August 2006
Vol. 5 #2

Subscribe to SuperTECH News

SuperTECH NEWS is the bi-monthly newsletter of the BLE GROUP, which provides small- and medium-size school systems with supplementary technology management to produce high-quality educational results and efficient management.

The purpose of SuperTECH NEWS is to provide education decision makers with concise information that allows them to make informed technology decisions to impact instruction, management and communication. This is information you can use on Monday morning.

Editor, Susan DeMark
Web Design, Charlene Polanosky
Publisher, Eliot Levinson

 

Our August issue theme is professional development. Choose from the following articles:

 

The BLE Group and Its Services: We offer technology and management expertise to small and medium-size school systems. We can assess where your school system is and exactly what you need to do to implement NCLB. We provide management support to implement effective technology-delivered programs. The BLE Group also helps education firms develop and deliver high-quality products and services to schools.
Theme of the MonthProfessional Development – In this month’s newsletter, we check out professional development, primarily Web- and technology-based systems to manage and deliver teaching training and courses. This is the hottest solution in K-12 education, one increasingly becoming a systematic mix of Web- and in-person delivery.  Moreover, there is a convergence of professional development management systems and professional development content programs; these will continue merging toward an integrated system of planning, management delivery, and evaluation of PD. We tell you what you need to consider.
ProductsSuper Tech News examines a selection of key companies that offer professional development products. We look at four categories: management systems, hybrid instruction and management systems, content-oriented products, and products that instruct teachers about technology.
Best Practices—Lessons learned from Montgomery County Pubic Schools in Maryland, which is developing a model, in-house Professional Development system based on Web-enabled management in combination with online and face-to-face content delivery.  The program will make use of data and reliable assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of PD courses and programs in connection with student achievement and individualized teacher objectives.
Conferences—Check out the relevant conferences coming in the next several months.

We want to hear from you. What do you agree and disagree with on this issue (we will post comments from readers in the next issue). Please write us at eliot@blegroup.com.

DID YOU MISS AN ISSUE?
You can read past issues of SuperTECH NEWS relating to NCLB online:

 

WHO IS THE BLE GROUP AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

The BLE Group brings together 35 working CIOs, superintendents, and curriculum directors of school systems and state education departments who are knowledgeable about and dedicated to using technology to improve K-12 instruction and management. The BLE Group provides services to help education firms develop and deliver high-quality products and services to schools. And we supply services to schools to manage technology use in order to improve results and make school operations more efficient. The services are:

  • Super TECH NEWS - A free, Web-based newsletter that offers up-to-date, easy-to-understand information to non-technical education decision makers to guide technology decisions. It's news you can use.
  • CIO and Instructional Leader Panels - The BLE Group provides more than 75 focus groups per year for technology firms and publishers to assist you in improving the quality of products and services for K-12 schools. The panels are held at NECC, NSBA, and FETC.
  • Implementation Support - The biggest problem schools have is getting technology used effectively. Fifty-five percent of software is never used. This brief, inexpensive management service occurs in the early stages of a major system implementation. It's focused on improving the management capacity of vendors and helps school systems that are implementing technology avoid problems and get the maximum from your investment.
  • NCLB Management Support for Smaller School Systems (aka Rent a Part-time CIO) - The BLE Group is passionate about improving the quality of education in small and rural school systems. As technology becomes essential for accountability (you cannot do NCLB without it), smaller school systems run the risk of becoming second-class unless you can find a way to plan and manage technology effectively. This is difficult as good technologist/educators are scarce and costly. The BLE Group's NCLB management and support service provides individual districts and consortiums of smaller school systems with a part-time CIO who will work as part of your management team. Our service improves management capacity and gives you the expertise you need at a reasonable price.

BLE Group People

Eliot Levinson is the founder of the BLE Group. Levinson launched the BLE Group (www.blegroup.com) in 1998 to help schools implement technology for better results. Levinson felt that there was a need for professional services from a group of educators who understood technology and could address the unique needs of K-12 schools.

