Updates to Professional Development With Common Core Standards

While completing my bachelor of science degree at a local college, I was introduced to a completely different style of teaching by one of the science instructors. The class was in aquatics, but the subject was not nearly as inspiring as the instructor. After each test was graded, she would divide the class into groups so we could discuss and correct the errors on our papers. A portion of our grade was based on conferring with our peers and assisting each other’s understanding. Of all the courses I took, this was my favorite. I learned more about the science itself, as well as the importance of the teaching style, than in any other classroom. Along with the interesting grading ideas, we also had first-hand field experience on a pontoon boat to gather and analyze water samples.

Looking back, I realize my experience in this class was similar to the ultimate goal for the new Common Core Standards–to teach with less rote memorization and more critical thinking and hands-on learning with real-life potential. Unfortunately, teaching critical thinking skills is not typical in K-12 classrooms, for one important reason–instructors are not given the opportunity to learn how to teach critically through current professional development for teachers.

With 91.5% of traditional professional development programs providing new ideas in the form of workshops, conferences, or quick one-time courses, how can educators be expected to teach critical thinking and collaboration if their learning methodology does not offer these advantages? The answer lies not in learning, which happens with regularity, but with implementation. Professional development does not regularly provide direction in implementation, which occurs with peer review, co-teaching, collaboration, and mentoring. Another answer is ongoing access to professional development for teachers to ease them into new methods of teaching. Fortunately, eSchool Solutions’ Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) program is able to provide your staff one-of-a-kind professional development programs for ongoing training tailored to each teacher’s requirements. Contact us today to learn more about our innovative ERO program.

Preschool Teaching Institutes Help Prepare New Teachers

New York City is plunging into its pre-K program in a big way. The program, which begins this school year, anticipates an influx of over 4,000 pre-K teachers and 53,000 students. To begin this new program, the Department of Education has partnered with the renowned Bank Street College of Education to hold three-day teaching “institutions” to help prepare new and current pre-K teachers for teaching students of diverse backgrounds and ability levels in New York City’s new pre-K program. Their ultimate goal? Teach educators to instruct using the Common Core Curriculum methodology.

New and existing schools must meet health and building specifications for preschool-aged children, and more than 50,000 students need to be recruited. However, Department of Education Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, noted the ultimate way to change the school system is to provide professional development for the thousands of new instructors. Administrators believe that by educating students with a pre-K program containing scholastic goals rather than “glorified babysitting,” characteristics that are currently in place in several pre-K programs, students will have a more solid foundation for their academic careers.

The three-day program was available to new and learned teachers and assistant teachers, and attendance was not mandatory. While the conference was led by Bank Street instructors, most meetings included small-group breakout sessions in which new teachers were paired with instructors holding more experience in teaching and proficiency. The result was an exchange of knowledge not entirely specific to curriculum, but encompassing classroom management, teaching episodes, and shared experiences. With further instructor-led sessions on teaching students with disabilities and assisting students who speak English as a second language, New York City believes this new program will increase learning of students and teachers alike.

What programs does your school district have in place to prepare teachers for the beginning of the school year? How do these programs work? Is attendance mandatory? What would you change or add to improve your district’s teacher management software? We would love to read and share your responses.

Teachers Call for More Collaboration Time

Given the choice among attending teacher development programs, in-house training, online Twitter chats, technology forums, and learning from peers, teachers overwhelmingly chose learning from their peers as the best method to bring new ideas into the classroom. The superintendent of Tennessee’s Lincoln County School District, Wanda Shelton, states, “My favorite thing is having teachers or administrators that are in the trenches, come back and tell me what’s worked for them.” In a recent study by Education Week, it was revealed that over 85% of educators trust the feedback and decisions of their peers regarding new Common Core Standards, as compared to 65% trust of expert panels and even less of publishers. This proves the importance of teacher collaboration in matters of new standards.

Therein lies the rub. Teachers are given the opportunity to improve methodology by attending conferences, but the idea of having two teachers in a single classroom–the ultimate method of sharing knowledge for most teaching professionals–is frowned upon. From personal experience, I can cite several examples of co-teaching that positively affected and influenced both the instructors and the students. Not surprisingly, these small windows of opportunity are looked upon as the best portion of either teacher’s career in every case I have witnessed. How often does co-teaching or observation occur? A survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development confirmed that nationwide fewer than 50% of educators are given the opportunity to either co-teach or simply observe their peers in the classroom.

