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Professional Development Practices

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.

Authentic Intellectual Work – 2016

Ar-We-Va Junior-Senior High School

Ar-We-Va Junior-Senior High School (Westside, IA). Our approach to professional development is aligned to the Iowa CORE standards and benchmarks and the Iowa CORE Characteristics of Effective Instruction and is based on the Iowa Professional Development Model (IPDM). The IPDM framework includes peer collaboration, researched-based instructional practices, modeling, observation, and personal accountability. The goal of the IPDM is to provide teachers with high-quality professional development that will positively affect student achievement. Our professional development goals and focus are determined by our data. Each spring, our staff analyzes our data from throughout the year and develops building goals aligned to our district goals. Our professional development is delivered on early-out days that occur twice a month and two full days throughout the year. Professional development initiatives are determined, planned, and delivered cooperatively by teachers and administrators. Given various student needs, constant policy changes, and multiple developments in pedagogy, we have made a conscious effort to avoid fragmented initiatives that result in shallow learning. We are committed to align efforts to a single focus for three to five years.

The district’s current professional development initiative is Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW). The goal of AIW is to improve student achievement through teacher collaboration to improve student tasks, teacher instruction, and the quality of student work. AIW rubrics guide teams as they discuss classroom practice and provide quality feedback to teachers. The first year four teachers and the principal were trained as the AIW anchor team, and one teacher volunteered to become a certified local coach to provide sustained AIW support in the district. The following year AIW was rolled out to all of 6th-12th grade staff. Although we are only in our second full year of AIW, the district has seen positive results in student achievement. In addition to building professional development, teachers also establish Individual Career Development Plans and are accountable for the learning defined by these plans through a formal evaluation process.

Ongoing PD; Special PD for New Teachers – 2016

Helemano Elementary School

Helemano Elementary School (Wahiawa, HI). Highly trained medical professionals treat patients in intensive care units. Likewise, Title I schools require highly-trained teachers to effectively meet the needs of their students. As a Title I school, our professional development must be fine-tuned to meet our students’ needs. Professional development at Helemano Elementary is designed to develop capacity at the school level and focus on the most essential professional development needs. Our school follows a consistent professional development process. The principal and curriculum coaches identify areas of need through student assessment data, teacher needs surveys, and classroom walkthroughs. The principal and curriculum coaches read professional literature, attend presentations conducted by the district and state, and meet with consultants. After careful consideration of the needs of our students and teachers, the curriculum coaches introduce the most pertinent information to the faculty. Changes in teacher practice often do not take place immediately after a presentation. Therefore, our academic and financial plan supports ongoing professional development sessions facilitated by curriculum coaches to support all teachers in mapping out their curriculum, crafting learning activities, and creating common formative and summative assessments. Curriculum coaches model or co-teach lessons, observe teachers, and provide feedback to ensure effective implementation of new initiatives.

This professional development process has been most recently used to successfully transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and implement Thinking Maps, Multisensory Structured Language/Orton Gillingham (MSL-OG), as well as the state-adopted Wonders literacy series and Stepping Stones math series.

In addition to this general professional development process, we offer professional development specifically for new teachers. Our induction and mentoring system is a comprehensive three-year professional development program aligned to district and state guidelines. It is designed to meet the needs of every new teacher at Helemano Elementary. Through monthly seminars, observations of exemplary teachers at the school, teacher reflection, and analysis of student work, the professional development focuses on developing a new generation of teachers who are prepared to meet the unique and diverse challenges of working in a Title I school. The most recent School Quality Survey (SQS) results validate the quality of professional development support provided to teachers. The data from the SQS indicated that 100% of teachers agree the school provides them with the support they need to do their job well. In our Title I school, we know the value of providing focused and ongoing professional development to sustain student achievement.