In addition to distributing monies quickly to avert layoffs and stimulate job creation, a key principle that will guide the use of ARRA funds is improving student achievement through school improvement and reform. The Department is emphasizing improvements in teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of qualified teachers as well as providing support for the nation's lowest performing schools. Specifically, the legislation identifies developing teacher leaders as coaches and instructional leaders as one possible strategy. Therefore, these funds have the potential to significantly impact the reach and quality of professional learning for all educators. Given the time constraints surrounding this legislation, the funds must be used on one-time investments vs. programs with ongoing commitments. Most importantly, these funds must be applied in ways that demonstrate to the investors --the public -- a significant improvement in teaching and learning in schools.
In consideration of these parameters, NSDC has outlined some strategies that we believe have potential to meet these expectations:
- Prepare more instructional coaches by developing the knowledge and skills necessary to support improved educator practice and student learning.
- Prepare more teacher leaders to advance the NSDC definition of professional development.
- Contract with one or more external consultants to provide one-on-one technical assistance to principals to create new master schedules that enable collaborative teacher teams to engage in professional learning two or more times each week.
- Identify and support demonstration sites to serve as models of excellence in implementing effective professional learning.
- Provide two-years of intensive coaching and instructional leadership support for principals in low-performing schools.
- Provide two-years of intensive technical assistance and support for leadership teams in low-performing schools.
- Conduct a Professional Learning Audit; organize a local task force to critically review and assess the purpose, form, and results from professional development in the school district. Similarly, administer and use the results of NSDC's Standards Assessment Inventory.
- Organize, facilitate, and support volunteer teams of teachers who want to pilot the continuous cycle of improvement described in NSDC's definition of professional development. Contract with one or more external consultants or institutions of higher education to document and assess each team's experience.
Excerpt from this edition-
Providing Quality Professional Development and Career Options
Although there are many professional development opportunities made available for educators, the question remains whether these opportunities are targeted to improve teacher effectiveness. Targeted professional development requires the creation and implementation of a quality teacher evaluation system, as discussed below. The remaining challenge in professional development is to determine what opportunities states should offer and require. If a quality evaluation system is in place, information should be available to guide the offerings based on areas of challenge within the teaching community—either areas of individual challenge or topics from which a larger teaching population can benefit.
Examples of professional development focused on individual challenges include the following:
•Training and support to strengthen content knowledge
•Training in pedagogical techniques
Examples of professional development beneficial to a larger teaching population include the following:
•Research or technological advances or brain research advances that could affect teaching and learning
•Information or training specific to the context in which educators are functioning—large populations of English language learners or schools with a large population of culture/ethnic diversity.
Consistent findings enumerate the characteristics of quality professional development. When analyzing their professional development offerings, states should ensure that they embody these characteristics:
•Intensive and ongoing
•Linked to school vision and mission
Too often career options for teachers mean that advancement in their careers takes them out of the classroom. School districts and states should implement career opportunities that provide roles and opportunities for expert teachers that allow them to share their experience, knowledge, and skills to benefit the school and classrooms.
These types of roles could include the following:
•Creating teacher leadership opportunities in which teachers have a voice in policy and practice
•Utilizing excellent teachers as mentors
Creating Learning Communities
Numerous content- and pedagogy-related professional development offerings already exist in states. Increasingly, however, the creation of learning communities or communities of practice is identified as a positive professional development experience for teachers. States should work to analyze the policies and requirements in place for professional development and the processes by which they determine what professional development to offer and whether it has the characteristics listed above. In addition, states should consider whether they are too narrowly defining professional development in a manner that precludes the creation and support of learning communities and other collaborative learning opportunities for teachers.
Powerful Learning Practice Meets the Mark
The work Will and I are doing through Powerful Learning Practice meets most of these requirements. If you are looking for a strategic way to spend your PD dollars this may be a way to do that not only meets the NSDC's criteria for best practice but is grounded in Teacher Quality research and results in transformational change.