President Obama Calls for Stronger Teacher Preparation Programs

When entering a traditional profession, a training period with a mentor or supervisor generally eases a new employee into the workforce. Teaching is another story, and for many teachers, the rocky beginning leads to an unhappy ending. In fact, close to 2/3 of all new teachers surveyed report they were not enrolled in an adequate teacher development program before entering the classroom, and only half the teachers who graduated with high expectations will still be in the classroom three years after graduation. While their education was far from lacking, the missing chapter in the story of their training was lack of real preparation within a classroom setting, often known as a “teaching practicum.” Giving student teachers the ability to join a master teacher and teach for a lengthy stretch of time better prepares future educators. Arizona State University and Urban Teacher Residencies have noted an 85% retention rate of teachers after three years through their program of matching student teachers with educators recognized for their teaching skills. These new teachers have discovered that explaining the significance of the first day of school is far different than witnessing and participating in the first day of school.

To this end, President Obama has granted the Department of Education a set of guidelines to strengthen teacher development programs as well as professional preparedness programs. The new guidelines will hold teacher development programs accountable for the success of their teachers. Five states, including Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, have reported their requirements and student success rates to the general public, teaching institutions, and potential employers. The program’s guidelines also include streamlining teacher evaluations and identifying the institutions whose teacher preparation programs are either in dire need of upgrading or are significantly better than average.

Lastly, the funding of teacher development programs through TEACH grants, which are given to student teachers who plan on entering the workforce in a high-need field within a low-income school or district, gives federal money directly to the source rather than to the overall teaching institution. By stretching federal dollars, more individuals will be eligible for these TEACH grants.

Do you believe these new developments will enhance the teaching experience and increase retention rates for first-time educators? What other areas of first-time teaching need to be addressed? We look forward to hearing your comments! Please let us know if you are a teacher, and, if so, how long you have been teaching.

Chicago Teachers Receive Professional Development Grants

Recognition for above average teaching skills positively impacts further performance. Recently, the Plainfield Foundation for Excellence–a Chicago-based non-profit group dedicated to promoting student excellence and achievement for learners of all abilities, encouraging innovation in the classroom, and enhancing collaboration–recognized eleven teachers for their positive impact on students. Last month they presented Professional Development Awards, valued at $500 apiece, to these educators in Chicago’s Plainfield School District 202. The awards are granted to teachers in appreciation for their dedication, as an initiative to continually improve learning within classrooms, and to promote the importance of professional development for teachers.

The Professional Development Awards were distributed on April 17, 2014, in conjunction with the Plainfield Foundation for Excellence’s 30th anniversary. Educators are able to use the monetary awards in any number of ways to further their own education and that of their students, such as enrolling in online courses focused on teaching students across the autism spectrum, attending summer science programs in Colorado to learn how to teach science in a comprehensive “hands-on” format, traveling to a local conference to learn how art and music can be fluidly incorporated into the common core curriculum, and attending other seminars on professional development for teachers either locally or out of state. Monies can be utilized to cover tuition, travel expenses, classroom supplies, or any other expenses directly related to enhancing student learning.

Plainfield School District 202 is not alone in generating scholarships, grants, and special funding to teaching professionals in an effort to enrich learning experiences for students. Does your school district offer similar initiatives? What are your views on district awards? Do you think they are a good idea? Why or why not? We would love to read your points of view! Feel free to post your input and ideas below, and visit eSchool Solutions’ website to learn more about professional development for teachers to meet the needs of your school district.

From Policymaker to Professor: Choosing the Best Plans for Students

The diligence of legislators in enacting sweeping bills to “repair” our nation’s public schools is evidenced in legislation currently tying the hands of educators nationwide: the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.  While this bill promises grand results and wonderful ideals, it suffers a fatal flaw; namely, no educators were in on the Act–and certainly no talk of professional development for teachers.  Unfortunately for NCLB, theory and practice were so far off track they were not even in the same train station.