Levinson is known for his work in implementation of technology for accountability and his knowledge of educational-technology products and services. Eliot's background integrates education and technology. His experience in education includes being a teacher in California and Pennsylvania, a middle school principal in Massachusetts, and an assistant to the chancellor of schools in New York City. His technology and research background ranges from having worked as a management scientist at the Rand Corporation and directing a research program on the organizational impact of technology at MIT's Sloan School of Management to being the co-founder of a Web-based instructional-management company.

Eliot works as a strategic technology advisor to school systems of all sizes and state departments of education. He also assists several educational-technology firms in strategic planning and implementation. In addition to publishing Super TECH NEWS, he is a regular contributor to Scholastic Administrator and speaks frequently on topics of education policy, technology, leadership, and school management, etc.

THE BLE Group's leadership team consists of:

  • Eliot Levinson-CEO, BLE Group
  • Robin Wheeler -Former CIO, Savannah, Georgia
  • Charles Garten-Former Executive Director, Educational Technology and Information Services, Poway Unified School District, California
  • Kenneth Eastwood-Superintendent, Middletown, New York
  • Don Hall-Executive Director of Information Technology, Kent School District, Washington

NOTE: To inquire about BLE Group services, check out our Web site at www.blegroup.com or call 202.281.1763

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THEME: Professional Development

Professional development is becoming the hottest solution in K-12 education. Professional development will be less sage-on-the-stage lectures on Wednesday afternoon or graduate courses not directly linked to the classroom. It will be increasingly a systematic mix of Web- and human-delivered content linked to teachers’ needs to address standards.

NCLB and the increased use of Web-based applications are radically changing the delivery of professional development.

  • NCLB has established a demand for effective professional development because it has made shortfalls in student outcomes more obvious. NCLB’s emphasis on student outcomes, assessment, Adequate Yearly Progress, and qualified teachers is forcing school systems to seriously seek professional development solutions to improve the quality of teaching and the quality of student outcomes.

  • Web applications allow teachers to receive training 24/7 through their computers. The Web enables school systems to connect data such as students’ mastery of standards and teacher qualifications, and to deliver high-quality PD content tailored to the needs of individual teachers and districts.

Professional development in K-12 is in the early stages of a sea change, one that will rapidly gain momentum. Forget the old Wednesday afternoon, early-release days. Professional development is moving to the Web with targeted content and measurable results. Also, forget school districts spending millions of dollars on training teachers –
who are the key to their success –  with little idea of the outcomes and exactly what they are getting for their expenditures. In this issue, we look at K-12 professional development, specifically technology-enabled and Web-delivered PD.

Let’s look at where we are now and where we are headed.

Where we are now: Most content is delivered locally, a lot of it is generic, and its outcomes are not measured. Quality runs the gamut from excellent to poor. Professional development, for the most part, is not directly linked to the classroom.

Where we are headed: NCLB’s increased funds for professional development are being coupled with a demand to improve teacher training according to measurable evidence. Schools are converting to management systems that track, help deliver, and measure teachers’ proficiency, knowledge, and skill sets in a much more targeted way. The ultimate aim: linking this directly to gaps and gains in student achievement. Moreover, there is a convergence of professional development management systems and professional development content programs; these will continue merging toward an integrated system of planning, management delivery, and evaluation of PD.

The market is undergoing a kind of Pac-Man in which vendors will merge and acquire each other to create the new integrated professional development systems. Key examples are:

  • Last November, Pearson acquired Co-nect, a leading provider of professional development tools and technologies for managing and measuring instructional improvement. It has been joined with Pearson’s LessonLab, a heavily content-oriented collection of professional development programs.

  • SchoolNet, a leading provider of instructional-management systems, last September acquired AHA! Interactive, a leading maker of Web-based professional development management systems.

