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Strong School-Based Professional Development that Leads to Impact

by Emily Hofer

Alain Locke is a PK-8 school located in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood. To give you a sense of their incredible results, they are the top performing K-8 charter school in Illinois and have earned the distinction of being one of seven schools in the United States recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as “Best Closing the Achievement Gap.”

What’s the secret sauce leading to Alain Locke’s success?

A standout practice for the school’s leadership team and teachers is a commitment to ongoing, focused and actionable professional development. Explaining the school’s philosophy towards professional development, Principal Patrick Love says,

“It needs to be useful; it needs to be able to be implemented in the classroom right away. So we don’t spend a lot of time on theory, but we do spend time on buy-in and why this works. And we use data to help show that.”

How has this approach played out?

What is text complexity?

After their first interim assessment last year, the Alain Locke team noticed a gap across grade levels in students’ ability to cite text evidence using complex text. To address this gap, Patrick and his teacher leaders decided to provide some “just-in-time” professional development on text complexity and text-dependent questions. Teachers were able to apply this knowledge to their action plans and instructional plans for upcoming units. The results from this approach were two-fold: there was a 20% jump in scores across the board from the first to second interim assessment; and teachers were more purposefully embedding text-dependent questioning using complex texts in their instruction. You can listen to Patrick share this experience here:

What additional tips can you share?

If that success story has you wanting to learn more, here are two more tips we can share with you about Alain Locke’s approach to professional development:

  • Align PD to your yearly priorities and set aside time each month for PD. Choose PD topics each month (rather than at the start of the year) based on what you learn from your data and the needs of your teachers. This way, PD can be aligned to your yearly priorities as well as timely and responsive to your data. Take a look at Alain Locke’s priorities from last year— you’ll notice that these were math focused. However, interim assessment data showed a need in ELA, so Patrick and his team temporarily shifted their focus toward ELA to meet that need.

  • Ensure that teachers are invested in the content of your PD and understand the value it brings to instruction. This will help ensure follow through. In this video, a teacher leader from Alain Locke describe the school’s distributed leadership approach to PD.

For even more tips and best practices, you can listen to Patrick sharing more about Alain Locke’s approach to PD here.

Emily is a member of ANet’s Best Practices team.

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