In terms of teacher assessment, a collaborative environment could help boost productivity and learning capabilities to enhance performance. Proper evaluation based on a variety of quantitative and qualitative areas can be used to determine the quality of training provided.

We believe in assessing a teacher’s knowledge in the right way, which means using more than student test scores and determining those factors based on the goals of the school and district. Invest in your teachers by allowing ample time for collaboration, co-teaching, and observation.

Does your school offer teacher collaboration or co-teaching? What are the results? Do you use different methods to reinforce your teacher development program? Share your thoughts and ideas with us–we would love to read about your experiences.


New Jersey Teachers Team Up with Local Museums

Listening to a lecture in a classroom and exploring in a museum share the same goal–to facilitate an environment that helps educate others. For most students, a trip to the museum with hands-on learning and exploring with peers is a more exciting method of learning science. In New Jersey, the Next Generation Science Standards understand that actions speak louder than words and are focusing a considerable portion of the curriculum and professional development for teachers on kinesthetic learning, scientific practices, engineering principles, and cross-discipline studies. To that end, the New Jersey Department of Education has partnered with local museums to meet these new standards.

Spearheaded by the National Science Teachers Association and the National Research Council, the Next Generation learning model has teachers, school administrators, scientists, and museum employees enthusiastic about sharing information with each other and students. The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are intimidating for many teachers. Through partnerships with scientists and engineers, teachers can invite these professionals into the classroom or meet as a class in museums. As students are exposed to an engineer as he or she talks through planning the infrastructure of a bridge, for instance, they recognize the role technology, math, science and engineering play in everyday life. Also, the ability to use technology not normally associated with classroom learning will stimulate student interest as the class interacts with exhibits in museums.

Many teachers have developed working relationships with scientists and museum personnel; the museum is able to use the teacher’s knowledge to create a more in-depth exhibit, and the teacher benefits with a broader background of science. With slightly more than half the states (26) participating in the Next Generation Science Standards, New Jersey hopes to meet the challenge with better-prepared teachers and a curriculum that focuses on concepts to prepare students for life.

Continue to browse the eSchool blogs for the latest news on education and professional development for teachers. Share this post with friends and family to start a discussion on your opinion of the Next Generation Science Standards. Has your state adopted these standards? If so, what are your experiences? We would love to read what you have to say.

U.S. Teachers Face Global Challenges

By now, you’re probably well aware that schools in the U.S. have been shown to perform at lower levels than their global counterparts. With the passing years, our ranking on the world’s educational ladder, has not fallen, but plummeted. Speculation as to the cause of our country’s educational demise has led to several far-reaching national strategies, but it seems nothing has worked to stabilize or raise the standards.

A recent survey released in the latter weeks of June by the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) found surprising results concerning our nation’s teachers. Although test scores have dropped in accordance with other countries throughout the world, teachers have been working longer hours under more difficult conditions than their counterparts in other countries. With the majority of teachers (66% or more) working in schools where greater than 30% of the students are economically disadvantaged, teachers are finding it difficult to meet the basic student needs of enough food, sleep, and a feeling of security. When student needs are not met, students either are unable to learn successfully, or their ability to focus is greatly diminished. Likewise, teachers are acting as liaisons between the school system and families of these disadvantaged students, and a great portion of their time is dedicated to assisting entire families to ensure students attend school fully prepared to learn. To compound this situation, two-thirds of teachers in the United States believe their profession is undervalued and have stated they were not receiving beneficial professional development or proper feedback from fellow teachers or administrators.

The study gave suggestions to ensure a solution to this grim situation. One of the most pressing results shown through this study is that U.S. schools need a system overhaul to allow teachers more time for collaboration. Schools across the world have more collaborative environments, and subsequently more classroom success.

eSchool Solutions offers comprehensive teacher management software to give your teachers the training they need. Do you believe collaboration with your peers and administrators will improve student success? What other factors could lead to the United States’ reclamation of their previous standing? Let us know by visiting our Facebook page and leaving a comment.

