Three districts that created noteworthy PD programs

Districts of Distinction runners-up initiatives: New educator orientation, educator growth and equity foundational training

Here are three K-12 districts that were Districts of Distinction runners up that also have developed noteworthy teacher professional development programs.

1. Martin County School District: New Educator Orientation

Challenge: Prior to 2018-19 school year, new teachers received a one-day training to acclimate them to the district. Based on feedback and declining retention rates (at least 10% per year), stronger teacher development was required.

Initiative: The New Educator Orientation is a four-day training opportunity that was developed with district departments—including human resources, curriculum and instruction, and student services—and outside teacher prep organizations such as the New Teacher Center and The New Teacher Project. During the welcoming event, teachers are given school swag, enjoy breakfast and lunch, engage with district staff, learn from content experts, network, and are paid $100 per day. They also receive mental health first aid training.

Impact: The district decreased hires by 4% in the 2019-20 school year over the 2018-19 school year. Ninety-seven percent of new teachers responded that they would recommend the program to other teachers (new or outside of the school district). In addition, new teachers have started social media accounts to share what they learned from the orientation.

Advice: “Plan and organize well in advance of launching,” says Heather Padgett, coordinator of professional development. “Make time to vet and review the content that is being delivered to the new teachers. Make the branding consistent, review, and provide feedback for a streamlined message in each session.”

2. School District of the Chathams: Educator Growth

Challenge: District leaders realized that professional learning structures designed to support educator growth were countering expectations for student learning and ignoring the vast interests of educators and their desire to pursue their own learning.

Initiative: The School District of the Chathams designed “GO Time” (Growth Opportunity Time), a teacher PD structure, to revamp learning that also aligns with the expectations for student learning. Over the course of an academic year, educators receive a minimum of 20 hours (during contracted time) to pursue an area of interest. Teachers may work collaboratively, independently, or participate in various topics offered through the district learning lab. Professional staff are also able to participate in the program.

Impact: “We believe our educators are committed learners and professionals who have an inherent need to learn and improve,” says Karen Chase, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “By creating a structure that supports this belief system, we have shown our educators that we honor them as learners and respect their abilities, interests, and learning styles.”

Advice: “GO Time places quite a bit of trust in the hands of educators,” says Chase. “But we need to empower them by creating a model for their learning that mirrors what we know to be effective learning for students.”

3. Osseo Area Schools-ISD 279: Equity Foundational Training

Challenge: After vendor-provided equity training ended, the district still needed to provide teacher professional development for more than 200 facilitators and 3,500 employees that would include scheduling at least 15 hours of training over two years for all job positions and roles.

Initiative: Equity Foundational Training (EFT) was developed to provide a systematic approach for all district employees to develop a common language and tools to identify and respond to the impact of race and culture on learning. EFT 1.0 is comprised of three modules requiring a minimum of seven hours of PD focused on increasing knowledge of the five system equity tools and awareness of racially predictable outcomes in the district. EFT 1.5 has two modules requiring a minimum of six hours of PD focused on strengthening and applying the skills learned in the first section.

Impact: “The underlying beliefs of EFT are unique as the System Equity Tools are designed to explicitly address the intersectionality of race and culture,” says Rev Hillstrom, director of educational equity. More than 87% of staff surveyed believe that program helps to develop approaches for having effective dialogue about racial inequity.

Advice: The commitments of your district must align with the consciousness and convictions that are present, says Hillstrom. Professional development for teachers must create awareness of student racial inequities. But employees have to move from simply becoming aware of this to actively implementing strategies to address those inequities.

To learn more, visit the Districts of Distinction page.

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