2018

Cedar Lane ESCedar Lane Elementary School (Middletown, DE). Cedar Lane implements lesson studies that include grade-level teachers collaborating to create a single lesson to be used team-wide. After the creation of a lesson, a full grade-level of teachers participate in a fish bowl lesson study. This includes one teacher using the lesson with her students while colleagues observe. After the first round of instruction, the team meets to debrief and discuss enhancements/changes needed to strengthen instructional planning and delivery. After editing the lesson, a different teacher uses the newly revised lesson with their class while colleagues again observe. The framework around this experience is based on the student’s needs and what specifications the team has set forth. Teachers are always eager to participate in fish bowl studies as it gives them the opportunities for immediate feedback and implementation of new strategies in real time.

Visitation Posting Board and a TLC – 2017

Photo of Massapequa High School

Massapequa High School (Massapequa, NY). Massapequa High School encourages staff members to learn from one another. For instance, currently the teachers participate in a “Pineapple Chart” process where they open-up their classrooms, announce lesson subjects via a posting board, and welcome colleagues to visit. These activities impact students as they witness staff professional growth efforts, and ultimately benefit from enhanced classroom practices.

Successful technology integration is the result of targeted and sustained professional development. Understanding teachers and students need assistance in their use of instructional technology, the school committed to ensuring access to many levels of technology assistance. A dedicated Technology Learning Coach (TLC) meets with individual teachers, groups of teachers, and curriculum departments on a daily basis. Using open appointment slots on a shared Google calendar, teachers are free to book time with the TLC when interested in learning how to integrate specific tools. The coach also leads instructional sessions during professional development periods. In addition, teachers are invited to attend Model Schools technology sessions that are offered after school.

Addressing Student Behavior – 2017

Photo of Fishing Cove Elementary School

Fishing Cove Elementary School (North Kingstown, RI). At Fishing Cove, professional development addresses student behavior, both inside and outside of school. Two years ago, the school dedicated a large amount of professional development funds to train every teacher, teacher assistant, and all specialist educators in Open Circle. This training increased the school’s capacity to support students’ regulation of their behavior and solve problems. Teachers attended multiple days of training, incorporated the strategies into their classrooms, and received one-on-one mentoring from Open Circle in their classrooms to solidify their instructional practices.

When this training yielded positive results throughout the school, teachers requested more. The Center for Resilience visited the school to coach teachers on how to use mindfulness techniques in the classrooms. Grades 1 and 2 teachers found the training so helpful that their professional growth goals now center on this topic. Each month, they share new mindfulness strategies at the monthly staff meetings. The Rhode Island Healthy Schools Initiative funded a comprehensive Playworks training focused on positive student activities and interactions during recess. The Fishing Cove Playworks Team continues to attend training sessions to increase student engagement on the playground.

Low Budget Solutions – 2017

Photot of Grove Valley Elementary

Grove Valley Elementary (Edmond, OK). As the lowest in General Fund funding of any school district in Oklahoma, Grove Valley must be very creative and purposeful when it comes to professional development. Each week, the faculty meets for Late Start Wednesday – a district-designated one-hour time slot. During this time, teachers participate in Professional Learning Communities and review student data, develop common assessments, share feedback about What I Need (W.I.N.) time, and discuss Instructional Round presentations. The principal conducts “Virtual Instructional Rounds” through classroom walkthroughs and videotapes examples of best instructional practices. Other Instructional Rounds include one team of teachers observing other teachers in the building for approximately twenty minutes. The Grove Valley Instructional Framework guides the identification of best pedagogical practices in the classrooms. Teachers are videoing effective practices they observe while on Instructional Rounds and sharing during Late Start PLC’s. Also, during this time, teachers provide short presentations delivering information on Marzano’s 41 elements of most effective teaching strategies.

In addition, the school has two Swivls, which is a robotic platform used for recording presentations or class lectures. Teachers connect these to their iPads and use a Swivl app to video themselves teaching. These videos can be used for self-reflection and growth. Teachers share their videos during Late Starts to create dialogue about strategies that are working well with their students.

The result of the building embedded professional development has been powerful and positive. Teacher evaluations continue to improve across the building. Since implementation, teachers have become more collaborative, and the school credits the rise of our student test scores to this. Teacher retention has also improved.

