Redefining Professional Development: Making ESSA’s New Guidelines Work For Your School

If you’re a K–12 educator at a public school in the U.S., you’re familiar with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2015.

“Sit-and-get” professional development, a term coined in response to PD focused on quantity over quality, is fast become a thing of the past as schools scramble to update their training systems to comply with ESSA.

Scrambling aside, many educators and education advocates are thankful for the new PD standards ESSA aims to enforce. The law refreshes both the expectations and definition of professional development with its very language in S. 1177, Section 8002, page 295, paragraph 42:

“The term ‘professional development’ means activities that … are sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused.”

While ESSA is widely considered “good news” for schools, it will require course correction at many levels of the education system, especially when it comes to professional development for teachers.

What ESSA Means for Professional Development

ESSA breathes new life into several stagnant educational practices. Notable impacts include a renewed focus on overlooked areas like the arts, increased funding for struggling schools, a wider lens that goes beyond standardized testing to the overall quality of education, more in-depth reporting on a variety of data points, and of course an overhaul of the quality and delivery of PD.

ESSA redefines professional development for educators as activities that are sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused. This flies in the face of short-term, isolated, and paperwork-heavy PD practices in many districts.

Now, educators are being asked to weigh in on what kind of PD that works for them; and administrations are strongly urged to implement this feedback. Like the education they facilitate for students, PD for teachers will become more personalized and interactive than ever before.

Of course, the evolution of professional development won’t happen overnight. And it shouldn’t if it’s to be sustainable and effective. Schools can adapt their PD programs to meet ESSA’s requirements by understanding each part of the new definition and working toward fulfilling those.

How Your School Can Adapt to Meet ESSA’s Requirements

It’s easy to imagine administrations across the U.S. balking at ESSA’s call for comprehensive and customized professional development. PD practices of old were often thwarted by time, money, and expertise challenges. However, a shift in thinking and a willingness to embrace digital tools will allow schools to usher in a new age of professional development.

These simple guidelines (which we cover in even more depth here) will help schools adapt to meet ESSA’s requirements while serving their faculty and providing an excellent education for their student body.


Encourage Long-Term, Sustainable Digital PD Curricula

Technology empowers schools to look beyond one-size-fits-all PD. Schools today are able to supplement or supplant unengaging lectures and take-home resources with digital tools.

Facilitating always-available, multi-channel forums, webinars, and courses allows PD programs to reduce physical resources while expanding the variety of topics they can cover.


Develop Intensive, Collaborative Training Opportunities

It only makes sense that educators learn best in the same collaborative environment they develop for their own classrooms.

In lieu of isolating lectures and paperwork, ESSA-era PD should put educators in the same space (whether online or in person) to encourage insightful discussions.


Prioritize Job-Embedded, Classroom-Focused PD

Per ESSA’s focus on “job-embedded” PD, training should be timely and directly applicable to day-to-day scenarios that educators face in the classroom.

Great administrations will prioritize realistic PD that real-life educators can immediately implement to improve student engagement and outcomes.


Make Data Digestible and Actionable

Districts have long known the value of data about their schools and students. However, that data is often presented in a way that is unusable for educators in the classroom.

In order for data-driven PD to be successful, patterns and outcomes must be presented in a digestible and actionable format. Teachers should be able to use these learnings to develop personalized educational approaches.


Make ESSA Even More Effective at Your School

We know that one-size-fits-all teaching isn’t effective, so why do we assume professional development programs will be?

At Hoonuit, we’re committed to helping districts develop and implement effective, ESSA-compliant PD programs that fit their unique needs. If you’re still not sure whether you’re aligned with ESSA, click here to check out our quick reference guide.

If you want to equip your district even further to reach every student effectively, click here to learn more about Hoonuit Professional Development’s “Learn It. Do It. Share It. Prove It.” framework.

This article was created for Hoonuit by Tina Eaton.

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