The second major theme underlying professional development is the move to the Web. These online systems offer portals and Web-based technologies that capture a lot of other information within school districts, enable PD to be much more tailored and focused per individual teacher, and connect the PD system more closely with systems for assessment, human resources, NCLB, and standards-based teaching.

Professional development isn’t moving wholesale to online delivery, but it will be increasingly a mix of Web and in-person delivery. The utilization of Web tools will enable customization and delivery of professional development 24/7, not just on professional development days.

A key driver of these systems right now is automation. Schools can use the management programs to capture and link other data, from financial to HR; get a glimpse instantly of the PD courses and certifications each teacher has completed; track the financial impact on the school system; and assess the progress of each employee.

There are two types of technology-delivered professional development offerings: commercial off-the-shelf systems and custom-built systems.  Off-the-shelf systems provide broad functionality and are ready to use. Customized systems require customization by the vendor to specific school district needs, such as linking the program to other data such as student assessment scores or teacher retention records. The advantages of off-the-shelf systems are that they are usually less expensive and do not demand large amounts of development time. The advantages of customized systems is that they address specific requirements of a district such as improving student outcomes or providing teachers with knowledge that they do not have and measuring their learning, as in the case of Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, which we examine in this newsletter.

We look at both types of products in our Products and Solutions section below. An example of a commercial off-the-shelf product is eSchool Solution’s ERO (Electronic Registrar Online), a tool that automates, monitors, and guides the delivery of professional development with features such as 24/7 registration for courses via telephone or the Internet and tracking of progress against NCLB requirements, state mandates, and district goals. “We are seeing that school administrators and principals are becoming the front lines of staff development, and they need the tools and technology to monitor the professional development activities of the teachers,” says John May, product manager for professional development at eSchool Solutions.

Another product that we examine, TrueNorth Logic’s product for teachers, True Achieve, represents another of the new-generation best-of-breed offerings – it is a customizable product. The Teacher Development System tracks and audits professional development; links up the PD system with departments such as HR and finance; and can be used for an up-to-date inventory of a teacher’s progress and remaining gaps.   

Another major mover – and the one that will get really interesting in the next few years – is how vendors will develop and schools will use these systems to address actual gaps in teachers’ knowledge and measure what you need for educational results. With NCLB and other developments, schools are clamoring for better systems to track training and measure its results.

Web-based professional development systems are at an early stage – in terms of merging content and management, human and Web-based delivery. However, they will be evolving very rapidly over the next two years. The integration of management and content will increase tremendously. Where should your district begin? Start with your goals, and their core. Is it student achievement? Is teacher retention a primary concern?

Once you figure out those basic objectives, design your professional development system aligned to performance metrics that can be tracked and audited. Basically, which solutions will tell you what you need to do based on what students know and don’t know?

Though teachers are key stakeholders in education – and retaining quality teachers will become even more critical in the next 5 to 10 years – companies and school districts are finally getting it in a big way: Professional development must be designed, implemented, and managed so that it impacts student achievement.

Now that we have explored the bottom-line trends, let’s look at a representative sample of Products and Solutions, and a Best Practices example of a leading-edge PD program in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools.

 

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New Products & Services

PRODUCTS AND SOLUTIONS: Professional Development

Note: The BLE Group does not endorse any of the examples listed below. These products and services were chosen to give a representative sample of what is out there in open source technologies and related companies.

In this issue, we take a look at a representative sample of Professional Development products and solutions. These companies are leading-edge providers that will give you a sense not only of developments today but of where the field is evolving and how technology and Web delivery are used.

We divide the discussion of Web-based professional development products into four categories:

The companies:

Management Products

There are two reasons to manage professional development: 1) With the penetration of NCLB, districts need to know what type of professional development is being offered and which courses are being given. 2) The management of professional development is very time-consuming and inefficient. Web-based tools re-engineer the management process so that teachers can efficiently enroll in courses, districts can track which courses are offered, and a record can be kept of the professional development that each teacher has had.

