Special Report
School & District Management

Mich. District Adds Accountability to Staff Training

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 10, 2010 3 min read

As more professional development shifts from centrally mandated activities for all teachers to training that is more responsive to the contexts and students in each school, what’s the best way to keep it focused and of high quality?

The Carman-Ainsworth district in Flint, Mich., recently faced that dilemma. By working with its teachers’ union, the 4,600-student district has emphasized school-based professional development since 2004. Its bargaining agreement codifies a schedule that includes “late start” Wednesdays, when school is delayed by an hour and a half. Teachers have more than 20 such days a year to engage in working in grade-level or discipline-specific teams during that time.

Professional Development:
Sorting Through the Jumble to Achieve Success
Professional Development for Teachers at Crossroads
Proof Lacking on Success of Staff Development
Mass. District Strives for Teacher ‘Learning System’
Mich. District Adds Accountability to Staff Training
Staff-Development Providers Eye New Opportunities
Full Cost of Professional Development Hidden
Questions Arise Over Teacher-Credential Expenses
Experts Search for Best Content to Train Teachers
Texas District Targets Teachers for ELL Training
Web Extras
Interactive: Teacher Voices View video profiles of teachers discussing professional development.
Digital Edition View the interactive PDF version of this report.
Resources
Teacher PD Sourcebook Directory

Following a 2008 district-accreditation cycle, however, district leaders decided to see whether there were ways to improve the training. Teachers were given time to visit other schools and were interviewed in focus groups for their feedback. The information showed that teachers found value in the school teams, but also saw that the team work varied in quality from school to school.

That led to a predicament that Steve Tunnicliff, the district’s assistant superintendent, calls the “tight-loose” problem of school-based training—how much oversight administrators need to provide to school sites without being too prescriptive about their activities.

“It’s the total irony of [professional learning communities] in general—they seem so simple, but the implementation is extremely difficult,” Mr. Tunnicliff said. “When you’ve got these teachers, literally weekly, going off in their different areas, you need to develop some structure to make sure they’re following through with it.”

Structure Added

Last year, Carman-Ainsworth officials launched a system requiring teams to make presentations to other teams in their building. Three times a year, they must present the results of their inquiries in a “data cycle": the problem they set out to solve, the data they looked at, the steps they took to respond, and the results in student learning. In addition to those protocols, central-office staff members now participate in some of the Wednesday meetings.

Multimedia: Teacher Voices

BRIC ARCHIVE

These mini-profiles—including video interviews—are meant to provide insight, but not to serve as representative examples of the districts in which they teach or programs in question. Their diverse experiences highlight the challenges districts face in providing high-quality training matched to each teacher’s needs.

View Teacher Profiles >>>

“It kind of was a healthy accountability,” Mr. Tunnicliff said. “A structure for how you’re going to spend that [professional-development] time is pretty important. [The teams] can fall apart because they lose focus about what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Fred A. Burger, the president of the local affiliate of the National Education Association, said the structure has helped teachers articulate goals across related subjects. The biology PLC he belongs to, for instance, meets with the teams on chemistry and physical sciences in the school to make its presentations.

“What we see,” he said, “is that there are common themes we agree on—that every student should be able to write a lab report or apply the scientific method.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as Mich. District Adds Accountability Piece To Focus Training

Events

School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP