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Home > Professional Development > Achieving Results Intro > Table of Contents > Finding Time and Fostering Leadership
Achieving Results Standards in Action - #2 Finding Time and Fostering Leadership
For one large, diverse district in south central Maine, the question is not so much what educators should be learning as it is finding time for them to learn it.
By reviewing research, district training and development planners have identified test literacy, mathematics, and assessment as areas of concentration. Test literacy and mathematics were chosen because test results revealed relative weaknesses in those areas among local elementary, junior high, and senior high students. Assessment was chosen in the belief, supported by research, that teachers can best adapt instruction to the needs of individual students when they have ample assessment data aligned with agreed-upon standards [Use of Research Data, Focus on Results, Organizational Alignment].
The challenge lies in finding time for training and development. As most training and development activities must occur outside the regular school day, only about two-thirds of the staff participates. During the six days in each school year when students are not present, educators meet to work on district-wide initiatives [Organizational Alignment]. Early-release days free up six two-hour blocks of time, but bus schedules and varying school start and end times make it difficult to bring grade-level colleagues together. Fifteen faculty meetings held throughout the school year provide the only additional opportunity for training and development; as time allows, principals use the meetings to focus on building-specific concerns related to the areas of concentration [Organizational Alignment].
A district-level professional development planning team has taken a data-driven approach to improving structures and activities to meet teachers' needs. A common theme of both feedback forms and frequent faculty discussions is that teachers feel the need of more job-embedded learning. To meet the need, the district is exploring alternative models that increase opportunities for training and development by supporting teachers in their classrooms [Focus on Results]. Administrators recently awarded stipends to allow more than 200 teachers to participate in summer training and development activities. Also aggressive efforts are under way to identify teacher-leaders assigned to meet with other teachers in their classrooms during instructional time or when students are attending "specials."
To date, the district has developed four types of teacher-leader roles [Participation]. Literacy Collaborative Coordinators spend half of each day coaching teachers who have taken a course they teach for graduate credit within the district. Other teacher-leaders, one for each grade level from grades 1 through 8, demonstrate discovery learning techniques aimed at improving instruction in math. Teachers who have taken the graduate-level Collins Writing Course (Collins Education Associates, Newbury, MA) and use writing folders in their own classrooms provide assistance to fellow teachers as they adopt the writing program. Teachers who have completed a program in regional leadership development model lessons and help new and veteran teachers with instructional planning and assessing. Soon these teacher-leaders will begin planning and facilitating regular and ongoing collaboration involving instructional teams at each grade level at one of the district's larger elementary schools. They'll also offer teachers of kindergarten through adult education an after-school course on assessment that will carry recertification credit. [Organizational Alignment, Participation]
Already the teacher-leader concept is proving its worth. As more and more teachers discover the value of training and development, participation in programs both during and after school is increasing [Participation]. Last year, more than 70 teachers watched a teacher-leader demonstrate new instructional approaches in math. Increasing literacy expertise among K-2 teachers - produced mostly through the efforts of Literacy Coordinators - has improved students' achievement test scores. Dozens of teachers district-wide have endorsed the teacher-leader program, and expressed appreciation for the opportunity it allows them to experience training and development within their own classrooms [Focus on Results].
Perhaps most significantly, the program is fostering a culture in which all teachers value, and benefit from, targeted, research-based training and development [Continuous Improvement, Use of Research Data]. For many, that may be the greatest victory so far.
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