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Articles: Professional Development

In June 2010 DA magazine asked our advisory panel of administrators what their districts are doing for professional development as they face tighter budgets.

Professional development funding has taken a cut overall. According to DA's survey, 31 percent of administrators reported a decrease in professional development funding, and 38 percent said professional development was only available because of federal grants.

From selecting appropriate curricula and teachers to providing classrooms with bathrooms easily accessible to 4-year-olds, public preschool programs present challenges to districts that run the programs, which are designed to prepare children to get off to a good start when they enter kindergarten.

With a national teacher shortage projected to start peaking this year as baby boomers retire and budget shortfalls restrict state and local funding for teachers, rural school districts are working to keep the teachers they have while seeking new ones at little if any additional cost.

In the six years since her appointment as superintendent of Volusia County (Fla.) School District—a district that has 63,000 students in 16 cities, including Daytona Beach, in the heart of Florida's east coast—Margaret Smith has had her share of success. But what makes her so different from other superintendents is her ability to reach out.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is focused on reforming its teacher recruitment, evaluation and training systems, along with better coordinating its student services. In both goals, the district is being helped by elements of the business community, including a billionaire philanthropist and some MBA students.

For high school students, college admissions counseling and postsecondary school planning have become increasingly intricate. In response, many school districts have invested in counseling programs developed to educate students and families regarding issues such as conducting the college search, testing, career guidance, application procedures, essay preparation and interviews. For many students, the postsecondary planning process is a significant part of their junior and senior years in high school.

When Charles Soriano enrolled in classes a few years ago in the Mid-Career Doctorate in Educational Leadership program at the University of Pennsylvania, he was already an accomplished school administrator. Assistant superintendent of schools in the East Hampton (N.Y.) Union Free School District, Soriano had two master’s degrees—in English literature and educational leadership—and had served on state panels and advisory committees. He wasn’t satisfied and chose to pursue professional development. “I really believe school leadership is a craft,” he says.

I’ve often wondered what the response would be if we asked the kids in our schools to reflect on how their teachers learn. Not on how much they know or how creative they might be, but on how they learn—what their process is,what their passions are. My guess is that few if any of those teachers have made their own learning transparent to their students to any great degree.

What constitutes a 21st-century education? The answers vary (Walser, 2008), but 10 states have already adopted the framework used by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (www.21stcenturyskills.org), and more states are preparing to do so. The Partnership’s Framework for 21st Century Learning specifies student outcomes in four areas:

 

When Alamo Heights (Texas) Independent School District opened in 1909 as a rural, two-room wooden-frame school, who would have thought that 96 years later its students would become teachers to their own parents?

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