Professional development management systems are cost-effective and appear to be the systems that are taking root very quickly as they are easier to implement. There are two varieties of management systems: off-the-shelf programs such as eSchool Solutions ERO (Electronic Registrar Online) that are reasonably priced and do not require much customization by the district and customized programs such as TrueNorth Logic and SchoolNet that are tailored to the objectives and metrics of a particular school system.

eSchool Solutions ERO (Electronic Registrar Online)
http://www.eschoolsolutions.com/ero-index.shtml

eSchool Solutions is a provider of integrated educational management products.  It offers a commercial off-the-shelf product, ERO – Electronic Registrar Online – through which staff development administrators can create professional development plans that address requirements and needs for individual teachers.  The product can be used to manage and guide teachers in personalized development.

As a commercial off-the-shelf product, ERO isn’t a custom-built solution, but it isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” offering either; it is highly configurable to meet the unique needs of a school system, says John May, product manager for professional development.  School districts can set up the methodology required for that school district, based on site-based or centrally managed professional development.

Using the product’s state-of-the-art technology, teachers can register for professional development 24/7; administrators can track and monitor teachers’ professional development enrollment and communicate with participants through the system; and administrators can monitor enrollment reports at a glance.

The product provides several key functions and benefits to schools, such as registration and monitoring. It helps schools monitor compliance so that administrators can develop and track programs for teachers to meet the requirements of Highly Qualified Teachers (HQT) as defined by NCLB. State regulations and goals, district objectives and metrics, and individual school-improvement plans can be incorporated into the professional development plan of each teacher.

Another important component of the product is the Institute for Best Practices, the research and consulting division of eSchool Solutions. The Institute for Best Practices offers online needs assessment, program effectiveness analysis, discrepancy analysis, and data-driven design services.

SchoolNet: PD Planner
http://www.schoolnet.com/solutions/index.aspx?id=4

SchoolNet, a major provider of data-driven instructional-management and curriculum standards alignment tools, is seeking to be a key player in the professional development arena, especially with its acquisition of AHA! Interactive in 2005. AHA has been a leading provider of customized PD management systems in K-12. This combination allows SchoolNet to be one of the companies in the K-12 space aggressively pushing a solution that will enable schools to measure the effectiveness of PD through increased student achievement and to target specific gaps in teacher training.

SchoolNet’s PD Planner is a separate, Web-based, scalable system that manages and tracks all of a district’s professional development. It enables school systems to target professional development based on timely student assessment results.

Like the corporate world, schools are moving to put much more of an emphasis on performance management, says Rob Schnieders, vice president, human capital solutions for SchoolNet. The objectives: improve school achievement and student scores, measurement of the value and results of district PD programs, enhancing teacher proficiency, and addressing retention.

SchoolNet had previously partnered with AHA! To bring in the AHA PD tools as a component of SchoolNet’s instructional management. With the acquisition, the two companies joined forces entirely to market an integrated version of AHA’s professional development management tool, sold as SchoolNet’s PD Planner.  It is a Web-based single, scalable system to manage teacher certification, staff development plans, and the effectiveness of PD programs.

This management system permits schools to create individual staff development plans based on national or state standards or goals set by the district; enables teachers and administrators to register for courses and activities online; and helps teachers and administrators track and evaluate the impact of PD programs on classroom results using real data. It can be used to cross-reference teacher and student performance; implement mentoring programs; and execute data-based plans to measure and improve teacher performance.

SchoolNet primarily has targeted the country’s largest school districts, but, Schnieders says, nothing would prevent a smaller school district from using PD Planner, and such districts could derive the same benefits from it.

TrueNorth Logic
http://www.truenorthlogic.com/

TrueNorth Logic’s TrueAchieve is a professional development management product. It does not offer content, and is content-agnostic – meaning it can accommodate a variety of content that schools choose. The platform is a centralized, automated system that tracks and audits the PD process. It allows schools to have a single point of entry into a Web-based system that manages registration, credits, planning, certification management, and a teacher-proficiency inventory.

