Education Opinion

Reimagining Professional Learning in Delaware

By Learning Forward — May 25, 2017 3 min read
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Stephanie Hirsh

The people of Delaware have long looked for ways to make their state first and started that tradition by being the first state to join the union in 1787. In keeping with that history, they were among the first to adopt the Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning and certainly among the first to build a comprehensive redesigned learning system aligned to them.

Their statewide grant initiative, Reimagining Professional Learning, is investing in professional capital to achieve extraordinary outcomes for students and their teachers. I’m grateful to Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson for his advocacy and leadership of this initiative to support teachers and leaders and impact student achievement. Through Watson’s leadership and with tremendous efforts by Shelley Rouser and Theresa Bennett, the Delaware Department of Education is demonstrating how a state education agency can be an enabler for substantive change. Their efforts are in stark contrast to the role of regulator or monitor, which is reflected in the work they have done as thought partners and critical friends to school-based practitioners. As a result, teachers and leaders view the Delaware Department of Education staff as valued colleagues.

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting McCullough Middle School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Bunker Hill Elementary School on a trip to learn more about the impact from Delaware’s “big bet” on professional learning. I met with teachers who shared video clips of implementing in their classrooms what they had learned through professional learning. I also met with teachers who are leading the schools’ professional learning efforts who recognized the power of inquiry as an instructional strategy to engage students in their own learning.

I also had the honor of serving as the keynote speaker at the Professional Learning Exhibition which brought together the 21 schools that have received Reimagining Professional Learning grants from the Delaware Department of Education funded by the Delaware legislature. During the event, I watched schools showcase their work with other schools and learn from each other. I was inspired to meet Delaware’s new Secretary of Education, Susan Bunting, and watch as she participated as a learner in the event.

The foundation of Delaware’s reimagine journey is truly to begin with the end in mind. School teams reimagined professional learning that would demonstrate impact on all five levels of the well-known Guskey framework - teacher satisfaction, new learning by educators, organizational change, changes in educator practice, and ultimately student results.. In addition, they are ensuring that the Professional Learning Standards are embedded in professional learning experienced by teachers and leaders. Their commitment to the standards was evident in the schools I visited and in the presentations made at the Exhibition.

At the end of the event, I had the honor of awarding Learning Forward’s Learnies awards to the schools participating in the Reimagining Professional Learning Initiative. These awards were made based on evidence of the way the schools have incorporated the standards into their practice. The schools and awards given are:

Standard 1 - Learning Communities

  • Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center
  • Benjamin Banneker Elementary School
  • George Read Middle School

Standard 2 - Leadership

  • Mispillion Elementary School
  • W.Reily Brown Elementary School

Standard 3 - Resources

  • Gunning Bedford Middle School
  • Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary School
  • Lulu Ross Elementary School

Standard 4 - Data

  • Wilmington Manor Elementary School
  • William Penn High School
  • Nellie Hughes Stokes Elementary School
  • Dover High School

Standard 5 - Learning Designs

  • W.B. Simpson Elementary School
  • Smyrna High School
  • Central Middle School

Standard 6 - Implementation

  • St. George’s Technical High School
  • Allen Frear Elementary School
  • Bunker Hill Elementary School

Standard 7 - Outcomes

  • Calvin R. McCullough Middle School
  • William Henry Middle School
  • McIlvaine Early Childhood Center

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.