When teachers hauled NCLB into the classroom, legislators anticipated rising academic scores across the board.  Instead, in a scramble to meet numbers, educators pinned their hopes on the children most likely to quickly progress, leaving children on the extreme ends of the bell curve – to put it bluntly – behind.  Teachers noted the fallacy of the policy and wondered why educators were not included at the onset of NCLB’s legislation.  With an astonishing 73% of teachers willing and enthusiastic about hybridizing their roles to become part-time teachers and part-time policymakers, it is sensible to include educators to shape upcoming legislation and to voice local concerns on how legislation will impact their districts.

With this in mind, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York upheld the Teachers at the Table Act, giving educators a healthier, more direct role in educational policy by inviting former Teachers of the Year to advise Congress on more accurate methods of giving students the edge they need and deserve to reach their academic goals.  Working as a team, policymakers and teachers from varied geographic and educational backgrounds can contribute to implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act to truly engender an educational system that leaves no child behind.

eSchool Solutions offers educators and administrators personalized, innovative professional development for teachers at your fingertips.  Find your strengths when you visit our website at and invest in student success.


Introducing Classroom Technology Through Professional Development

Technology is a topic not unlike math or history:  you either embrace it or hide when it is mentioned.  Many teachers who think they are technologically inept use technology daily without realizing it.  A simple projector is technology, as is a phone or a smart board.  The second argument stems from student use of technology:  if students use their phones to play games, how can phones be a serious contender for the next best technological advancement?  Lastly, most teachers believe they do not have enough time to learn or practice the latest technology breakthrough.  Enter the fascinating world of technology through a teacher development program, a venue that breaks through the aforementioned barriers to assist teachers in effectively bringing technology to the classroom.

In today’s world, students use computers and phones as if they were born with keypads in their hands.  When a teacher instructs students using technology, student interest is immediately piqued and lessons are often more immersive.  To learn this technology, it is important to thoroughly understand it yourself.  By practicing with other educators in an environment away from the stress of the classroom, teachers can share ideas, rehearse using the technology in a lesson plan, and give advice when the technology is mastered.  Giving a teacher development program meeting in a “text expo” format will entice teachers to try something new.

Social media is technology’s primary method of communication.  By creating a social media group for instructors via Twitter, Facebook, or another form of social media (depending on what may work within the firewalls of your district), educators can connect in real-time discussions of current technology topics, ask and respond to technology questions, and learn the latest technology news.

Ensure the meetings are interactive to keep everyone engaged.  At the end of the meeting, ask teachers to describe their favorite technology or the app they use most regularly. Be sure these apps and technological wonders are written down so each participant can have a copy emailed or sent to a form of social media discussed in your meeting.

Visit for more great ideas on how to make your teacher development program meetings productive and student-focused.


Creating an Effective Professional Development Plan

The goal of any professional development (PD) plan is student success. However, the road from a teacher development program meeting to the door of the classroom is oftentimes not as smooth as a newly paved highway.  In fact, many PD meetings are unintentionally subdued as a well-intentioned administrator addresses teachers and presents information, asks questions, and dismisses his or her audience.  With no input or spontaneity, educators leave more confused and distraught than when they arrived.

To create a more successful and open meeting, it is imperative for administrators to begin with a positive anecdote or comment.  After inviting input on the first chunk of information, the administrator can engender enthusiasm with an interactive technology, such as Twitter.  Many school districts now have a specifically-designated hashtag on Twitter for teachers and administrators to participate in synchronous conversations, ask questions about current topics, and tweet any questions or comments they are eager to have answered.

Other forms of technology are appearing daily, and a teacher development program is a phenomenal forum for educators to discuss what technologies they are utilizing in the classroom that they appreciate and students love.  When teachers can share information on how they help their students learn, everyone wins.

Before the PD meeting ends, ask teachers to share a short story of a funny or heartwarming event from their classrooms.  This may be a great time for a student-perspective technology story also.  End the meeting on a positive note and ensure that any information teachers want–such as web addresses or Twitter information–is provided to them within a day’s time, before the novelty of the idea becomes stale.

To create your perfect teacher development program, visit eSchool Solutions’ website at for the most innovative ideas to encourage your instructors to teach more effectively.