Planning Based on Data Points – 2017

Photo of Riverwatch Middle School

Riverwatch Middle School (Suwanee, GA). Each school year, the Riverwatch Professional Development Plan supports goals outlined by the School Improvement Plan. The goals are based on a variety of data points, including standardized test scores, College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) ratings, Student Health Surveys, and Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) ratings. From this data, teachers and administrators develop a CCRPI Goal, Academic/Instructional Goal, and Climate Goal. These objectives then serve as the guiding principles behind the annual professional development plan.

Since, Georgia Milestones data indicated a need for greater focus on writing instruction across explanatory and argumentative genres, a portion of the professional development plan was devoted to training Enrichment and Social Studies teachers in Data-Based-Questioning. Similarly, data from the Student Health Survey showed students were struggling with connecting with adults at school, anxiety, and peer relations. Based on the research of character education programs, Riverwatch trained staff on Habitudes, a youth leadership curriculum. Based on the TKES ratings data, staff needed further professional development on the standards of Assessment Strategies and Assessment Uses, so Riverswatch provided both workshops and targeted observation feedback. These targeted efforts, based on data from a variety of sources, have impacted teacher practices, student writing performance, and student character development.

A Palette of PD Offerings – 2016

Center City PCS Congress Heights Campus

Center City PCS Congress Heights Campus (Washington, DC). Center City is committed to professional development of its staff and leaders. We provide extensive professional development opportunities, including workshops, professional learning communities, and coaching to improve the quality of instruction.

Center City PCS Pre-Service August 10 – 28: Four days of these three weeks were district-wide dates dedicated to team/campus building initiatives as well as our two focus areas, school culture and instruction aligned to the Common Core. Six days were spent with staff at individual campuses with extensive sessions on school culture, instruction, and classroom environment. Center City had an additional week of professional development dedicated to Teach Like a Champion strategies, implementation, and norming around expectations and usage of the strategies.

District-Wide Full-Day Professional Development: Center City has full-day all-organization professional development days where we gather all six campus teams to disseminate strategies, priorities, and provide professional learning community time (PLCs). Some themes that Center City focused on were: SPED Growth and Compliance, Teach Like a Champion (TLAC) and GLAAD training, K-3 ELA, Close the Achievement Gap by 3rd grade, School Culture: No Nonsense Nurturer, Character Education, and Restorative Justice. These full-day sessions were divided into half-day sessions; each provided teachers and leaders with new content and time to apply the content to their practices. Additionally, teachers of the same grade-level and/or content had professional learning community planning time.

Weekly Campus-Based Professional Development: Campus-based professional development extends the organizational priorities to the campus level to meet the needs of all students at specific campuses.  Additionally, some PLCs spend time addressing the data cycle of benchmark assessments. Teachers review data reports, detailing class and individual student performance, and wrong-answer analysis. At data meetings, teachers work in teams to determine instructional takeaways and to create a plan for targeted re-teach and interventions.

Weekly Grade-Band Professional Learning Communities: Grade band PLCs (PK-1st, 2nd-5th grade, and 6th-8th grade), are the primary way of ensuring consistency and communication, and problem-solving among all members of a grade-band team. PLCs alternate to address specific student issues, review student work, plan, review PBIS systems, and push instructional practice. Standard meeting protocols ensure consistency across the district. Grade-band meetings are facilitated by a school leader and/or a teacher-leader.

Observation and Feedback: Observations provide feedback on specific areas including instruction, management, assessment, and discipline as well as data crucial to instruction to help teachers improve. They also help teachers meet organizational and professional goals and provide tangible data for annual reviews based on the CCPCS Evaluation System. All teachers have at least 16 informal and at least two formal observations across the school year.

Teacher Leader Fellowship Center City’s Teacher Leader Fellowship (TLF), launched in SY 14-15, provides professional development to improve pedagogy and leadership skills and is one pathway to campus leadership. These teachers take on additional responsibilities, such as mentoring new teachers and leading professional development; they receive a stipend for this work.

Principal and Assistant Principal Professional Development: Center City’s principals and assistant principals also receive coaching and professional development on capacity building, instructional pedagogy, curriculum and Common Core-oriented observational skills, and a consultancy practice. They also engage bi-weekly in data analysis, teacher feedback reflection, and collaborative strategic planning.

