Redefining Professional Development: Make the New ESSA Guidelines Work For Your District

Posted by Emily LachinskiO

October 23, 2017

The definition of PD that ESSA offers educational leaders lends itself to a highly personalized strategy.


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has radically altered the way that American educators track and measure student success. Most notably, it shifts the emphasis its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, placed on standardized testing and takes a more holistic approach to facilitating and measuring student success.


But one of the key tenets of the 1,000+ page document is the importance of creating highly personalized professional development (PD) programs for teachers and K-12 leaders. The legislation states that professional development programs be sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused.


While these requirements may, at first glance, seem like a tall order, the definition of each term is in fact open-ended enough to allow for effective and individualized PD experiences that work for all educators. Below, let’s take a look at how schools can make the most of each specification in this six-pronged approach to develop programs that best suit their faculty and their unique teaching styles.


1. Facilitate Digital Integration for Sustainable Outcomes


The one-time workshop or professional development days are a thing of the past. ESSA gives schools and districts the opportunity to create programs with results that hold up over the long-term. But how can schools most effectively implement ongoing training that speaks to each educator’s specific area of expertise? By supplementing in-person training sessions with digital tools and seminars, schools can consolidate resources while addressing a wide variety of topics. This type of integrated digital approach can even cultivate a higher level of personalization by providing supplementary resources that focus on teachers’ specific areas of need and different student age groups.


2. Encourage Multi-Channel Engagement with Intensive Curricula


ESSA requires that PD be in-depth and focused. While most schools simply do not have the bandwidth to provide comprehensive and customized workshops based on the strengths and challenges of every individual teacher, they can provide forums and resources for educators to engage with subjects of interest on a granular level. Whether that engagement is facilitated by a supplementary digital course or a forum where they can discuss a particular topic with other educators, it’s essential that teachers have access to channels where they can dive deep into specific and relevant subject matter.


3. Design a Collaborative,Teacher-Led Training Environment


Much like the classroom experience that teachers cultivate for their students, the learning environment in which teachers are instructed should be collaborative. Training sessions should also provide educators with the opportunity to conduct meaningful discussions with their peers. Create spaces and times (either online or in person) for teachers to engage in discussion with one another and learn from colleagues’ experiences.


4. Prioritize Job-Embedded Learning for Hands-On Application


“Job-embedded” doesn’t mean that PD sessions must take place during working hours — rather, it means that PD should be directly related to on-the-job scenarios. When designing PD curricula, run each lesson through the “applicability test” — ask, is this directly usable in the classroom? Teachers need practical tools and supplemental learning opportunities to stay on top of the latest classroom strategies connected to their instruction.


5. Leverage Data-Driven Student Insights


Data provides invaluable insights into which students are struggling, which are performing well on state tests, which have attendance problems, and so on. But administrators would do well to remember that teachers aren’t typically seasoned data analysts. To that end, patterns in student behavior and outcomes should be presented in a way that is readable and actionable. Teachers can use data-driven learnings to personalize educational approaches for struggling students and pinpoint the areas in which both their classes and the school are struggling or excelling.


6. Remain Classroom-Focused


Every great teacher prioritizes the needs of their students. PD should emphasize practical application so that teachers can immediately enact what they’ve learned and work toward improved student engagement and outcomes. While hypothetical scenarios may serve a purpose, they don’t always offer meaningful takeaways for teachers to immediately implement. These takeaways should be both general and niche, as each academic subject and age group warrants its own subset of tools and takeaways.


Equipping Teachers For Success


Just as effective teaching doesn’t conform to a one-size-fits-all model, meaningful professional development programs can take a variety of different forms. For districts to ensure the learning opportunities they provide for their teachers and staff are positively impacting student success, administrators must dive deeper to challenge the quality and delivery of PD. Discover what types of PD may be best for your district in our quick reference guide.


Download the ESSA Guide


Hoonuit provides continuous and in-depth resources to support ongoing learning that not only meets the PD requirements redefined by ESSA, but also ensures teachers are prepared and empowered to meet the unique and evolving needs of each of their students.


Click here to learn more about how Hoonuit Professional Development’s Learn It. Do It. Share It. Prove It. framework can equip your district to reach every student effectively.

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