Implementation is Crucial to Professional Development Programs

Teaching students with different learning styles and abilities in a closed room with little guidance is an intimidating task.  To ensure teachers had the correct tools for the job, school districts began offering professional development for teachers.  With most of the programs focused on workshops, the experiences were intended to give the ultimate form of teaching in the least amount of time. According to a 2013 National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education report, however, professional development (PD) programs are not inspiring their intended market; in fact, with over 90% of all educators nationwide participating in PD programs, the overall consensus was that the current PD program model was “abysmal,” and training was ineffective.  Keeping in mind that more than $2.5 billion in federal funds are spent annually for PD programs, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is less than positive about the results.  “As I go out [and] talk to great teachers around the country, when I ask them, ‘How much is that money improving their job or development?’ they either laugh or they cry,” recalls Secretary Duncan.

Knowing the current PD program is not working is the initial part of the solution.  The challenge is understanding what professional development for teachers is lacking and add that integral piece to the puzzle.  Fortunately, the answer is readily available:  implementation of new policies.  Because the PD programs address only new policies without regard as to how they will work in the classroom, educators wander back into their classrooms after a day of training, think about their new policy, and typically revert to their original style of teaching because they were not taught how to implement the newest policy into their everyday class experience.

The aforementioned NSBA report also stated that a new skill is thoroughly mastered only after it has been practiced over twenty times.  At that point, most teachers are comfortable enough with the new skill to pass it along to their students.  Given this insight, the focus of PD training should rest on the interactions between students and teachers while introducing new policies and procedures both parties will utilize. By taking a look at the “how” as well as the “what” of professional development for teachers, school districts should find higher rates of success for their teachers and students alike.

To learn how to effectively implement professional development ideas to your school or district, visit the eSchool website at


Training New Teachers With Professional Development Programs

In our hometown, two local universities host teacher education programs. One university is renowned for the ease of its program, and eager teachers-to-be flock to its doors. The other university, however, is headed by a former teacher-turned-principal who believes that current professional development for teachers needs re-working. Every potential teacher is required to student-teach in a classroom for one semester before graduation. Theory became practice as the interns learn to meet student needs before class commences, to focus student time by practicing classroom management skills, and to follow a curriculum that, while state mandated, still includes exercises that address myriad learning styles. While the first university graduates more teachers, the second university’s graduating class is significantly better prepared, more frequently hired, and remain teachers for longer stretches of time since they know what to expect.

This methodology is mirrored in a recent study by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, which depicts best practices for initial teacher education and induction. Along with the abovementioned ideas, the paper also explains that even a well-educated teacher may not meet the standards of an individual school if the teacher’s college or university’s professional development for teachers offered limited contact with students.

Other areas that heighten a teacher’s initial success in the classroom include a close collaboration between the post-secondary institution and the public school system; highly skilled supervising teachers and staff members; continuity of skills so what was learned in the teacher education program is what is expected in the classroom; observation and feedback for new teachers to learn how to more effectively teach and manage their classrooms; and collaboration with fellow teachers to keep the momentum moving forward.

These ideas and more are presented on eSchool’s Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) program, which allows school districts to customize professional development for teachers to meet individual goals using methods based on effective core values and goals. Visit our website to learn how your school district can benefit from eSchool’s proven programs.

How Leadership Changes Affect Teacher Absenteeism

The 2011-12 school year in Central Texas was a difficult one for Hays Consolidated Independent School District. Five school principals changed locations, and Assistant Superintendant Carolyn Hitt wanted to know if the change in leadership affected absenteeism within those five locations differently than in the other schools where principals remained constant. Ms. Hitt asked the eSchool Solutions Analytics Consulting Team to conduct an in-depth analysis on the teacher absence management data recorded in SmartFind Express to determine if the number of absences corresponded with leadership change.

