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Articles: Professional Development

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.

Digital literacy is certainly necessary for K12 students in order to succeed in school and beyond. However, instilling proficiency with technology can be challenging for students to learn and teaches to teach. Tools such as Learning.com’s easy-to-use instructional activities can aid teachers in ensuring their students are ready for the 21st century workforce.

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.

On July 30, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap, released a study that, according to David Keeling, vice president of communications, tells a story of systemic neglect for our nation’s best teachers.

In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers.

Professional development in the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified School District just got mobile—and we don’t mean tablets. In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers to become acquainted with new technology before it’s introduced in the classroom. The purpose of the bus, which was dubbed eCoach, is to create an innovative environment for professional development and to deliver this technology seamlessly across all 31 schools in the district.


Teachers need training, professional development, curriculum ideas, and avenues to brainstorm with peers—all at the right time to make an impact in their classroom. This DA Web seminar, originally presented on May 16, 2012, demonstrated how schools are using Blackboard Collaborate to set up synchronous PD sessions where teachers can learn and connect throughout the school year, without having to leave the classroom. The event featured case studies from Georgia’s Cobb County School District and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School.

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When I was a kid, not a week went by that I didn’t make a trip to the big library about a 25-minute drive from where I lived in rural western New Jersey. It was a love/hate thing for my mom; she loved that I loved the books and the learning that went with them, but it wasn’t always the easiest of rides after a long day at the desk of her 9-to-5 job. Still, she rarely said no.

Have you ever dreamed of experiencing a watershed moment in your field? Moments like the splitting of the atom or the landing of a man on the moon? If you're an educational leader, buckle up, because your moment is here. Schools are still experiencing the shockwaves of the Internet, a transformative global network that is radically changing how we think about learning and schooling. Moments like these are exhilarating, because our decisions matter so much.

The Virginia Beach Landstown High School and Technology Academy administration confers with lead teachers on the five dozen professional development opportunities offered to its faculty this past February.

At some level, principals always have been instructional leaders—but never before has their role been more prominent.

First, the accountability movement—No Child Left Behind in particular—thrust principals into the spotlight on academic achievement. Then budget cuts peeled away capacity at both the district and school levels, thinning the ranks of assistant superintendents, curriculum specialists and assistant principals, who shouldered some or most of the load.

Johnson (top row, center) with students in a welding certification intensive at Kodiak High School.

People hear “rural” and think endless woods and farmland connected by interstates and picturesque windy roads. But in parts of Alaska, rural can mean having to hop on a ferry or a small plane to get from place to place. Eight of the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s 14 schools are on small islands. Only 156 students attend these eight schools; the rest of the district’s students attend schools on Kodiak Island proper. The 21 teachers in these rural schools are required by the district to teach all subjects, making them akin to the teachers in one-room schoolhouses years ago.

Next school year, teachers will use diary maps to update their lessons based on student success.

About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.

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