NCLB and other requirements are driving schools to seek products that track teacher training and professional development far more rigorously and measure the results, says Dan Cookson, CEO of TrueNorth Logic.

TrueNorth creates a “context,” as COO Jeanette Hammock explains, to align the professional development program with student achievement and schools’ standards. One example is in Arizona, where an education portal powered by TrueNorth Logic is supporting and managing PD for 45,000 teachers and educators and is integrated into the statewide education initiative to improve student achievement.

The company’s product is aimed at helping schools share information across departments and organizations, not only to deliver and manage professional development but to leverage data to target gaps in training and to support teacher retention.

TrueNorth Logic’s product links up with human resources and financial data, for example, and it provides a centralized teacher transcript. Having back-office automation of professional development is something that is being embraced by the market because it helps to cut down overhead and provides end-to-end management of the process.

A second key objective is making the management and delivery of professional development not a one-time event, but something that becomes integral to the daily routine. This is coupled with a teacher-proficiency inventory that gives a clear snapshot of where teachers are currently and exactly what they need to do to achieve their goals. . The product is “content-agnostic” so that schools can channel the content they choose through it.

TrueNorth Logic’s solution has been customized by Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland in a product that will be marketed to other schools. We look at this PD initiative in our Best Practices example in this newsletter.

 

Hybrid Management and Content Solutions

Professional development management and content systems are gradually merging toward integrated systems, where the management and delivery of professional development are located in one solution. This will take a while and also is taking the form of strategic partnerships between delivery and management systems.  The integration of the two systems is new but will grow rapidly.  The merger of Co-nect into Pearson is an example of an integrated system.

Pearson Achievement Solutions: Co-nect and Lesson Lab
http://www.pearsonachievementsolutions.com/

Pearson Education is one of the key players that is aggressively seeking to address the paradigm of directly linking student achievement, accountability, and professional development – and it has made an important acquisition over the past year as part of its strategy to do so.

In November 2005, Pearson acquired Co-nect, a leading provider of data-driven professional development solutions that help schools manage and measure instructional improvement. The company formed Pearson Achievement Solutions, bringing Co-Nect together with LessonLab, its existing professional development program. LessonLab K-12 teacher educational programs include district professional development, distance- and site-based graduate courses, and graduate courses. These are delivered in a variety of formats, including face-to-face, online, or a combination of both. The LessonLab technology platform is a suite of web-based software tools that enable teachers to study videotaped classroom sessions to improve their own performance.

With the merged offerings, Pearson is focusing on delivering customized solutions that will utilize comprehensive professional development aligned with research, assessment, and instruction. Since its founding in 1992, Co-Nect has helped teachers and administrators to use assessment data with research-based strategies to identify school district needs and devise specific plans to achieve better results. It has diagnostic tools that allow schools define, measure, and improve instruction.

John Super, president of the Services Group of Pearson Achievement Solutions, says that if schools are to ensure that every child will learn, quality teaching is central to that objective. According to Super, Co-Nect brings to the table its long experience in using data to evaluate teaching and learning and its development on creating and tracking professional development, while LessonLab brings its work on instructional leadership, best practices, and evidence-based research.

Super noted that professional development is evolving to a focus much more on instructional leadership; retention of good teachers; coherent long-term strategies aligned with addressing gaps in teacher knowledge and needed improvements in student achievement; and on accountability for the dollars spent on PD.

Teachscape
http://www.teachscape.com/html/ts/public/html/index.htm

Teachscape represents a hybrid, customizable program. It partners with schools to deliver a tailored, collaborative PD program with both onside and online delivery, to teachers and educators with all levels of experience.  There is no set Teachscape program; rather the company works closely with schools to develop a program that fits the district’s needs and goals. It uses video case studies, multimedia-rich content libraries, tracking tools, and online forums to enhance teacher proficiency in both classroom management and subject-area knowledge.

