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When Kristie Autrey became curriculum director for Mitchell County School District in North Carolina, and learned the state had partnered with Learning Ally, she jumped at the chance to implement it.

How can district administrators make more efficient, effective and strategic decisions?

Two years ago, the Mehlville School District in suburban St. Louis passed a tax levy that included dedicated funding for professional development and strategic plans focusing on middle school STEM programs. For Tina Plummer, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Mehlville, that meant implementing the STEM Innovator program with Discovery Education, where staff had ongoing professional development and coaching focused on STEM education and career opportunities.

Students in seventh-grade math classes are not necessarily ready for seventh-grade math. They may be rusty in concepts taught in sixth grade, or ready for high-level applications covered in high school.

That is why the ALEKS® personalized learning program from McGraw-Hill Education is an integral part of the math curriculum in Oak Creek-Franklin middle schools, says Annalee Bennin, director of curriculum and assessment for the southeastern Wisconsin district.

In the 10 years leading up to Madison School District’s latest math curriculum update, state standards had changed almost too often to count. So it is understandable that the Phoenix-based district would welcome a program that ensured all material complied with current standards. 

The small rural district of United Local Schools in northeast Ohio has seen its math scores increase in the eight years it has used Everyday Mathematics® in its elementary school classrooms.

In 2015-16, the first school year in which all sixth-grade students had used Everyday Mathematics since kindergarten, those students scored 26.8 percentage points higher than the state average in state math tests. Yet the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

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. 

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