As a former teacher, principal and school improvement officer, I have experience developing rigorous training and leadership programs for new teachers in some of the highest performing and most challenged schools in the country.
In these roles I have witnessed the power of strategic, customized professional development and the impact it has on student growth. As Chief School Improvement Officer at Chicago Public Schools, we were able to double student academic growth, reduce serious discipline incidents by 80 percent, as well as increase attendance and freshmen on-track rates. All this work could not have been possible without progressive professional development plans which rely on customized content and strategic use of technology.
In any professional setting, employees are responsible for reaching concrete goals in order to grow. Account managers strive to increase client satisfaction; police officers seek to reduce crime. Employee goals contribute to the overall goals of the organization.
It’s important that new hires understand what it means to be an effective educator in a particular school or district. Professional development plans are a great way to give new hires a path to success. With concrete goals, new hires are aware of what is expected of them and they have the professional development plan to help meet those objectives.
Increasingly, technology is able streamline and automate PD plans to help teachers set and track meaningful personal goals that align with the district goals. Tracking is important because it connects PD goals with actual progress and growth. Some of these tools can automatically track a teacher’s progress through their PD plan and determine if they are growing based on teacher performance data that a principal or teacher enters into the system. Administrators can then generates reports that show the effectiveness of the professional development program so that the plan can be adjusted to further support the teacher’s goals.
To further support accountability and effective PD, predictive analytics tools use research-based test items to diagnose a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. The determined areas for improvement serve as a strong foundation for measuring growth as a teacher develops. This information makes tracking progress more effective because you can see where your teachers are improving and where they need more work.
Retention rate is important because new teacher turnover directly affects student learning. A study published in the American Educational Research Journal, found that students in grade levels with higher turnover scored lower in both English and math. The study also showed the impact to be particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and African American students. Nationally, roughly 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years, and the turnover rate is 50 percent higher in high-poverty schools as compared to more affluent ones (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003; Ingersoll, 2001, 2003).
So, why do new hires leave? While working conditions such as class size, resources and compensation impact retention, the biggest reason teachers leave is because they feel unsupported. When teachers feel unsupported they get frustrated and burn out rates increase. PD helps create an environment of support and growth for new teachers so they are better equipped to be successful in the classroom and happy at work. From behavioral problems to differentiated learning, PD courses teach educators how to approach challenges that are specific to the district, school or even their classroom. Technology offers teachers more convenient, personalized PD content so that teachers have easy-access to the support they need, when they need it.
Professional development can work as a marketplace advantage for both teachers and districts. Quality teachers are in high demand, especially for specialty areas like technology. Therefore, districts with quality professional development programs stay competitive in the job market.
There are challenges in every classroom but far too many teachers can tell horror stories of being thrown into a struggling classroom with no support system. Quality teachers with several interviews will try to avoid situations like this. When a principal can tell a teacher that they create custom professional development programs to support their teachers, a teacher is much more likely to accept that position over another that has minimal PD support.
Professional development also allows teachers to stay competitive in their district and the education job market. New compensation plans may take teachers’ leadership qualities or evaluations into consideration in addition to certifications and degrees. This is where PD can factor in. School administrators can create leadership programs that allow new teachers to leverage professional development as way to support career progression, all of which can be tracked, awarded and automated through PD software.
Quality PD is a win-win for aspiring teachers and schools. Systemizing your professional development is the most efficient way to support your new hires by giving them the resources they need to succeed in the classroom and ultimately, improve student achievement.