The Teachscape program begins with data analysis to identify what is working and where the gaps exist. Teachscape and schools co-design a program that focuses on such key questions as: What does school data indicate about student learning needs? Where are the gaps in instruction? What kind of ongoing PD learning and support do teachers need so progress in student achievement can be ongoing and sustained?

The company’s approach isn’t one of one-day seminars, but rather multi-year contracts and long-term partnerships. It maintains that instructional leadership is a critical component of promoting, supporting, and sustaining educational improvement. The program incorporates coaching for teachers, modeling of best practices, and plans for differentiated staff development.

In tailoring a PD program to a client district, Teachscape customizes its core service offerings of content and practices – essential research-based approaches to literacy, math, science, early childhood, instructional leadership, new-teacher induction, and instruction for English language learners.

The online program provides multimedia case-based learning resources that feature best-practice videos of teachers in unrehearsed, unscripted research-based lessons that are mapped to standards. Teachers have a standard starting point in the online system from which they can track progress on assigned materials; participate in group exchanges; and access a variety of content resources and online activities.
 

 

Products That Focus on Content

School systems often find it difficult and costly to get high-quality professional development trainers and to deliver customized content that addresses the individual needs of teachers. A mix of Web- and in-person delivery makes it easier and more cost-effective to deliver professional development.

Web-based delivery also allows educators to access professional development when they need it, not being limited to professional or released days. Professional development is increasingly focused on providing content that can be used in the classroom. Content-oriented products are mainly concerned with the delivery of information and methods that teachers need to teach, e.g., early literacy, the implementation of standards, or math. The content programs are also increasingly measuring whether or not the content has been mastered.

Classroom Connect
http://corporate.classroom.com/index.html

Classroom Connect is one of the content-oriented providers of both online and face-to-face professional development and online instructional materials. The company has two key focus areas: helping teachers and administrators use and fully integrate technology in instruction to working with districts to develop a customized PD program.

Its offerings include Connected University, an online professional development resource with courses, learning materials, just-in-time support, and a nationwide community of peers. It has four departments offering courses in technology integration, mathematics, educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction.

The company has a huge catalog of available offerings, including software tutorials and dozens of guide-led and self-paced courses; many courses are available for graduate credit and Continuing Education units (CEUs). The Web-based PD can occur at any time. Connected University offers self-paced courses, as well as others covering 3, 4, or 6 weeks.

The courses align with district’s instructional goals and aim to help teachers and administrators develop real-world projects and lessons they can implement immediately. One example is a course concerning creating a successful school district technology integration plan. The training is tailored to individual needs, starting with individual self-assessment of skills followed by customized instruction.

Another key component of Classroom Connect’s solution is customized professional development, which is comprised of both face-to-face and online delivery. Classroom Connect can work with in-house experts and offers consulting, instructional design, and onsite implementation.

Connected Workshops are single or multi-day staff development experiences aimed at improving student achievement. And Custom Conferences are multi-day staff development events that bring in teams of experts to address a district’s specific professional development needs.

Classroom Connect is an educational-technology division of Harcourt Education.

 

Products That Focus on Teaching for Technology

Although many teachers now have basic technology skills, as the delivery of education increasingly moves to the Web, teachers need to have high-quality technology skills. This training will mean they can work with technology tools the way that they work with chalk and a blackboard. There are a few programs that provide teachers with technology skills and training on specific applications. Atomic Learning exemplifies this type of program.

Atomic Learning
http://www.atomiclearning.com/

Formed in 2000, Atomic Learning provides software tutorials and training that help teachers, administrators, and staff gain skills in executing technology and integrating it into classroom instruction and school management. With thousands of movies and many software applications covered, the company offers an anywhere, anytime Web-delivered training program.

