What does ESSA Mean for Professional Development?

How will the ESSA affect Professional Development in your district?

A Flexible Approach To PD 

The ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act is the successor to NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and passed with bipartisan support in December 2015. The writers of the ESSA made every effort to update all areas of NCLB in order to better serve teachers and students nationwide. One such update was a rewritten definition of professional development. The ESSA defines professional development as, “activities that …are sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.” (S. 1177, Section 8002, page 295, paragraph 42) This new definition of PD is a welcome change for teachers who have become frustrated with the “one and done” seminars so common in schools across the country.

This new ESSA definition acknowledges two important truths about professional development. First, there is no one size fits all solution for teacher learning. A kindergarten teacher needs something vastly different from a middle school math teacher who definitely needs something different from a high school choir director. Even a 5th grade teacher in a wealthy prep school needs something leagues away from a what would benefit a 5th grade teacher in the inner city. The ESSA gives states and school districts more freedom to choose PD that will best suit their teachers. Secondly, teachers (just like their students) do not learn well in a vacuum. As best practice shows, learners need the chance to process and ask questions in order to truly be successful. The ESSA states that PD should be on-going and job-embedded, allowing teachers the time they need to actually learn.

Under the ESSA, PD across America will take many different forms. Some schools may take a mentor teacher approach, asking seasoned teachers to come alongside their newer colleagues and share their expertise in a one-on-one mentoring relationship, while others may choose to host short after school sessions regularly highlighting a particular topic or expert. Still others will go with the “un-conference” model of participant driven sessions made popular by EdCamp.

The professional development possibilities allowed by the ESSA are almost unlimited and have the potential to greatly benefit teachers and students alike. Time will tell how the states and school districts work to utilize this new gift of responsibility to maximize its benefits.

If you need to track a variety of Professional Development activities, contact us to learn more about how Wisdomwhere's flexible architechure can manage a variety of activities for your organization.

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