There is strong investment in the professional development of the administrative leadership of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District as well as an on-going commitment to supporting the professional growth of aspiring administrators through our LEAD program, conducted in collaboration with California State University, Northridge. Several opportunities exist for teachers to take formal roles as teacher leaders at their school sites or at the district level.
All site-based administrators participate in monthly professional development. Prominent themes for professional development during 2005-2006 include:
- Principles of Learning
As part of the regularly scheduled professional development for leaders, administrators have been learning about and implementing three of the Principles of Learning from the Institute of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and undertaking Learning Walks at their school sites.
The Principles of Learning and Learning Walks are concepts that have emerged from the work of the Institute for Learning, an organization aimed at bridging "the domains of research and practice by conveying to educators the best of current knowledge and research about learning processes and principles of instruction" (IFL website). The organization has condensed this information about best practices into nine Principles of Learning. In SMMUSD, teachers and administrators have focused on three of these principles - Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum, Clear Expectations, and Accountable Talk - as teachers and administrators have continued to implement standards-based curriculum and instruction into all SMMUSD classrooms.
One important feature of the Institute for Learning's Principles of Learning is that they are "designed to help educators analyze the quality of instruction and opportunities for learning that they offer to students"(IFL website). The Learning Walk is a mechanism that SMMUSD teachers and administrators have used to help build understanding of what the implementation of these Principles of Learning looks like in practice.
As part of regularly scheduled leadership professional development, administrators take part in Learning Walks - highly structured observation and data collection opportunities at school sites across the district. Further, a team of principals trained by the Institute for Learning regularly provide professional development opportunities for their peers.
- Effective Teacher Evaluation and the California Standards for the Teaching Profession
Throughout 2005-2006, all administrators also are participating in observation and evaluation professional development based on using the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTPs) as a framework for conducting teacher observations and evaluations. The CSTPs create "a common language and a new vision of the scope and complexity of teaching" and are intended to be used by teachers to:
__ Prompt reflection about student learning and teaching practice;
__ Formulate professional goals to improve teaching practice; and
__ Guide, monitor, and assess the progress of a teacher's practice toward professional goals and professionally-accepted benchmarks (California Standards for the Teaching Profession, 1997: pp. 3).
SMMUSD is in the process of developing an evaluation system based on the CSTPs and principals are learning research-based best practices in teacher evaluation as part of this work. For more information about the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, please go to www.ctc.ca.gov/reports/cstpreport.pdf.
- Standards for Effective Leaders and Administrative Evaluation
Finally, a third emphasis of administrator professional development during the 2005-2006 academic year is focused on implementation of a new standards-based, portfolio-based administrative evaluation system. Structured reflection on one's own practice and regular feedback through a formal evaluation process are two mechanisms that promote personal and professional growth and improvement. The SMMUSD Administrator's Portfolio and Evaluation Process incorporates both self-reflection and external evaluation into a year-long process intended to:
__ Rest on established national and/or local standards for administrators,
__ Link administrator performance to the district's vision and strategic plan, school improvement goals, and most importantly to student achievement,
__ Be a useful tool for personal reflection, and
__ Result in effective collaboration to support all administrators' growth.
Two sets of established standards undergird the SMMUSD Administrator's Portfolio and Evaluation Process:
- Standards for School Leaders developed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) in 1996 and
- California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSELs) developed by representatives from the California School Leadership Academy at WestEd, Association of California School Administrators, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, California Department of Education, and California colleges and universities in 2001.WestEd, a non-profit research, development, and service agency, published Moving Leadership Standards into Everyday Work, Descriptions of Practice to help guide California administrators to move to more standards-based practice. For more information about the CPSELs, visit www.WestEd.org.
An academic conference is a targeted, intentional process to assure that all students make academic progress. The conference consists of a reflective conversation, among a team of teachers, facilitated by the principal with the intent to increase every student's achievement through an instructional response.
The conversation begins with an examination of student data, focused in a particular content area. The team identifies a group of students who are struggling in this content area. The team then identifies specific instructional strategies and plans targeted lessons and/or units of study designed to accelerate the progress of these students.
Over the course of several weeks, the team members implement these collaboratively designed instructional strategies and lesson plans and collect student work samples to bring back to the team for further discussion and planning.