Atomic Learning’s approach to making technology-geared professional development affordable and accessible is a library of Web-based training and software tutorials. They are intended as a just-in-time, available 24/7 software trainer. The tutorials are highly targeted and none exceed three minutes in length.

The company’s “atoms of learning,” as it calls them, are very short tutorials that present information in an easy-to-understand format. The library offers thousands of tutorials on dozens of the most common applications useful to teachers, educators, and administrators. These include many of the basic Mac- and PC-based applications – from Dreamweaver, Excel, and Adobe Photoshop to PowerPoint and StarOffice software. The modules also address other instructional needs and activities such as time line creators, electronic-portfolio development, Web searches, and e-mail client setups. The tutorials and support can be categorized roughly into three groups: Windows, Macintosh, and curriculum tools such as lesson plans, staff development, workshops, and podcasting.

Atomic Learning is a subscription-based service. Both volume pricing and individual subscriptions are available, and they permit access to the company’s online library, which users can connect with from homes as well as schools. Atomic Learning’s offerings can serve as a centralized knowledge database for schools. Once users log onto the system, they can pose a question or seek specific information about how to use a software or curricular tool or program, and find modules addressing their questions.

Atomic Learning serves more than 2,000 school districts as well as universities in the U.S. and schools in foreign countries, plus clients in other industries.

 

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STN Best Practices

BEST PRACTICES :

Montgomery County, Maryland, Public Schools

Montgomery County, Maryland, Public Schools is developing a model, in-house Professional Development system based on Web-enabled management in combination with online and face-to-face content delivery. Montgomery’s Web-based portal allows administrators and teachers to have their own space on the system and access all PD information individually. It will ultimately support professional development delivery to all 20,000 employees, including 14,000 teachers and administrators.

The MCPS Professional Development Online (PDO) system automates the delivery of online courses, registration, and individual transcripts. It lets the district, in concert with individual administrators and teachers, tailor PD planning, and it captures and collates a lot of other school system information from departments such as HR and finance.

With a phased rollout that began earlier this year, MCPS is in the early stages of customizing and implementing the professional development management system, according to John Q. Porter, deputy superintendent, Office of Information and Organizational Systems. Through this program, the district will be able to track what it is getting from professional development and training targeted individually and linked with district needs to improve student achievement. The program will make use of data and reliable assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of PD courses and programs – and move away from anecdotal responses from participants to figure out what is working and what isn’t.

As Porter has said, "We call it the essential question: How do you know if the student has gotten the information? How do you know if he or she didn't get it? If the person got it, what do you do about it? If he or she didn't, what do you do about it? If they haven't gotten it, you need to put measurements in place to re-teach and re-test. We do this with students but we don't do that very well with staff."

“We are investing millions of dollars for professional development. Our objective is to improve student performance. We will do everything to build the capacity of our staff and  to ensure that our investment is reaching our objective” Porter says.

Prior to the changes, MCPS, like other school systems, employed a generic approach to professional development that wasn’t suited to its needs and objectives and that didn’t give enough solid information about the results. Now the entire leadership team at MCPS has embraced a much more systematic approach to professional development strongly guided by data analysis. In particular, Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast saw the vision of data-driven leadership and professional development. He wanted a product that could help correlate targeted PD with lower-performing schools and would provide information at a glance such as how many teachers have completed particular kinds of training. He believes that systematic, effective teacher training is critical to addressing a changing school population and achievement gap among schools.

The new MCPS system will make teachers’ individualized professional development aligned with accountability at the classroom level, by connecting teacher’s proficiency more closely with student learning, through analyzing achievement data. Plans for teachers are developed based on the needs and instruction for his or her students, and on individual teacher needs – not on some generic notion of PD. MCPS is working with Utah-based TrueNorth Logic and customizing its Teacher Development System to Montgomery County Schools’ needs and objectives.

