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At the fast-growing Manor Independent School District located outside of Austin, Texas, over 38 percent of students are English language learners. These students are expected to master the same standards as their native English-speaking peers. Meredith Roddy, Director of Bilingual and ESL Programs, is tasked with closing the achievement gap between ELL students and native English-speaking students.

“I think of it as an opportunity,” says Roddy. “It’s about finding the right resources to engage ELL students with language and content area learning.”

While innovations typically involve a high degree of novelty and a paradigm shift, tried-and-true best practices often serve as their launch pad and rocket fuel.

In designing and selecting professional development opportunities that harness and reflect best practices in education, there are four key elements for a high-quality experience: authenticity, contextual learning, a creative climate, and reflection and transference.

Two years ago, Elizabeth Rincon was seeking to end the last-minute scramble to cull professional development for approximately 125 special education paraprofessionals on days when teachers had preplanned PD.

“Principals had to either swiftly get something together for paraprofessionals in terms of PD or they would email me and I would have to quickly plan a PD module,” says Rincon, director of special education for Timberlane Regional School District in southern New Hampshire.

How closely is professional development linked to student achievement?

Professionalism expects learning to be in the collective. We should think of our own learning and growth as part of a mutually beneficial ongoing professional development process. A big part of that idea is that we share and become more transparent in our practice as educators. 

When Mark MacLean became superintendent of the Merrimack Valley and Andover School Districts in New Hampshire four years ago, he wanted to find an online solution for teacher evaluation that could also link to professional development.

After some research with his leadership team, MacLean found TeachPoint, which offers a Professional Development Tracking Solution that also enables districts to link ongoing professional development with its Educator Evaluation Solution. MacLean decided to use the Evaluation Solution on its own for one year before adding the PD Tracking Solution.

When it comes to professional development, Regina Teat believes building the instructional capacity of every instructor and classroom teacher is the most effective use of time and money of any program, especially using grant funding.

“When the money goes away, the capacity and knowledge through good professional development for the teacher remains,” says Teat, Director of Elementary Education and Title I & II for Dorchester County Public Schools, a rural district located on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Timothy Collier has been teaching high school mathematics for more than 30 years, most of them at McAlester High School in southeast Oklahoma, where he is the department chair. State budget cuts have affected McAlester High School and the district’s eight other schools, especially in the area of professional development for teachers, who were facing shifting state standards in math and science.

School districts know that “sit-and-get” professional development isn’t working and can have extreme consequences, such as high teacher turnover and poor student performance. To combat this, across the country there is an ongoing, rapid evolution of professional development to be more personalized. While change in education is often slow, this long-overdue advancement is quickly taking shape. 

Elementary teachers at Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut, leverage data they gather through observation and evaluation, as well as test scores, to drive classroom math instruction. The technology in their math curriculum, McGraw-Hill Education’s Everyday Mathematics 4®, allows teachers to easily record data and provides detailed reports they use to identify students that might be struggling to master specific state standards, as well as those that are ready for a challenge.

How does children’s play behavior on school and community playgrounds contribute to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development?