Friday, March 30, 2012

Job-Embedded Professional Development Critical for Successful Implementation of the Common Core

People can be encouraged to change, but if the structure of the system in which the individuals work does not support them or allow enough flexibility, improvement efforts will fail.”  Todnem & Warner (1994)

A guest post by Bobby Moore,  Senior Director of Effective Practices at Battelle for Kids

Job-embedded professional development for teachers
Recently, I co-presented to a group of about 100 administrators during an Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators’ “Hot Topics” workshop.  The hot topic was “Transitioning to the Common Core,” but the theme of our presentation was job-embedded professional development. Ohio has evolved through proficiency tests, achievement tests, and now is transitioning to the Common Core. Historically with every new set of standards and accountability measures our students, teachers, schools, and districts have struggled. Then, after a few years, many would adapt and eventually become efficient and proficient. With today’s tumultuous environment in education, we cannot afford to adjust “after” the standards become implemented. We must be ready immediately to perform tasks and answer questions at proficient levels when the new Common Core Standards take effect in 2014. Teachers and schools will only be truly prepared through job-embedded professional development. 

As a former principal, superintendent, and now in my role at Battelle for Kids, where I lead a school-improvement collaborative of 122 Ohio districts, I have found that the key to this work is not about multiple initiatives; it’s about taking a focused approach. From my personal experience and research, the three strategies with the highest impact in accelerating student progress and achievement are:

1.    Building capacity around formative instructional practices system wide;

2.    Adopting a systematic approach to struggling (and advanced) students; and

3.    Embedding purposeful collaboration or job-embedded professional development.

Job-embedded professional development is much more than hosting one-day workshops, conferences, or inviting guest speakers to meet with your staff. This should be the time in which the adults in the building come together for purposeful learning and collaboration to improve student growth. I believe there is enough talent and expertise in every school in America that can be shared and developed. We do not have to fire our way to Finland or hire only graduates who are cum laude to create excellent schools. As a new principal and a new superintendent, our district focused on these three key strategies and as a result, we created schools that produced the top 4 percent of value-added results in the state and received the highest state ranking by committing to the three previously mentioned initiates with the teachers already employed in the district.

How do teachers become better at applying effective formative instructional practices? Through job-embedded professional development.

When do teachers share information about struggling students? This is also achieved through job-embedded professional development. 

School leaders must create structures and build in time and procedures for teachers to come together during the school day to learn and grow. School leaders should also participate as active team members sharing and growing. During this time, teachers can share best practices, develop learning targets, create common assessments, participate in online learning opportunities, and support each other in their work. 

Job-embedded professional development is a critical way to not only help teachers and school leaders prepare for the Common Core, but also to create a culture of learning, collaboration, and improvement in our schools, and most importantly, prepare our students for success in college, in their careers, and in life.

Bobby Moore is the Senior Director of Effective Practices at Battelle for Kids, a not-for-profit organization that works with states and school districts and across the country to improve educator effectiveness and accelerate student growth. He can be reached at

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