Department Rolls Out Statewide Professional Development Plan

Rob Sauer

By Rob Sauer
Deputy Superintendent

In early March, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "The future of American education absolutely includes a laptop on every desk and universal internet access at home. But a great teacher in the classroom absolutely makes the difference."

We know this statement is true, and Idaho is on the forefront of making it happen. In Idaho, we are working to transform every classroom into a 21st Century Classroom–and the most important element in those classrooms remains a skilled, highly effective teacher.

That is why the state is investing $4 million a year in professional development for classroom teachers and building leaders. This funding is in place next year and is ongoing in future years.

The statewide Technology Task Force made recommendations for how this funding should be distributed to schools and districts to have the greatest impact on developing effective teachers and raising academic achievement among students. As a result, staff at the State Department of Education, in working with district leaders and members of the Technology Task Force, have now created a statewide professional development plan.

The complete plan is posted on the StudentsComeFirst.org website at http://www.studentscomefirst.org/advancedtechnology.htm for your review. Here is a brief overview of how it will work.

First, the state will offer a multi-faceted approach to professional development for classroom teachers, technology professionals and building leaders in Idaho's schools. We recognize professional development cannot focus on just technology, but it will align with all statewide initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards, data-driven instruction and other initiatives to ensure teachers and leaders gain hands-on knowledge of how they can use technology as a tool in their classrooms.

Second, the goal of Idaho's professional development plan is to build capacity at all levels–classroom, district and state–to support a student-centered approach, to prepare teachers to graduate from universities ready to teach in a 21st Century Classroom and to provide professional learning in multiple formats that will foster maximum participation. Professional development will be provided through face-to-face, web-based, and job-embedded training to overcome the limitations we face with time and geography. While many parts of the professional development will be face-to-face, the state is developing blended learning opportunities that will be accessible anytime, anywhere to teachers as they face different challenges in the classroom.

The state will develop regional training teams for the implementation of one-to-one laptop devices and for the effective use of other classroom technology. The regional teams will include one building administrator, one teacher, one technology coordinator, one special education director or coordinator and one English language learner teacher or educator. By the end of April, the state will have selected 28 regional trainers statewide. These teams will be trained throughout the summer of 2012 and be prepared to work with schools and districts in their region to conduct professional development opportunities throughout the 2012-2013 school year. The state will pay stipends for their work and reimburse any costs of substitutes.

The state also will identify local professional development leaders in every public high school. These leaders will include one curriculum lead and one technology lead at each school. The state will work individually with these local leaders to build capacity and ensure they have the expertise they need to support the people in their building with the implementation of one-to-one laptop devices as well as other classroom technology. The state will pay stipends for their work and reimburse any costs of substitutes.

The state is also planning to invest in Idaho students and create student leadership opportunities. Other states and school districts across the country that have successfully implemented one-to-one initiatives have created student leadership teams. Idaho will recruit and select student leaders from across the state to participate in the Idaho Student Technology Council to partner with the State Department of Education in creating materials and resources specifically for high school students.

In addition to this work at the state level, the Department will be granting money to local school districts and public charter schools. The Professional Development Grant application is now posted on our website. Each district has the opportunity to apply for up to $10,000 to assist in professional development activities connected to the integration of technology and other statewide initiatives. The deadline to apply is April 15. The state will award grants to at least 50 districts and public charter schools statewide.

We want to work with you and your local school districts on this professional development plan as we begin to implement it statewide. It truly is a living document, and we want it to stay that way. Please take a moment to read through it and give us your feedback or let us know if you have questions. I'm available at rcsauer@sde.idaho.gov.