Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 1 Summary of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Strong Professional Community

Teachers of disadvantaged students need increased professional development, according to research on Title I. Surveys conducted in 1991-92 showed that only one-third of Title I elementary teachers and one quarter of Title I secondary teachers had four or more days of staff development within a 12-month period. Alternatives to conventional wisdom about how disadvantaged students can and should learn--such as an early emphasis on higher-order tasks, meaning and understanding, and cooperative learning--require teachers to structure their lessons differently and alter fundamental beliefs about learning. Change of this magnitude cannot happen without adequate support systems, including extensive and continuing professional development.

Although some extended-time programs offer staff development only as part of the regular school program, many provide it specifically for the extended learning. Among programs described here, the number of sessions varied from once a year, for a program offering an orientation only, to once a month, for a district-administered program with access to frequent workshops. At most sites, the amount of staff development varied every year depending on the budget and topics. At a minimum, staff development offers an orientation to program goals and objectives, curriculum, and requirements. As Table 1 indicates, however, many programs also sponsor staff development on instructional techniques, enrichment and hands-on activities, interpersonal skills, subject-matter expertise, cultural awareness, and special needs of disadvantaged students.

Table 1 also shows that instructional techniques (including those based on approaches such as whole language, the theory of multiple intelligences, cooperative learning) were the most popular staff development topics. Training in enrichment and hands-on activities, interpersonal skills, and cultural awareness also were popular.

Table 1: Focus of Professional Development Offered by Selected Extended-Time Programs

Type of Development Focus Programs

Instructional Technique Whole language; integrated curricula Summer Program for At-Risk Students, Yuk Yau,Florence Extended-Day Kindergarten
Multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner) Chapter 1 Private School Summer Program
Writing effective lesson plans Yuk Yau Child Development Center
Encouraging student participation and self reflection Teen Outreach Program
Cooperative learning Socorro School District, Summer Enhancement Program
Reading Recovery Florence Extended-Day Kindergarten

Enrichment and Hand-on Activities Connecting math to the real world Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement
Using math and science manipulatives Summer Enhancement Program
Hands-on science and open-ended questioning ASPIRA Chicago

Interpersonal Skills Conflict resolution Yuk Yau Child Development Center
Effective parent-teacher relationships Yuk Yau Child Development Center
Role playing to encourage assertiveness and communication skills Teen Outreach Program
Organizing and working with parent groups ASPIRA Chicago

Cultural Awareness Hispanic academic achievement Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement
Teaching math to language-minority students Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement
Cross-cultural studies Yuk Yau Child Development Center
Reflecting diverse cultures through curricula Kids Crew

Subject-Matter Expertise Math for students in grades 1-7; math for grades 8-12 ASPIRA Chicago
English as a Second Language (ESL) Summer Program for At-Risk Students, Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement
Literacy Skills TAP program, Florence Extended-Day Kindergarten

Special Needs of Disadvantaged Students Instruction of special needs students TAP program
Working with disadvantaged students in nontraditional settings TAP program
Working with victims of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and crack cocaine abuse Florence Extended-Day Kindergarten

Several program developers for the extended time programs described here emphasized that staff development must not be viewed as a one-time event. This means not only offering regular staff development opportunities, but also giving staff opportunities to reinforce or use their new-found knowledge. At the extended-day kindergarten program in Florence, South Carolina, for example, follow-up activities or information accompany each staff development session. Activities range from disseminating literature on a particular topic to experimenting with instruction in a classroom. In addition, all staff--including volunteers, teacher aides, and assistants--must be involved in staff development. Several program directors offered strategies for dealing with the high costs of training greater numbers of staff. For example, the Yuk Yau center's budget does not permit aides to attend as many staff development workshops as teachers, but teachers regularly schedule formal opportunities to share their new knowledge with aides. Similarly, teachers trained by ASPIRA return to their schools to organize and lead training sessions for others.

Other sites offered strategies for encouraging staff to participate in training. With ASPIRA, which strives to train all teachers in grades 1-8 at schools that offer the after-school program, teachers receive continuing education credits for participating in workshops. The summer program for at-risk students in South Bend, Indiana, allows staff to form small groups to develop materials and lesson plans with others who teach students of similar ages or backgrounds. Finally, many extended-time program staff say adequate staff planning time, while difficult to schedule, is essential to a strong professional community. The Title I Summer Program for Private School Children in Beaverton, Oregon, for example, allows up to an hour and a half every day for staff planning.

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