Mixing Disciplines is Key for Implementation

What happens when you mix a little bit of science with a pinch of art and a dash of engineering? The magic of learning! Robin Paul, a science teacher at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills, California, was selected to receive the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence for her lesson plans incorporating diverse disciplines along with the science curriculum she teaches to her students. Along with the prestigious award, Paul was presented with a check for $5,000. Ms. Paul stated she wished to provide students with the opportunity to “think, create, and discover as they acquire new knowledge and skills.”

Three of the lessons Ms. Paul teaches were highlighted during the program, and ranged from building a car using a mouse trap by using ideas based in physics to move the car forward, to drawing a comic strip explaining a scientific theory or idea. By incorporating different disciplines into her lesson plans, Ms. Paul is able to reach more students who may not readily participate or understand scientific concepts. Likewise, with most of the lessons labeled as “hands-on,” students are able to retain the information more readily and explain difficult ideas with confidence. Many of Ms. Paul’s lesson plans have been developed into “ready-to-share” lessons for other science teachers to utilize in their own classrooms. These lessons earned her an Impact II award from the Ventura County Office of Education. Impact II is a national curriculum-sharing and recognition program for K-12 teachers that grants up to $500 for individual lesson plan proposals or $750 for collaborative work.

Do you think lessons such as those created by Robin Paul would work in your classroom or school district? Why or why not? What methods do you find most helpful to enhance student learning? We would love to read your comments–start the discussion or chime in with your ideas. Find the most integrated teacher development program available from eSchool Solutions today.

Graduate School Offers Free Master’s Program to Help Raise Literacy Levels

In an effort to enhance the teaching potential of its educators, the Norwalk Public School district in Connecticut recently launched a program specific to literacy instruction. Ten teachers, in grades kindergarten through third grade, were given the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in teaching and foundations with a concentration in literacy. The program was funded by Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and the Anne E. Fowler Foundation. The funding granted ten educators the ability to earn an advanced degree with living expenses and health insurance provided as the educators concentrated fully on their three-semester master’s degree. In return, the districts in which the teachers are employed will grant their educators a one-year leave of absence as a period of professional development for teachers. Once the teachers return, the school district will benefit by having additional teachers on staff with the skills to improve student reading levels, which will act to bridge the divide between students in low socioeconomic situations and their peers.

The second goal of this far-sweeping program is to raise awareness of Connecticut’s literacy shortfall–they rank 50th overall when compared to other states. Once awareness has been established, the Foundation hopes to develop additional partnerships with organizations to permit a greater number of educators to enroll in advanced studies. With teachers who are better equipped to understand and overcome the obstacles noted in regards to students living in or below the poverty level, Connecticut is hoping to increase literacy rates overall and assist lower income students in catching up with their peers. Currently 80% of Connecticut’s students categorized as minority, poor, or otherwise disadvantaged are reading below grade level upon entering fourth grade.

Because this program is still in its infancy, no data is available to prove how effective it will be for Norwalk’s students. Has your school district enacted a policy similar to the one in the Norwalk Public School district? If so, how long has it been available? Have you partaken in this type of professional development for teachers? What do you think? Would you recommend this policy for other school districts? We would love to read your discussions on Facebook.

Technology Enters the Classroom for Student Success

In an effort to maintain their district’s push toward digitization, ten Baltimore County public schools in Maryland have been chosen to pilot a program known as Lighthouse Schools, part of the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT) initiative. These schools are segueing into technology-friendly classrooms by distributing digital learning devices to each student and ensuring learning standards are enriched with the most up-to-date technology. Beginning with ten schools, the program plans on reaching every classroom by providing training through teacher development programs to utilize technology to improve how and what students learn. Technology is often considered an equalizer in that it reaches students who would not normally engage in a learning activity. Studies have proven that when students are engaged, doors open and learning floods in.

With one teacher from each grade level present at the conference, attendees will be able to share ideas and collaborate with peers in their same grade level, thereby building camaraderie and confidence before the new information is presented to students district-wide. The conference allowed educators to choose the session they wished to attend; in turn, when they were comfortable with the material, they were able to share it by blogging to their peers who were not present.

