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Building Professional Development for Teachers

New ERS video illustrates the professional growth process at one Boston school

Did you know that it takes a minimum of 14 hours for a teacher to learn a new practice or skill?

This doesn’t surprise me. It took a lot more than two days for me to learn basic Excel, for example, and teaching is a lot harder than that. I learn through hands-on practice, collaboration, and lots of feedback; so do most teachers—and most people—for that matter.

Time, teaming, and individual professional growth are key components of a path to improving the quality and rigor of instruction needed for students to be able to compete. In ERS’ new video, “Building Professional Development” you will see how the Match Community Day Charter School in Boston demonstrates the continuum of Individual Professional Growth, through whole group professional development, instructionally focused team meetings, and observation and coaching.

Match needed to get its students, 85 percent of whom are ELLs, practicing more and more complex oral language. In this video, we see how the coach (Match calls the position ELA Director) leads the session for the teachers, and the principal assists. The principal then follows up on the training in the grade team meeting, which is designed to get into detail of how the PD is implemented in the classroom. Finally, the principal and the teachers work on Habits of Discussion in class and through collaborative debriefs of observations. These observations and coaching sessions are continued until the teacher demonstrates mastery. The administrator or coach’s job is not done until the teacher has learned; she is as invested in the teacher’s success as the teacher is.

You’ll notice that the school has teams of teachers who work collaboratively with each other and their instructional leaders. They have enough time in their daily and weekly schedules, and they have common norms and protocols to ensure that collaborative planning time is meaningful and consistently productive. Teachers require that sustained and integrated support to learn and plan so they can teach well.

This approach to professional growth is critical now more than ever. Two-thirds of students entering community colleges (where many of our immigrant, urban, and low-income students attend) must take at least one remedial class—and for students who do take a remedial course, only 25 percent will ultimately graduate from college. Most teachers were not trained to teach in the way the Common Core recommends and the job market ultimately demands. They were not trained to facilitate struggle, to help students express conceptual understanding in math through the articulation of multiple ways to solve a problem, or to teach a deep analysis of informational texts. They now need to do those things and more in their classrooms, and their administrators and coaches need to help them. 

Thank you to the faculty of the Match Community Day Charter School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Building Professional Development for Teachers
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