California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Teaching is a challenging job. According to a 2007 report from the California State University system, A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn (PDF; Outside Source), 22 percent of California teachers leave the profession after their first four years in the classroom, and ten percent of teachers transfer away from high-poverty schools each year. High teacher turnover negatively affects the educational experience of students due to loss of continuity, experience, and expertise.1
Job satisfaction in teaching depends on a feeling of competence in managing classroom behavior and in helping students achieve grade-level standards. As a result, effective middle schools place a high priority on developing professional learning communities that will support teachers and provide them with the particular skills they need to succeed. For example, teachers need to know the “how” of pedagogy as much as the “what” of curriculum and standards. District policymakers must provide the fiscal resources and qualified personnel to support teachers if they hope to improve student learning on a systemwide basis. Teachers as well as principals must be involved in the development and implementation of districtwide initiatives to improve instruction if those initiatives are to have any real impact on teaching and learning.2 Recognizing the importance of this type of strategic support, California’s Essential Program Component (EPC) number six calls for ongoing instructional assistance and support for teachers.
Carlsbad Unified School District
Teachers in the Carlsbad Unified School District routinely participate in professional development that is differentiated according to teacher need and interest. Teachers receive a minimum of 22.5 hours of professional development per year through an online fee-based system called PD Express. Individual teacher progress is tracked and a certificate can be printed when course completion is verified. Teachers are provided with an electronic transcript that can be used for credential renewal.
The 2005 issue of the Issues Report highlighted research about the effectiveness of standards-based professional development. Researchers found that the professional development opportunities most likely to affect teacher practices and student achievement positively are:
In a study on teachers who were effective in helping Latino students, researchers found that:
Almost all of the teachers in the study schools regularly participated in professional development activities (including attending college courses) to improve their teaching. In addition, they cultivated and maintained positive relationships with their students, showing concern for their welfare and displaying student work in school hallways. The teachers seemed to know their students well, demonstrating both respect and high expectations for them all. These teachers were successful in maintaining both a high level of discipline and a caring culture.4
Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, a 2007 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage 2007 Model School
The faculty at Holmes has expanded a co-teaching program that was initially designed to improve the educational outcomes for students with disabilities. However, after careful data analysis, the team realized that co-teaching had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the entire student body. Overall classroom performance and standardized test scores for the school’s underachieving students improved dramatically after the co-teaching model began.
Torch Middle School, Bassett Unified School District, a 2008 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage 2008 Model School
Staff members attend professional development events. After they return, they are responsible for teaching the content to their peers.
School administrators and leadership teams can use a variation on the three-tier approach modeled by Response to Intervention (RTI) to design professional learning experiences (see the RTI section in Recommendation 2—Instruction, Assessment, and Intervention):
Many schools focus their professional development efforts on hiring outside experts. Often these outsiders assume teachers come to the sessions with no prior knowledge. Letting teachers work together to create professional development modules that fit their needs is often more effective.5
In addition to school, district, and county professional development opportunities, both professional associations and the Internet offer many ongoing learning options for teachers.
Professional learning for beginning educators
Professional learning from content experts
1Ken Futernick, A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn (PDF; Outside Source). Sacramento: California State University, 2007, vii, x.
2A Delicate Balance: District Policies and Classroom Practice. Chicago: Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, 2005, 4.
3Ravay Snow-Renner and Patricia A. Lauer, McREL Insights: Professional Development Analysis (PDF; Outside Source), The McREL Web site (2005), 6.
4Dan Jesse, Alan Davis, and Nancy Pokorny, High Achieving Middle Schools for Latino Students in Poverty (PDF; Outside Source), Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, Vol. 9 (2004), 33, 34.
5Linda Christensen, Teacher Quality: Teachers Teaching Teachers (Outside Source), Rethinking Schools Online, Vol.20, No. 2 (Winter 2005/2006).
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814