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Realistic Application of the NSDC Standards for Professional Development

"The kind of sharing that goes on in educational networks often has the effect of dignifying and giving shape to the process and content of educators' experiences, the daily-ness of their work, which is often invisible to outsiders yet binds insiders together."
~Ann Lieberman


I am the K-12 Math/Science Curriculum Coordinator for the Troy School District. One of my responsibilities is to plan professional development activities for the teachers in our district. As we face tremendous budget cuts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to plan for professional development that is sustained over a period of time and meaningful for teachers. For this project, I hope to explore the NSDC Standards(National Staff Development Council) and other professional development recommendations and find ways to implement meaningful professional development in a zero cost climate. The NSDC Standards are highlighted in yellow below.

NSDC's Standards for Staff Development

(Revised, 2001)

Context Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Organizes adults into learning communities whose goals are aligned with those of the school and district.
  • Requires skillful school and district leaders who guide continuous instructional improvement.
  • Requires resources to support adult learning and collaboration.

Process Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Uses disaggregated student data to determine adult learning priorities, monitor progress, and help sustain continuous improvement.
  • Uses multiple sources of information to guide improvement and demonstrate its impact.
  • Prepares educators to apply research to decision making.
  • Uses learning strategies appropriate to the intended goal.
  • Applies knowledge about human learning and change.
  • Provides educators with the knowledge and skills to collaborate.

Content Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Prepares educators to understand and appreciate all students, create safe, orderly and supportive learning environments, and hold high expectations for their academic achievement.
  • Deepens educators' content knowledge, provides them with research-based instructional strategies to assist students in meeting rigorous academic standards, and prepares them to use various types of classroom assessments appropriately.
  • Provides educators with knowledge and skills to involve families and other stakeholders appropriately.

In Linda Darling-Hammond and Nikole Richardson's article, Teacher Learning: What Matters? , the essential components of quality professional development are discussed. They emphasize that teacher learning must.....
  • ...focus on student achievement,
  • within the framework of school improvement, and
  • ...actively engage teachers in a sustained way over time.

In Troy, we have some tools that help with focusing on student achievement. Most courses have district wide common assessments that are scored on Mastery Manager, an internet-based data warehouse. Mastery Manager provides student data in various forms from the district level all the way down to the individual student level. I am hoping to find ways to have groups of teachers focus on student work in addition to common assessment scores.

The Troy School District recently went through the district accreditation process, so our school improvement efforts are fairly systematic throughout the district. The challenge in this area is to keep this relatively new district-wide continuous improvement theme prevalent at all times.

The biggest challenge that I face in providing quality professional development is to find ways to actively engage teachers in a sustained way over time. If I'm lucky, I have half a day per year to work with a group of teachers - and I might not even have that with the budget cuts we are making for next year. I am hoping to find resources that will help me actively engage teachers throughout the year(s) in meaningful work in creative ways.

Professional Development: What works? AND What is realistic in today's economy?

In his article,Reinventing Professional Development in Tough Times, Anthony Rebora describes ways that districts can plan powerful professional development in times of financial crisis. He asserts that using online resources (such as archived videos, webinars, and networking tools) is an excellent way to curb costs while staying connected to educators in a variety of settings. He also maintains that districts that thoughtfully streamline professional development with a clear vision not only minimize costs, but send a strong message to the community about what is important. Rebora also discusses the benefits of professional development becoming more internal as we turn to the expertise of the teacher - instead of bringing in expensive "experts" from other places.

Tamara Fisher also writes about strategies for implementing professional development with an eye on the budget in Staff Development That Sticks. She encourages districts to have teachers help plan professional development, elicit feedback from teachers about their needs, use local resources, and to design professional development so that it emulates good teaching.

In Grassroots Professional Development , Liana Heitin interviews Dayle Thomas, 2004 Florida Teacher of the Year about the professional development experience available for teachers in her school. Thomas explains that in her school, professional development is embedded in the school day and is an ongoing process that is a part of daily life.

Professional Development Resources: Where to go when you need help?

It seems that one of the best ways to save money on professional development is to do it yourself - with the expertise within your district. Here are some resources that might be helpful to use as you plan opportunities for the teachers and leaders in your district.

The NSDC Website has many resources for planning professional development. They have an E-Learning series that provides opportunities for educational leaders to think about professional learning for educators via live meetings, networking, community building, and resource sharing. They also provide Wednesday Webinars that address many facets of professional development with live meetings, discussion forums, and live chats.

