High Quality Professional Development
Finding and Implementing the Right Resources
Most educators agree on the importance of continuing professional development programs. The National Education Association, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future have suggested that on-going professional development is critical for teachers to meet the challenges of a growing and diverse number of students. Despite a general consensus on the need for professional development programs, questions remain on how school systems should implement and fund these programs.
Building Professional Development Programs
Building successful professional development programs requires a joint effort among schools, communities, and educational policymakers. Schools can serve as the primary place for continuing professional development. By expanding the role of teachers to include increased teacher-teacher interactions, peer reviews, and teacher research, schools take the first step toward integrating professional development programs into the daily activities of educators.
The Mathematics Renaissance Initiative in California demonstrates how expanded teacher roles form the basis for successful professional development programs. Throughout the year, over 1,600 teachers meet to discuss curriculum, analyze classroom experiences, and learn about alternative teaching methods. Peer review of class instruction supplements group meetings. Project leaders observe teachers and discuss suggestions for improved teaching. The Mathematics Renaissance Initiative provides a forum for teachers to share their experiences and work together to solve the problems they face in the classroom. In addition to expanded teacher roles, educators can draw on community resources. Many public schools have formed networks with local universities and college departments of education. These professional development schools offer a reciprocal exchange between teachers, student-teachers, and individuals who develop educational policies. All participants in professional development schools stand to gain from working together. Departments of Education, often criticized for emphasizing theory over practice, gain access to the insights of practicing educators. Teachers use college campuses for workshops, seminars, and educational instruction. Student-teachers gain invaluable clinical instruction by teaching classes and discussing real-life classroom situations.
The popularity of these professional development schools is likely to increase as policymakers implement standards and assessment tools for their performance. According to Ismat Abdal-Haqq, coordinator of The Clinical Schools Clearinghouse, "the most significant trend emerging in professional development schools is the trend toward accountability." If these programs are to remain strong, they must find a way to assess their impact on student performance.
Professional development efforts also require continued legislative support from policymakers. In addition, educators can expect local school districts to continue to revise re-certification requirements to include some form of on-going teacher development.
Funding Professional Development Programs
Whichever path a community takes to build a professional development program, funding the program remains a constant concern. The vast majority of local school districts cannot allocate additional funds to professional development programs. Communities are forced to examine potential private and public funding sources. Ellalinda Rustique-Forrester, an educator and researcher at The National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, recommends that schools form partnerships with local universities. With a partnership, the costs and resources of teacher development programs are shared. Several educational organizations have contributed to the development of these partnerships with grants. For example, The National Education Association Foundation has awarded grants to fund professional development programs.
Communities can also find financial support from the U.S. Department of Education which sponsors a number of programs to fund professional development.
In an effort to reduce uncertain financial futures, many professional development schools will seek to make professional development efforts part of annual school budgets.
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office
570 Airport Way
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
2010 Massachusetts Avenue, N. W., Suite 500
Professional Development Schools Network
National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching
Box 110, Teachers College,
New York, NY10027
Article by Cristal Metta-Gallagher
Copyright © Education World