The time frame analyzed included the remaining months an outgoing principal was on campus until a few months after a new principal was installed. Their findings showed no drastic fluctuations in the absentee rate. Two schools did note changes on teacher absenteeism, however. These changes differed from each other and, as such, are considered outliers. The first dissimilarity was an increase of personal leave days for teachers despite a decrease in total number of absences as one school’s principal exited.  The second school noted a 39% increase in employee absences when a new principal was instituted with most of these absences noted as “sick leave.”

Ms. Hitt was “pleasantly surprised” with eSchool’s teacher absence management results. She stated she believed the principals “…continued to manage absenteeism effectively–even though they’d learned they would be leaving their school for another assignment.” Ms. Hitt went on to say that the findings indicated new principals were able to maintain the same level of absenteeism as their predecessors while learning their new schools’ systems and procedures. In her opinion, this overturned the assumption that new leadership escalated teacher absenteeism.

Contact eSchool Systems when your district wants to determine what factors may be causing excess absenteeism, or to ascertain what one of the schools in your district is doing to curb teacher absenteeism. Our Analytics Consulting Team is ready to provide you with comprehensive teacher absence management programs and answer your most pressing questions.

SmartFind Express Indicates Trends in Teacher Absenteeism

If you were ever in doubt as to how SmartFind Express could help your school district, read this example of how eSchool Solutions Analytics Consulting Team was able to run a thorough diagnostic report for Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Central Texas to determine myriad absenteeism discrepancies within its campuses.

Overall, eSchool’s SmartFind Express report for Hays pointed out that the district spent over $1 million due to teacher absenteeism. Looking deeper, the team discovered that while the district noted an 11% decrease in absenteeism, seven schools showed an increase. More startling was the fact that student absentee rates were below those of their teachers. Individually, two schools noted a drastic increase in the number of Friday planning periods, and one location’s personal absence days, where 60% of the total were taken on Fridays.

Working with the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, the consulting team from eSchool revised the district’s current plan to improve absentee statistics, both at individual locations and district-wide. As Assistant Superintendent Carolyn Hitt reports, “We just didn’t have the time, resources, or the expertise to conduct the analysis.” With SmartFind Express’ database and eSchool’s team of experts, the report’s findings allowed Ms. Hitt to meet with principals from every school in her district, explain the results, and develop objectives for each school.

Studies have shown that an increase of teacher absences creates a dramatic drop in student test scores. Therefore, money lost is not the only issue when discussing absentee rates with your school district because students attain greater knowledge when their teachers are absent less frequently. These two strong factors prove the extraordinary necessity of excellent teachers and substitutes. Help your students reach their potential by utilizing the available database of eSchool’s SmartFind Express.

Can Professional Development Help Bring U.S. Schools to the Top?

A recent educational poll ranked the United States in 19th place when comparing academic scores of 15-year-old students across the globe, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. An even more demoralizing statistic concerns our overall math and science scores, in which additional countries surpassed the United States in student scores. These findings seem remarkable considering our country’s emphasis on education. How have we slipped from our top placement to barely surviving a “Top 20” ranking in the span of two short decades? An even more important question is: How can we attain a more prestigious ranking in the near future?

Not surprisingly, theories abound as to where greater emphasis on education should be placed: on students, on parents, on teachers, or on the curriculum. Many leading experts believe that re-evaluating the current programs of professional development for teachers to include research-based practices to assist teachers in better connecting with their students may hold the promise for improved student test scores. State Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Donald Payne, Jr. of New Jersey have proposed the Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act, which outlines how student achievement and higher accountability (President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative) act as a ruler to measure the effectiveness of professional development for teachers. The Act also encourages individualized teacher training to assist every teacher in attaining personal teaching goals since the current one-size-fits-all training methodology seems not to induce higher overall student learning levels. This model is spurred on by a similar approach that was recently adopted by Shanghei, China. Shanghai’s approach to teaching is to address each instructor individually, determine where areas of development are necessary, and tailor training to that need. Shanghai currently dominates the international benchmark examinations and based on their standards, the US is hoping to increase its national test scores.

The Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) system offered by eSchool Solutions can create customizable professional development for teachers or your staff. By meeting the needs of your teachers, you are meeting the needs of your students. Visit our website today for more details.