The ASCD Website (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) also has a variety of support materials that are helpful as you plan professional development for your district. They sell a "PD Quick Kit" for $40 that includes the tools you need to create learning opportunities for your staff on your own (Powerpoint slides, etc..) - no need to hire an outside presenter. They also have a "PD in Focus" program that includes access to their video archives.

The NSTA Learning Center (National Science Teachers Association) has an abundance of professional learning opportunities - many of them are free! There are 2 hour interactive content specific learning modules that help teachers brush up on science content. There are also many webinars that offer assistance for teachers who are looking for ideas on teaching specific science content. Of course, NSTA members can access articles in the journals that offer a multitude of ideas and resources for science teachers.

The NCTM Professional Development site (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) provides limited opportunities for professional learning. They have E-Seminars and E-Workshops available. Their journal articles are a great resource for NCTM members.

external image other-duties-as-assigned-tips-tools-and-techniques-for-expert-teacher-leadership.jpg&usg=AFQjCNHxR9K6gkIq-A5oKHNOlo33R8MjwwOther Duties as Assigned, by Jan Burgess, provides insights on building a capacity for teacher leadership within a school or district.

external image DDDcover.jpg&usg=AFQjCNFIvXjhKs1YH2_SmwknW6P7a5peHQData-Driven Dialogue: A Facilitator's Guide to Collaborative Inquiry, by Bruce Wellman and Laura Lipton, provides a framework for talking about student data with the intent of focusing on improving instruction. This book is a great guide for those who want to start this type of conversation among teachers.

external image 9781932127935.jpg&usg=AFQjCNF9TMt9qoqfXQv9ON5FVRm48AS1XwLearning by Doing, by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many, is an excellent resource for those who are loking to establish a collaborative community that is focused on student learning.

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The Summer 1999 edition of the Journal of Staff Development is full of great ideas for structuring professional development, including articles describing on-the-job learning, building collaborative work environments, and developing learning teams. There are more than a dozen short articles that highlight professional development strategies such aas coaching, journaling, mentoring, networks, and study groups.

Bringing Teachers Together For Professional Development With Online Tools

As I said in the introduction, keeping teachers actively engaged in meaningful, collaborative work that is sustained over time is perhaps my greatest challenge in providing quality professional development experiences. Many of the resources I have listed talk about creating collaborative networks of educators - but it's impossible to find the time to pull people together. Our district does not have any collaboration time set aside during the school day. Current trends in technology may provide some answers to this problem....

Learning With Blogs and Wikis is an excellent resource for educators who want to use online technology to boost their professional learning. Bill Ferriter provides concrete examples and specific how-to instructions for getting the most from educational blogs and wikis.

On Novemeber 12, 2009, Jim Burke and Karl Fisch participated in a live chat titled Social Networking and Teacher Professional Development. They discuss the benefits of creating communities of educators with Twitter, Ning, and other social networking tools.

external image 30422_Richardson_Blogs_Wikis_3e_72ppiRGB_150pixw.jpg&usg=AFQjCNHZb8T6J3x8-zCRm7nArgUMfeLCIgAs the title suggests, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, by Will Richardson, provides clear explanations for using current technology in classrooms. Many of his ideas can easily be extrapolated for working with educators on issues of professional development.

If you are interested in getting started with some of the technology concepts described in these sources, take a look at some of these starter resources:


When thinking about best practice with respect to the professional development of educators, the essential components are outlined in the NSDC Standards. Among other factors, it is critical that professional development is collaborative, data-driven, and focused on student achievement. Teachers must be actively engaged in the process of learning - not simply sitting and listening to someone talk at them. Without time set aside in the school day, the biggest challenge is to find ways to actively engage teachers throughout the year(s) in meaningful work.

Planning Professional Development While Keeping the Budget in Check:
  • Use local resources - build a capacity for leadership within the teachers in your district and you won't have to turn to expensive "outside experts."
  • Streamline professional development so it is aligned with school improvement efforts - don't spend your money doing lots of different things - stay focused!
  • Use online resources when you need new ideas or outside expertise (videos, webinars, etc...).

Resources for Planning Professional Development:
  • NSDC website and publications
  • ASCD website and publications

Bringing Teachers Together in a Collaborative Environment via Technology:
  • Encourage teachers to blog about student work.
  • Create wikis where teachers can share resources and student data with each other.
  • Help isolated teachers find social networking sites where they can connect with teachers in other districts.

These ideas provide the framework for thinking about professional development differently. Educators no longer have to be in the same room at the same time to collaborate effectively about student achievement. Ann Lieberman's quote about educational networks (top of this page) was written long before our current networking technology was available. It is exciting to think that we have the resources to bind teachers together in new ways.