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Articles: Professional Development

The Common Core State Standards are no longer coming—they are already here.

After serving as editor-in-chief and then executive editor of District Administration, and writing and editing for our sister education publication University Business more than a decade ago, it is an enormous privilege to step into a new role as columnist for both magazines and editor at large (my wife says it is more accurate to say editor at “extra-large”).

Many teachers will spend this summer learning classroom strategies to best align with upcoming Common Core standards.

Common Core is the topic teachers have requested most for summer professional development, says Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of professional development for Common Core State Standards. “Contrary to popular belief, the standards are not one size fits all,” she says.

Joseph Lopez, El Paso ISD’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, talks with the district’s Texas Literacy Initiative administrators. The program has been implemented in 39 of El Paso’s 94 schools to promote better reading and writing skills.

With more than 30 years of education experience, Joseph Lopez brought grant money and state funding to help grow student achievement.

With the Common Core standards comes an increasing focus on literacy across subjects: today, 77 percent of educators believe developing students’ literacy is one of the most important parts of their job, a new survey found.

“It’s much more widely understood today that every educator has a responsibility to improve student literacy, which is the gateway to learning in all disciplines,” says Kent Williamson, director of the National Center for Literacy Education, which conducted the survey of 2,400 educators nationwide.

• Establish clear expectations and
deadlines from the start

• Be in regular communication
with students, using whole group
and individual email, phone calls,
and chat features

• Guide students through projects,
activities and problems with
carefully-crafted directions

• Pay attention to online voice: be
positive, personal, professional,
and approachable

• Provide regular and timely feedback

• Model good online behavior and
encourage student reflection

• Listen to and learn from students

Students are doing less hand-raising and more clicking as online classes become increasingly popular in K12 instruction, both in combination with brick-and-mortar classrooms and in independent full-time virtual schools. “It’s exploding,” says Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online, a program of the nonprofit Education Development Center that works with educational organizations to develop online courses and professional development.

Raymond Lauk at Paul Revere Primary School teaching Literacy Through Laughter.

Being fired as chief of the Lyons Elementary School District in Illinois a decade ago was the best thing to happen to Raymond Lauk, at least career-wise. It forced him down a path to the corporate world, specifically GE Security, as the education solutions manager, which taught him how to focus and to later create better school environments.

Teachers faced with Common Core implementation must shift their instructional methods to align with new models for literacy and mathematics. At Pinellas County Schools in Largo, Fla., administrators are moving to a systemic professional development approach to better support staff during the transition.

The American Association of School Administrators is doing its part to improve leadership development. Between January and May, AASA consultants are providing professional development for principals and assistant principals in the Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools.

“People are thirsty for an opportunity to learn everything that belongs to their jobs, from budget and finances to curriculum and instruction to school operations,” says AASA Director of Leadership Development MaryAnn Jobe.

Most principals today are hard pressed to find time for the multitasking they are expected to do, from overseeing the daily operation of their schools and interacting with parents to evaluating teachers and providing them with professional development to do their jobs at a high level.

To teach Common Core effectively, teachers will have to share such teaching methods within their school districts, says Richard Vacca, professor emeritus of Kent State University and a co-author of Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum. “Traditional professional development was always kind of an add-on,” Vacca says. “The difference (with Common Core) is that it’s going to be ongoing and embedded within a district rather than” about bringing an outside person in, he says.

Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman (center, in red) helps TCCS students celebrate the opening of the school's new location in September.

The Teachers College Community School (TCCS), a university-assisted public pre-K8 school, opened the doors of its new permanent home in West Harlem, N.Y. in September. The school, which initially opened in fall of 2011 in a different location, represents a unique collaboration between the Columbia University Teachers College and the New York City Department of Education to provide a strong public education for members of the community, as well as education training for university students.

New Directions PD column

Educators pursuing professional development can learn anytime, anywhere, using personalized global classrooms with hand picked “teachers” and “textbooks.”

You have an open Tuesday night? Take up a live chat with Australian educators about math curriculum.

What about a long commute? Listen to a podcast about classroom evaluation.

In fact, online resources are so ubiquitous and accessible that we must ask if traditional, school-based PD will go the way of the Walkman and the Laserdisc.

Although best practices in student instruction and learning have evolved dramatically over the past couple of decades, new approaches to educator professional development have lagged behind considerably. The traditional whole group, one-size-fits-all strategy universally recognized as ineffective for teaching students, has too-long remained the status quo for many school and districts leaders.

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