There are two main thrusts of the new PDO system: 1) automation and 2) evaluation based on data. Through the system, MCPS can manage the delivery, including portfolios, registration, individually targeted communications, etc. It can facilitate courses and content from varied sources. The system can target announcements, information, and content to staff members based on position.

The district will have the ability to capture and use data in an increasingly targeted way compared with the past, to determine whether the professional development has been effective; what impact it is having on student learning; and what type of PD should be created based on gaps in teacher proficiency and student achievement. As Porter explains, MCPS is starting to truly use data to drive PD, for example, to increase the rigor of math and algebra training.

Montgomery County is starting to build its online course content, but probably 90 percent of the PD is still delivered face-to-face. The level of online courses will increase dramatically, but “online is not the elixir of the delivery of professional development,” Porter says.

The first rollout earlier this year of the PDO system was to teachers and administrators, but eventually all district employees will be included. In addition, MCPS and TrueNorth Logic have plans to jointly market the system – which can be customized and scaled to any size district – to other schools. The first rollout earlier this year of the PDO system was to teachers and administrators, but eventually all district employees will be included. In addition, MCPS and TrueNorth Logic have a public private partnership which will  allow True North Logic to market the system – which can be customized and scaled to any size district, to other districts.

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Conferences

CONFERENCES:

Following is an annotated list of educational conferences that you may want to attend in the coming months (complete with links to information).

Washington Interactive Technologies Conference
The conference brings together professionals from the education, industry, and government sectors to explore the latest applications for education and training, job-performance improvement programs, and technology-based learning systems. The Society for Applied Learning Technology’s conference examines new technologies as well as existing applications.
Aug. 23-25, 2006
Arlington, Va.
http://www.salt.org/salt.asp?pn=washington&ss=m

ASIS International 2006
The 52nd annual conference offers comprehensive programming on security management issues, challenges, and state-of-the-art practices. Exhibitors and more than 150 quality sessions developed by and for hands-on security management professionals.
Sept. 25-28, 2006
San Diego, Calif.
http://www.asisonline.org/education/programs/noframe/2006seminar/default.html

Council of Urban Boards of Education 38th Annual Conference
This gathering focuses on building culturally competent governance for urban schools. Join CUBE and school board members, superintendents, and central district staff in exploring the opportunities that increasing cultural diversification presents to urban schools.
Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2006
Phoenix, Ariz.
http://www.nsba.org/site/page_micro.asp?TrackID=&CID=80&DID=212

ACET 2006 Annual Conference
”Anytime, Anywhere Computing: Mobile and Secure” is the theme of the 42nd annual conference sponsored by the Association for Computer Educators in Texas. The conference includes professional development opportunities; papers presenting current research and cutting-edge technologies; speakers; and workshops.
Oct. 18-21, 2006
Tomball, Tex.
http://www.texasacet.org/Conference.htm

California Educational Technology Professionals Association Annual Conference
With the explosive growth in technology, CETPA is expanding its annual gathering to four days. The session tracks are: secure and reliable infrastructures, technology tools for education, policy and programs that impact education, and new learning environments.
Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, 2006
Monterey, Calif.
http://www.cetpa-k12.org/

National School Boards Association T+L Conference
The 20th anniversary conference examines how new technology tools are effectively used across a district in classrooms, administrative applications, parental engagement, and community outreach in order to improve student achievement. Keynotes, district-led workshops, and interactive exhibit hall are featured, as well as plenty of networking.
Nov. 8-10, 2006
Dallas, Tex.
http://www.nsba.org/T+L/

AASA 2006 Women and Emerging Leaders Conference
This American Association of School Administrators’ 26th annual gathering addresses the needs of women school system leaders and all emerging school system leaders, with a focus this year on the roles of coaching and mentoring. This newly expanded forum offers opportunities for networking and examines current developments in areas ranging from technology use and assessment to demographic changes and effective leadership.
Nov. 9-12, 2006
Arlington, Va.
http://www.aasa.org/conferences/iMisEventDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=5650

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