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Sustained, Connected PD

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.

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