Professional Development

Teaching and Learning

December 05, 2001 6 min read
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Staff-Development Guidelines Emphasize Student Achievement

With its first major set of standards in seven years, the National Staff Development Council is prodding school leaders to focus professional development more on the goal of raising student achievement.

Read “NSDC Standards for Staff Development,” from the The National Staff Development Council, or see ordering information. The books is $20 for members, $25 for non-members.

Drafted in consultation with 22 other education groups, the updated and streamlined “Standards for Professional Development” document offers guidelines to help teachers, principals, and education officials design and evaluate their staff-training efforts. Compared with the development council’s earlier guidelines, published in 1994, the 70-page document released this fall places greater emphasis on the role of student performance in shaping professional development.

Among other criteria, the group suggests that programs be data-driven, use multiple measures of progress, and employ research-proven practices, including current research on human learning. The new publication also includes case studies describing each of those characteristics in action.

Based in Oxford, Ohio, the council has long argued that traditional models of staff development are largely ineffective. While many education leaders now recognize the shortcomings of one- time workshops and other brief “in-service” programs, training efforts still often fail to make the connection with a school’s overall objectives, said M. Hayes Mizell, a program director at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

“In most cases, staff development is a kind of roll of the dice,” said Mr. Mizell, whose foundation is a major benefactor of the staff-development council. “People will say, ‘Gee whiz, we’re concerned about math performance, so we need to do some staff development in math.’ But they seldom look critically at what are the linkages between the offering and the results that we are seeking.”

Bank Examination

For students struggling to manage a weekly allowance or modest bank account, the nation’s complex monetary policies might seem beyond understanding. Officials of the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States, hope to make the study of the nation’s monetary and financial systems less daunting through an interactive Web site unveiled this fall.

FED101 provides an overview of the history and structure of the Federal Reserve, often referred to as “the Fed,” and its role in maintaining a thriving national economy.

“The site is for learning the main functions [structure and history] of the Federal Reserve System, how the Fed conducts monetary policy, and the Fed’s role in financial services and banking supervision,” said Rob Grunewald, a regional economics analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and a member of the group that created the site. “These are often presented as complex subjects. On the Web site, we wanted to make them as easy to understand as possible through text, graphics, and simulations.”

The site takes students on a virtual tour of the Federal Reserve and includes games, scavenger hunts, and other activities that help explain how the banking system works. Ready-to-use lesson plans for teachers and links to the Reserve’s other Web sites are also available.

Though intended for high school and college students, the site can also be of general use to teachers of the lower grades, as well as members of the public.

The site can be found at www.federalreserveeducation.org/ .

Trips to Mars

Students and teachers will be preparing for a virtual trip to Mars over the next six months as part of a national celebration of space exploration.

The public-private project, called Space Day 2002: Adventure to Mars, is running a competition for teams of 4th through 8th graders to design materials that would survive the Red Planet’s harsh and arid climate.

In addition, the project operates a Web site filled with learning experiences about the fourth planet from the sun. The site includes resource links to help teachers involved in the project.

The effort will culminate on May 2 with a “cyberevent” broadcast live from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Sponsors include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and Lockheed Martin Corp., a Bethesda, Md., defense and space contractor, along with school districts and educational associations.

For more information, log on to www.spaceday.com.

Catholic Schools TAP In

A closely watched experiment aimed at reinventing the teaching profession is attracting interest from Roman Catholic educators.

Officials of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis say that next fall as many as six of its schools will take part in the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, an initiative of the Santa Monica-based Milken Family Foundation.

The 2-year-old project seeks to create new incentives and heighten accountability for teachers through performance-related pay, improved staff development, and new opportunities for career advancement. (“Teacher Re-Creation,” Jan. 10, 2001.)

Milken has so far worked with local and state officials to get the pilot operating in 21 public schools in Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina.

Participation in the program by the Indianapolis Catholic schools was made possible by a grant from the Lilly Endowment. The Indianapolis philanthropy gave $10 million to the archdiocese this past summer to help its schools find ways to strengthen student performance, better serve children with special needs, and improve teacher recruitment.

“We’re interested in quality, we’re interested in good teachers, and we’re certainly interested in retaining good teachers,” said Annette “Mickey” Lentz, the secretary of education for the archdiocese. “We want to be on the cutting edge.”

Initially, Ms. Lentz said, the plan is for four to six Catholic schools within Indianapolis to take part. Her hope is eventually to expand Milken’s model throughout the system, which serves 26,000 students in 39 Indiana counties.

Book Paucity

Too many child-care centers in the United States, particularly those in low-income areas, lack the quality, and quantity, of books that experts say are necessary to provide the early-literacy experiences that can help children become good readers, says a book to be released this month.

Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education is expected to be available Dec. 10 from the International Reading Association. Ordering information is available at (800) 336-READ, ext. 226, or online.

Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education summarizes the research of Susan B. Neuman, now the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education for the U.S. Department of Education; and Donna C. Celano; Albert N. Greco; and Pamela Shue.

In a large-scale study, for example, the researchers found that television sets were more prominent than books in child-care centers.

According to a national survey, nearly one-third of the 300 centers had less than one book per child. And nearly two-thirds of those books were in poor condition.

—Jeff Archer, David J. Hoff, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
inclass@epe.org

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2001 edition of Education Week as Teaching and Learning

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