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Articles: Professional Development

Learning to lead: Teachers met in New York City in June to build initiatives they designed to improve their schools.

Teachers who have taken on school leadership roles across New York state gathered this past June for the first time to refine initiatives designed to improve their schools.

Professional development is a key component of any district, but what takes professional learning to the next level of engagement and effectiveness is being able to differentiate and personalize professional growth for each teacher or administrator. In the recent Personalized Professional Learning Survey sponsored by Performance Matters (formerly Truenorthlogic), over 500 educators from around the country shared their insights on best practices and challenges for creating a personalized professional learning climate in their school districts.

Teachers from Kettle Morain School District in Milwaukee complete a microcredential to receive a salary increase.

Few teachers receive individualized professional development, though many are expected to personalize learning for students. Microcredentials—digital badges that teachers earn by learning a skill and demonstrating mastery through student results—offer a PD pathway designed to be highly differentiated and engaging.

Many states and districts are facing unprecedented teacher shortages. As a result, many have implemented or are expanding existing programs that offer alternative routes to licensure or certification for those seeking to become teachers from another career.

Half of school districts nationwide believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required. (Click to enlarge)

The digital classroom is no longer a new concept—half of school districts nationwide believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required, according to the annual Digital School Districts Survey from the Center for Digital Education, published in March.

Yale lecturer Erika Christakis says kids do too much rote work in kindergarten.

Burdened by demands to show outcomes and achievement, early education classrooms are often reduced to scripted lessons and meaningless craft work that imparts little learning, Yale early childhood education lecturer Erika Christakis says in her book The Importance of Being Little.

Leighangela Brady is an assistant superintendent in the Encinitas USD. Lisbeth Johnson served nine years as superintendent of the Santee School District.

In their book, Transforming Ice Age Schools: A Practical Guide for School Leaders, Leighangela Brady and Lisbeth Johnson argue that, beyond superficial “fixes,” little has changed in the underlying structure of education. The result: students unprepared for the complex challenges that await them after high school.

Allison Stephens is a high school assistant principal near Philadelphia.

Teachers and administrators face tough challenges in education. Politicians are constantly trying to micromanage our practices, while accountability measures are abundant and budgets are tight. Coming to work isn’t always pleasant when it feels like the odds are stacked against us.

Barbara Blackburn is one of the nation’s foremost authors on student engagement and increasing rigor. Ronald Williamson is a professor of educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University.

Is there a motivation problem with teachers in your district? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common problem, particularly once the school year is under way and there are multiple demands on teacher time.

Superintendent Klint W. Willert, of Brookings School District in South Dakota, says schools will move away from high-stakes tests in 2016.

Klint W. Willert

Superintendent, Brookings School District, South Dakota

Topic: Testing & assessment

Trend: Student achievement is measured by more than a single assessment score. The trend of moving toward multiple measures, not just a test score, to determine the quality of a teacher, a school, and district will continue to resound with the voting public. People are joining a new TEA Party - Tested Enough Already.

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality (Click to enlarge)

The vast majority of states require student growth and achievement to be factored into teacher and principal evaluations.

But most states and districts are now grappling with the practical realities of implementing those policies, according to the October report “State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning” from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The new year may send familiar education challenges in new directions as administrators grapple with an uncertain testing landscape, staff shortages, the increased push for equity and constantly increasing charter competition.

Experts expect education budgets in most states to remain flat in 2016. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should uphold the current Title I formula (aiding two-thirds of U.S. states) but reduce competitive grants.

Joseph Renzulli is the director of the Neag Center For Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut.

Applying the pedagogy of gifted education to all classrooms can lead to total school improvement. That is the aim of my work, an enrichment-infusion process called the “schoolwide enrichment model,” or SEM.

“Curricular infusion” simply means that we do not argue with the reality of today’s standards and test-driven approaches to school improvement. Rather, we examine materials and teaching strategies that can make the prescribed curriculum more interesting and enjoyable.

Madera USD Superintendent Edward Gonzalez has given his 2,000-plus employees $500 each to pick their own professional development programs.

Superintendent Edward Gonzalez says teachers—and classified employees—can make wise decisions about the classroom and technical training they receive.So he gave each of his roughly 1,100 teachers $500 to spend as they choose on PD in 2014-15, and this year he extended that to classified employees.

L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.

With a windstorm of constant changes in education, are we forgetting some of the basics? I’m not talking about readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic.

Have we, through the fog of technology and the pressures of highstakes testing, simply forgotten some of the basic concepts that veteran educators once took for granted?

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