Teachers College – 2016

Chapel Hill Elementary School

Chapel Hill Elementary School (Gladstone, MO). The development of lifelong learners at Chapel Hill applies not only to our students but also to our staff. Teachers participate in district-provided monthly PD modules to refine instruction and ensure fidelity to district expectations. The building Teaching and Learning Coach (TLC) presents these modules, giving teachers opportunities to collaborate vertically and apply the PD to the school’s specific needs. Teachers implement new ideas from the modules and reflect on their impact during weekly professional learning team (PLT) meetings with the TLC. Coaching cycles offered by the TLC enhance professional growth and student achievement by providing a scaffolded instructional model. During coaching cycles, the TLC and teacher work together to meet specific goals.

In addition to professional development sessions, there are many opportunities for Chapel Hill staff to refine their individual skills. Teachers are invited to periodic sessions led by consultants who model lessons in classrooms across the district. All teachers have the option to visit demonstration classrooms throughout the year, offering a closer approximation to their own instructional environment. Each summer, four teachers from Chapel Hill attend a week-long Teachers College on refining literacy instruction. Two teachers from every grade level participate in Math Solutions, learning how to increase the rigor and relevance of math instruction. This year’s Math Solutions training is focused on action research, allowing teachers to target their students’ specific needs. When teachers attend unique professional development experiences, they share the information and strategies with their PLTs, which affects the entire student population. The district-wide New Teacher Cohort Program for first- and second-year teachers meets monthly and offers opportunities for members to observe veteran teachers, be observed by mentors, and receive feedback about their instruction. Each new teacher is paired with one of Chapel Hill’s veteran teachers as their mentor. Chapel Hill teachers continue to support each other long after the Cohort Program ends. Summer Academy and Professional Growth Courses (PGC) are offered as optional professional development to teachers who strive for innovation and improvement. Many Chapel Hill teachers participate, both as teachers and learners. A Summer Academy provides differentiated professional development connected to district initiatives. Teachers choose their courses during this week-long learning summit. Summer Academy courses are led by professional consultants, district leaders, and teachers. PGCs are multi-session courses offered throughout the year by district teachers with master’s degrees, which include many Chapel Hill teachers.

Sustained, Connected PD – 2016

Williams Yates Elementary School

Williams Yates Elementary School (Independence, MO). The district strongly believes that instruction and learning are improved through participation in high-quality PD. District curriculum and instruction team members tasked with designing and implementing professional-learning activities cull available best practices research to identify evidence-based, manageable, and practical programming applicable to most educational settings (Pathways; Reading, Writing, and Math Workshop; Instructional Technology Tuesdays; Summer Institutes with graduate credit; Leader in Me, PLTW, and E/LA lab implementations). The district conducts professional development with an eye to what staff already know and builds on that expertise to improve craft, as opposed to pouring in new content and expecting things to be instantly successful. Just as student mastery of skills occurs over many days and lessons, teachers benefit from sustained, connected professional development over time. A unique aspect of our PD is that all activities are subject to rigorous evaluation (exit surveys, assessment data tracking), studied critically to determine impact, and shared so best practices can spread to more staff and schools. At different times throughout the school year and their tenure, WYE teachers experience significant support, including novice teacher induction training; mentoring; modeling; dedicated instructional coaching and content expert time; collegial collaboration, observation, and classroom practice discussion opportunities within and beyond the school (e.g., PD days, institutes, and conferences; a federal Education Department Science School Improvement Grant; and immersion in research-oriented settings (onsite E/LA lab). Additional structures to assure strong PD is part of the regular, continuous work of teaching, including: a district evaluation system that identifies strengths and weaknesses in practice and aligns expectations with core content addressed by the Missouri Learning Standards; creation and collection of best practices and assessment resources for broad dissemination and use by teachers to maintain and improve classroom instruction; and adapting the organizational structure of the school day to support better teaching (e.g., in-district workshops, school collaboration days, Leader in Me Lighthouse sessions). WYE staff acknowledge that time has long passed when teachers can simply walk into classrooms, close the door, and “wing it” alone. They also realize that to become better at their work, observation, sharing, and coaching in authentic, job-embedded learning with in-house and contracted content experts must occur.