Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Professional Development and School Calendar

When I am asked questions about the school calendar, one common questions has been, "Why are there so many days for professional development?" According to the Iowa Professional Development Model:
  • The professional development process must ensure that teachers have adequate opportunities to learn and implement new curriculums, instructional strategies, and assessments. Teachers need to have sufficient workshop and workplace supports to develop a deep understanding of the theory of the strategy/model they are learning. Professional development design will build in time for teachers to learn together and to collaborate with each other. If teachers have opportunities to learn new content and implement it in their classrooms, the investment in professional development will pay off in increased student learning.
  • Professional development is a continuous process rather than a one-time event. To be able to transfer new learning into the classroom, teachers need multiple opportunities to see demonstrations, plan together, work out problems, rehearse new lessons, develop materials, engage in peer coaching, and observe each other.
In the development of a professional development schedule within the framework of a school calendar, the goal is to provide staff the opportunities to begin practicing and implementing their learning so it reaches the students without reducing the student learning time.

As indicated on the school calendar, the district is only dismissing classes early four times this year for professional development. In previous years, the district would dismiss classes early two or three times per month. By dismissing two hours early several times per month, the students were missing 6-8 instructional hours each month. The current year calendar has reduced that to 8 hours for the entire school year. In previous years, student would miss out on approximately 50 hours of instructional time in a school year. That is more than a full week!

In addition, the days in which there is NO SCHOOL for Professional Development are not counted as part of the required 180 student contact days. In other words, students don't lose any instructional time on these days as they are made up at a later time. I realize that this "extends" the school year, but I believe this is an effective way for the teaching staff of the district to improve and better serve the students of the Earlham Community School District.

Michael Wright
Superintendent of Schools

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