Problems with Professional Development.

How should districts address obstacles that would impede the success of such programs? An inevitable consideration is time, of course. It would be ideal if all teachers had ample opportunities to learn from one another, and to absorb the current research in a vacuum. but considerable juggling of schedules is necessary. as the ongoing practice of direct student interaction is neglected only at the district’s peril. With a limited number of school days per year, with needed allocations for snow days and unforeseen interferences with academic scheduling. a teacher’s available time is a resource that determines district funding and must be husbanded by the administration.

A study by Raywid has sought to examine time allocation by school districts in terms of professional development assignments. Numerous approaches have been devised for time-management that would free-up hours or days needed for improvement of the educational process as a whole.

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One proposal would be either extending the school year, adding additional days, or just hours to build a block of time permitting ongoing improvement for the staff. The entire day could be planned for an extended length during four days of the week, with one day being designated for a shortened time-frame. A shortened Friday might prove a popular choice in this instance. but specific district needs will of course be paramount in choosing a day most convenient.

Without adding time, a budget could be allocated, for some districts to use greater numbers of teaching assistants, qualified volunteers, or teaching interns to cover classes. providing students with the same number of days they are entitled to under State and Federal Law, while granting time needed for continuous development amongst the teaching staff. The use of qualified teaching volunteers could serve as a means to increase community support. Former, retired teachers could be retained in a limited capacity to allow the same number of school hours, but giving current teachers a chance to pursue professional goals. Drawing upon the talent pool of the community at large could be a useful means to strengthen ties, and encourage interest and participation in events such as PTA meetings. or ancillary school-related functions. Certain previously-planned staff meeting and informational sessions could also be re-tasked to allow for instruction in teaching methods, and studies of knowledge absorption in students. Teachers may be given ‘PTO’, some form of paid time off, or a substitute bank of time that has been previously allocated, and could be ‘tapped’ by individual teachers on an ‘as needed’ basis. (Raywid, 1993) More ideas are needed, as Professional development has not been universally perceived as integral to enhancing teacher effectiveness and adaptability. (Watts & Castle, 1993) The above mentioned recommendations for time allocation may be unusual in most districts. where district administration, as well as parents, and State education officials tend to be leery of anything that distracts teachers from direct student interaction. (NECTL, 1994) It is rare to create scheduling with professional skill development in mind.

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