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District Tackles Sustainability of PD Efforts

A superintendent I interviewed once told me, "There's probably not a district out there that doesn't think it's doing [professional learning communities]," a very popular form of school-based professional support in which teams of teachers address instructional challenges and problem solve.

And yet, she went on to add, they can be done well or poorly. So just what makes the difference when it comes to effective PLCs?

One idea comes from this interesting little article on the Menifee, Calif., school district, which is coupling the PLC idea with a new element: coaches who rotate on a six-week basis to area schools. The coaches provide follow-up support to the grade-level or subject-area teams of teachers to help make sure that new ideas are tried out in the classroom, to troubleshoot them, and to observe as teachers start to integrate them into practice.

This may seem all very common sense, but it underscores an important finding in the professional-development research that's often ignored: the fact that it has to be sustained, in addition to being intensive and content-specific. The district's curriculum coordinator is quoted in the article saying as much, and it's clearly part of the impetus behind this effort.

Meanwhile, the National Council on Teacher Quality dug a little more for an entry on its "Pretty Darn Quick" blog, and reports that the training, while a bit more expensive, isn't exorbitant.

Any other good professional-development insights out there? I know I want to hear about them, and our readers do too. Comments section is open!

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