Design blended professional development opportunities for administrators, specialists, and teachers.
Case Story: Dallas Independent School District
“Big D”—a nickname commonly used to describe Dallas, Texas—can also apply to its school district. The 230 campuses in the Dallas Independent School District are spread out over an area of 348 square miles. The district’s special education department’s portfolio is also sizeable, and one component involves itinerant special education teachers traveling to assigned schools to work with inclusion teachers. The work of the “itinerants,” and their own professional development, is guided by Meg, an elementary inclusion specialist. Meg has been a strong advocate of PowerUp WHAT WORKS since the earliest days of field testing and has described it as “a wonderful resource to add to our toolkit of resources.” She is particularly interested in the sections that focus on reading comprehension and vocabulary—a direct match with the district’s emphasis on having students develop academic vocabulary.
On May 25, 2013, the five itinerant special educator teachers participated in a 2.5-hour workshop that provided the opportunity to delve into and interact with the reading materials, resources, and tools on PowerUp. Having this group become familiar with the PowerUp reading materials was only a first step. Next, the group would introduce PowerUp to teachers at the schools.
As a trial run, Meg and Carl, one of the itinerant teachers, visited an elementary school to meet with Fran, a new special education inclusion teacher. The conversation began by getting straight to the heart of the matter:
- What challenges did Fran face in providing interventions and instructional support to the mostly fifth graders in her caseload?
- What were the particular needs of the students she saw?
- They discussed the strategies Fran used, many of which she gleaned from Google searches. This was a perfect segue to introducing her to PowerUp.
Meg and Carl described what PowerUp offered (especially in reading) and outlined a pathway to follow for finding valuable resources. “Start at the home page; go to the Learning Center, then check out the content,” they suggested. Fran expressed interest in following up. Besides school visits such as this, Meg has future plans for integrating PowerUp into the ongoing support to her itinerant teachers and, in turn, to special education inclusion teachers. She is responsible for designing training for late summer. Part of the agenda will include “Updates,” with a focus on vetted resources, which is the perfect niche for PowerUp. Meg will highlight the reading content because comprehension and vocabulary development impacts success across the curriculum. Strategies for teaching context clues, word analysis, and semantic mapping can directly improve vocabulary knowledge and use in science, social studies, and other content areas.
Follow these action steps:
- Refine goals and set focus
- Define modes of professional learning activities
- Determine frequency of professional learning opportunities
- Set concrete, actionable goals
- Reflect and refine professional learning plan