Longstanding members of Learning Forward Michigan will notice that we are moving from a static newsletter to an interactive, multi-author blog for delivering the latest on professional learning in Michigan. Several years ago we moved from a print to online newsletter; today’s change comes as we anticipate member needs for timely information within a highly networked learning environment. Our purpose, however, remains the same:
by Cynthia Carver, Oakland University
This is an exciting time to be a teacher leader! Increasingly, states are adopting teacher leadership endorsements and districts are finding ways to recognize teacher leaders for a variety of formal and informal roles, from new teacher mentor and literacy coach, to department chair and school improvement coordinator. In Michigan, for example, teacher leaders will be able to apply for an optional “Advanced Professional Educator” certificate starting in 2016. In preparation, teachers and leaders across the state are entering into conversation about how to use teacher leaders to promote continuous improvement at the building and district levels.
Welcome to another year of the Learning Forward MI Newsletter! The articles in this fall’s newsletter are designed to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of online professional learning. From web-based discussion groups to classroom simulations, games, ear-bud coaching and video capturing – online professional learning is championed for its convenience, affordability, and flexibility. But as the articles in this issue remind us, e-learning may not be for everyone, at every time.
The most promising strategy for sustained, substantive school improvement is building the capacity of school personnel to function as a professional learning community. (Schmoker, 2010, p.1)
Effective professional learning must directly impact teacher practice to ensure students successfully meet the rigorous academic requirements they need to be career- and college-ready. Learning Forward defines professional learning as a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement. This definition focuses attention on those who have the most direct impact on students and their learning.
It does not take a mind reader to grasp the “don’t waste our time” mentality of teachers faced with mandatory professional learning. Recent legislative actions to quantify teacher value via a misguided “accounting strategy” (Ravitch, 2010, p. 16) are turning political skepticism for educators into job-jeopardizing evaluations. Careening in these conditions, faculty tolerance for inefficient professional learning no longer exists. Teachers demand, and deserve, professional learning with a purpose.
A Tale of Two Schools
This study combines survey data of 33 New Jersey public schools involved in a state-sponsored PLC training program with case studies of two of those schools in order to trace the factors associated with the implementation of PLCs.