Many of the ideas showcased in the sessions were used to stimulate multiple learning modalities to maintain student engagement. A video program as well as the audio program Audacity, which edits and records voices and sounds, were presented to enhance student reading skills. Reading fluency with the aid of technology and media was another topic presented to teachers. Educators were enthusiastic with the focus of technology in the classroom. Whitney Plunkett, a first-grade teacher, stated, “I have learned a lot about the different resources I can use in my classroom to engage my students.”

Baltimore County administrators expect to expand this program to all its schools in the coming years, giving teachers the ability to teach their students in methods more appropriate for the digital future.

What is your opinion on technology in teacher development programs? Do you believe it will create a more successful teacher development program? Let us know; we look forward to sharing ideas with you.

Keeping Teachers Engaged in Professional Development

One of the easiest ways to learn is through emulation and practice. In the past, it seemed professional development for teachers (PD) did not take this simple fact into consideration as most PD programs were canned and far from stimulating, and teachers were present only to tack another round of training onto their growing list of mandatory hours. Finally the fallacy in the PD plan was noted and more flexible programs dedicated to the individual needs of each participant were created.

New PD programs may now present information in a context as a simulation to a classroom setting to prepare educators for how a new idea can be integrated as a daily exercise. If that model is not possible for a given situation, the information presented may be based on experience from another educator who can act as a mentor when nuances of reality interfere with the plan’s original intent.

The more a professional development plan instigates participation, the easier it is to segue the program into the classroom. When teachers and administrators collaborate locally or nationwide, information is shared and the camaraderie strengthens the basic understanding of the topic. A creative PD program involves activities where the participants can work together and solve problems in a situation that could very likely occur in a classroom. When these activities involve imaginative ideas that can be practiced safely, teachers are prone to become comfortable with the action and add their own flair. These ideas are easily shared in a PD environment, so all participants are able to build on the skill sets of others. Once practiced and perfected, the ideas are more readily presented to students for their use, benefiting the entire classroom. For those instructors not prepared to adapt the newest PD concepts after the session ends, allowing quick access to follow-up materials, feedback from others who have mastered the skill, and reinforcement for utilizing the design may stimulate the transition.

The Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) system from eSchool Solutions gives district administrators the ability to provide professional development for teachers. Our flexible programs are available for a district-wide PD session or a personal online class. Learn more about ERO by visitingwww.eschoolsolutions.com. Share this post and tell us how you stay engaged during your districts PD programs.

Massachusetts Teachers Applaud New Professional Development Systems

The 2014 Massachusetts Teaching, Learning, and Leading (TELL) Survey results were recently announced. While every category–including time, facilities, and resources, community support and involvement, managing student conduct, teacher leadership, school leadership, professional development, and instructional practices and support–showed moderate gains, professional development scored lowest categorically. A few of the questions concerning the differentiation of professional development (PD) programs and the communication of results of a teacher development program, scored well below the 50% mark.

Fortunately, not all results were negative. While the PD question categories scored below the remainder of the questionnaire’s responses in many cases, it was evident perceptions are changing; in the two years between the most recent survey and its predecessor, responses climbed a few percentage points for the majority of answers.

One city in Massachusetts–Sudbury–noted distinct changes and great improvement in many areas. In fact, responses for the amount of time allocated to PD activities escalated sharply from 64% in 2012 to 84% this year. Their district administrators have emphasized the role of teacher development programs in education and have exerted much effort in ensuring teachers have more and better access to PD programs. To this end, Sudbury has hired lunchroom monitors to allow teachers more time to collaborate on student progress–only one change of many geared to generate more time for PD.

Technology was an altogether different picture, however. Many respondents in the Sudbury district stated their access to technology diminished when compared to the past survey. These numbers may have been caused by Internet failure rather than a lack of suitable PD programs. District administrators recognized the fallacy in the technology and are striving to increase the breadth and strength of their online programs.

If your school district is experiencing a lack of dependable and advanced technology, turn to eSchool Solutions. Our innovative teacher development program ranks as one of the most comprehensive available. Feel free to request a demo at www.eschoolsolutions.com. We look forward to assisting your district in your PD needs.

Share this post and comment on your school’s available PD programs. Based on the TELL Survey, do you think anything will be done in your district?