Pomona’s Professional Learning Strategy
Over the last several years, the district has identified a growing group of teacher leaders. Supported by the Office of Equity and Professional Learning, a variety of teachers are engaged in a range of hybrid and coaching roles: supporting the use of PBIS, new teacher induction, math modeling, and developing and using new curriculum aligned to NGSS. Approximately 40 positions have been created where teachers are beginning to serve in a variety of roles:
- integrating social and emotional learning (SEL) teaching strategies into the academic core;
- developing more sophisticated pedagogical approaches to teaching math and science through lesson study and teacher-led curriculum development; and
- creating a more collaborative approach to teacher induction and evaluation.
Over the past academic year, the district supported 20 teachers to pilot micro-credentials related to NGSS, technology, and PBIS strategies as a way to test how “mini” assessments of professional learning might be used to personalize more competency-based approaches for teachers to show what they know and can do.
Much like many other districts, PUSD also offers a range of workshops on the six professional development days (four school-directed and two district-directed) included in the collective bargaining agreement for teachers’ professional learning. During these days, a wide range of topics are covered related to instruction, equity and social and emotional learning, assessment, and technology integration.
The district also has developed a framework for more teacher-led workshops as well as teacher-directed inquiry as part of their formal professional learning communities, and its late-start Fridays can offer up to two hours or more a week for most teachers to collaborate with one another. Over the years, the district has created opportunities for teachers to lead professional development sessions in summer workshops and has now begun to do so inside the confines of their PLCs.
Interviews with central office administrators revealed considerable variation across the district’s 41 school sites in professional learning implementation linked to teacher voice, choice, and time in their professional learning. Notably, an example was found in an elementary school (Armstrong Elementary School) that has been recognized as a California Distinguished School, a Gold Ribbon School, and most recently a PBIS Gold Award recipient. The sixth-grade classroom of Paula Richards and Jamie Santana at Armstrong Elementary is based on a co-teaching model of two seasoned educators. In visiting their classroom, one sees the seamless work of students leading their own learning with one another while one teacher tutors a small group of children and the other works with visiting educators. Their classroom is a model for flexible learning space, and new professional learning structure allows for experimenting with research-based and cross-curricular instruction.
Richards and Santana’s leadership story is anchored in service of the whole child and how schools can improve dramatically by building the social and professional capital of teachers. The origins of their co-teaching model stem from their decision to take down the wall between their two classrooms in order to learn together. They recognized that despite their own growth as effective teachers over the years they could not help all students meet new academic expectations, particularly the NGSS, unless they collaborated in powerful and very different ways than afforded by most school districts. Their co-teaching is in its third year. In year one they served a combined class of almost 60 students. The effectiveness of their collaboration was clearly evident to them as well as to school and district administrators. In year two, the district, using LCFF funds, reduced their class load by about 50 percent, creating more space and time for the two teachers to teach and lead for both their school and district.
As part of larger case study research, we also uncovered varied ways administrators have identified and utilized teacher leaders—harnessing the flexibility of LCFF funds—to support the instructional shifts needed to both help students meet the new standards and their SEL needs. And, in particular, the co-teaching model appears to be paying off for the NGSS roll-out as well as in several subject areas where the teacher teams co-develop lessons, incorporate SEL strategies into their pedagogical practices, support job-embedded professional learning, and coach colleagues. We turn next to the emerging evidence on the links between teacher learning and student achievement in the district.