Professional development at the heart of school success
- American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten laid out four critical considerations for the future of schools during a Tuesday morning panel at The Atlantic's education summit.
- Focusing on children's well-being and really providing wrap-around services, as well as focusing on promoting a culture of collaboration in schools that empower families and make community members really feel a part of students' learning are key, she said.
- The other critical considerations are focusing on learning and curriculum and focusing on "teaching teachers how to teach — including cultural competencies," Weingarten said.
Darrell Bradford, executive vice president of 50CAN, said during the opening session, "An underperforming teacher in your 5th grade classroom can take your life, and it'll be 20 years before you know it," emphasizing the disconnect between time to discovery of educational disparities impacts the sense of urgency with which people approach education reform.
Teacher development is emerging as perhaps the most crucial element of quality education plans, and districts that choose not to invest in high levels of professional development for staff will not be able to serve all students in the district. Whether it is training teachers on the implementation of new technology, pedagogical training to ensure all students are learning, cultural sensitivity to help teachers unpack biases and promote growth mindset — teacher and administrator training is at the heart of all school success.
It is for this reason that proposed cuts to funding for professional development in the FY17 budget are most egregious. However, it is up to administrators to set the tone about what's important at the school and find creative ways to make sure all staff are receiving adequate opportunities for development, even in the face of shrinking budgets. Encouraging peer systems that can provide feedback, or even getting creative about using technology to bring in experts via Skype or other video chatting platforms can be ways to help staff grow their bodies of knowledge without spending tremendous amounts of money.
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