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

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
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
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
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
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
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

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 Opinion A Crisis Sows Confusion. How District Leaders Can Be Clear in Their Messaging
Choosing a go-to source of information is a good starting point, but it doesn’t end there.
Daniel R. Moirao
2 min read
A man with his head in a cloud.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion COVID-19 Ripped Through Our Emotional Safety Net. Here’s How My District Responded
Three years after overhauling its approach to student mental health, one California district found itself facing a new crisis.
Jonathan Cooper
2 min read
A young man stands under a street light on a lonely road.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Students Need Better Connections. To Wi-Fi, Yes, But Also to Teachers
We have to fix our digital divide, but let’s not lose sight of the relationship divide, writes one superintendent.
Susan Enfield
2 min read
A teacher checks in on a remote student.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Superintendents Have Weathered a Lot of Vitriol This Year. What Have We Learned?
The pandemic turned district leaders into pioneers, writes one superintendent. We had to band together to make it through.
Matthew Montgomery
2 min read
A person walks from a vast empty space towards a team of people.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images