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Articles: Professional Development


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.

Diane Ullman Superintendent, Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools

Diane Ullman has been the superintendent of the Simsbury Public Schools, a nationally recognized top-performing district, since 2004. Prior to this, she served as the assistant executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). She also served for seven years as the assistant superintendent of the Farmington (Conn.) School District.

Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are:

Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis are recognized as the leading experts in differentiated instruction.

The term “talent development” has historically been associated only with gifted education in the K12 eduation world. But for the past 30 years, husband and wife team Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis have been steadily increasing the pool of educators trained to apply talent development practices to mainstream instruction through the Renzulli Learning Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).

Don’t Forget Education

Former West Va. Gov. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, has urged the presidential candidates to not forget about education policies in the 2012 election. A College Board poll says education is behind the economy and jobs in top issues.

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Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District

Scott Smith once led efforts for North Carolina’s technology educators, when he served as president of the N.C. Technology in Education Society (NCTIES), the state’s affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. Now, he is chief technology officer for the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District—a suburban town located 20 miles north of Charlotte. It’s one of the only public school districts in the country to issue laptops to every student in grades 3-12.

I’m not a Luddite, or even a technophobe. I just don’t have time to waste on technology that promises the world but fails to deliver. I’m the “show me” administrator, the doubting Thomas of school leaders. I write not about the latest and greatest technology for those administrators on the avant garde. Rather, this is a cautionary tale about letting the digital cognoscenti dash ahead to pastures new while we figure out how tried and tested technology can help us now.

Arne Duncan, RESPECT, teachers

In 2002, Andrew Moore, the science and society program manager at the European Molecular Biology Organization in Germany, wrote a report following the first PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) assessment, “Learning from PISA.” Moore writes that to inspire students to remain competitive, our teachers in turn must also be trained with rigor and widely respected, as is the case in many countries around the globe, many of which outperform the U.S.

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