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Articles: Professional Development

Eighth-grade honors students work on a physics experiment to determine the acceleration of marbles. The district is focusing on improving science literacy, through professional development.

Two-thirds of California’s elementary school teachers feel unprepared to teach science, according to High Hopes—Few Opportunities, a study of science teaching and learning that was conducted recently by the University of California at Berkeley. On the state science test administered to fifth-graders last year, only 55 percent achieved or exceeded proficiency in the subject. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, California ranked near the bottom in fourth-grade science scores.

On Feb. 23, Steven Anderson, instructional technologist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools, celebrated his three-year anniversary—on Twitter. Anderson began exploring Twitter in 2009 as a way of finding people with similar interests, opposing views, and resources on integrating technology in the classroom to share with teachers and staff in his district of 57,000 students.

We asked District Administration Advisory Panel members “how can district technology leaders create a well-balanced team, and who should be included?” Here’s what some some members had to say:

The Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District dream team solves problems. Clockwise from top left: Robert Lane, Robert Rhyne, Frank Mukina, Scott Smith, Jeff Martin, Kim Cline and Michael Hiskey.

At almost every turn over the past decade—from innovative instructional technologies to advanced database management—administrators and teachers have discovered a brave new world in education. But a host of experts in educational technology say that for all the progress in districts so far, that world is becoming markedly braver and newer—and in a hurry.

A World-Class Education: Learning From International Models of Excellence and Innovation stewart
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Calvert County

While much of the predictive analysis in K12 districts today determines student achievement, some districts are taking it a step further to determine teacher effectiveness. After all, Race to the Top funds require districts to base teacher evaluation in part on student achievement.

Maria G. Ott on May 15, 2011, the opening day of Rowland's Blandford Elementary School.

Known for its cultural diversity, Rowland Unified School District (RUSD) in Rowland Heights, Calif., takes the “unified” in its name very seriously, says Superintendent Maria G. Ott—so seriously that the district’s mission statement calls Rowland’s “progressive international community” one that is “united in learning.”

We haven’t seen this big a change in education in 500 years. Every learner with an Internet connection can build a personalized, global network of people and information. It’s a shift that Robert Darnton, a Harvard University history professor, compares to watershed moments like the invention of the printing press. To stay current, every educator needs to dive into these networks ASAP. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”

In Garrison, N.Y., along the banks of the Hudson River, lies a renovated monastery that is home to the Garrison Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to contemplative teaching, which focuses on inner healing and awareness. Over 150 teachers from around the U.S. gathered in early November at this scenic retreat for a symposium, “Advancing the Science and Practice of Contemplative Learning.”

The lack of stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] educators is a national crisis, according to education leaders such as Martha Cyr, executive director of the newly created STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. So WPI is one of many higher education institutions nationwide focusing on preparing its undergraduates to teach STEM topics inside the classroom and, ultimately, prepare students for careers in science or math.

The concept of an open-door policy has deep meaning in the school district serving Mason County, a large pocket of northeastern Kentucky that comprises everything from rural farms to low-income housing projects in Maysville, the county seat. Each of Mason County School District’s 2,900 K12 students can expect an informal visit at home, every summer, from their teacher, or “advocate,” for the upcoming year.

On a district-wide professional development day, a consultant presents to an auditorium of 250 teachers and conducts follow-up sessions with smaller groups throughout the day. The event is chock-full of information, and the teachers feel good about the resources and skills they have learned. The consultant departs at the end of the day knowing she has done her job. However, the teachers do not get the time to reflect and practice the skills learned, and their excitement about the new information soon wanes.

Teachers are more likely to stay in a school run by a principal of the same race as they, according to a new study released by the University of Missouri (UM). The study also reports that when teachers share the same race as their principal, they experience higher job satisfaction in terms of compensation and intangible benefits such as administrative support and encouragement. The study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management in September, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Paul Romero, CIO of Rio Rancho (N.M.) Public School District, underlines the importance of constant communication with his superintendent, IT staff and principals for his district’s success. Romero has been with the district, which is 20 miles north of Albuquerque with 15,000 students across 19 schools, for four years, but he has served in other districts in different capacities, including teaching. Romero believes that his firsthand knowledge of what goes on inside the classroom enables him and his team to tackle any IT problem, large or small.

This article is a republication with permission of "Effective Teaching as a Civil Right: 
How Building Instructional Capacity Can Help Close the Achievement Gap," by Linda Darling-Hammond, Voices in Urban Education no. 31 (Fall 2011), published by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University in collaboration with the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, University of California Berkeley School of Law.

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