Since the late 1980s, about 200 professional development schools have sprung up across the United States (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995). Although the structure, activities, and mission of professional development schools are diverse, fully developed models have several key characteristics (Abdal-Haqq, 1995):
Professional development schools incorporate effective practices identified in teacher education research. Several preservice teachers often work at the same site, and each may work with several cooperating teachers. The novices have time to observe, analyze, and provide feedback to one another. At the professional development school, cooperating teachers engage in coursework and other professional development activities, exploring teaching practices so they can be thoughtful mentors and supervisors. Often, preservice and experienced teachers take on-site college courses with college-level partners in the project. In most professional development school models, a liaison between the professional development school and the university coordinates the program and acts as a resource.
Many professional development schools work within networks of other groups that address the same issues. For example:
Examples of Professional Development Schools in MassachusettsThe University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP) Professional Development Schools Project, accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) brings together college faculty and schools from four districts to improve teacher education and provide professional development for educators at both levels. Each semester, between six to eight student teachers take a school-based seminar, study pedagogy, and work with mentor teaches. School faculty serve as mentors to the interns, teaching, pre-practicum courses at the university and in the seminar. University faculty teach classes to mentors and act as resources.
The Learning/Teaching Collaborative was started in 1987 by two Brookline, Massachusetts classroom teachers. The collaborative now works with six public schools and two teacher preparation programs. The collaborative features (1) team teaching; (2) "alternative professional teaching time," in which one day each week is reserved for conducting research, writing curriculum, or supervising student teachers; and (3) special education inclusion. Graduate students from Wheelock and Simmons colleges work with teacher teams full-time for an entire school year, attending a twice-weekly seminar taught by public school and college faculty. The collaborative is governed by a steering committee of college and school faculty and administrators
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards targets experienced teachers for certification. Unlike state credentialing requirements, NBPTS' certification standards are uniform nationwide. To achieve NBPTS certification, teachers must meet certain standards and pass a performance-based assessment. The standards, which will be developed for more than 30 certification fields identified by the Board, are organized around demonstrating in practice five essential principles:
For each certification area, committees of teachers, academics, and experts develop standards for subject areas and developmental levels. The four developmental levels for certification include early childhood (ages 3-8); middle childhood (ages 7-12); early adolescence (ages 11-15); and adolescence and young adulthood (ages 14 and older). Teachers may opt to be certified as subject area specialists (e. g. , early adolescence/science) or as generalists (e. g. , adolescence and young adulthood/generalist). As of the 1994-95 school year, certificates were available in early adolescence/language arts and early adolescence/generalist. Certificates in the remaining 28 areas will be available over the next five years. Certificates are good for seven to ten years and are renewable.
After paying an application fee of $2,000 (beginning in the 1996-97 school year), public and private school teachers with at least three successful years of teaching experience who seek NBPTS certification take a performance-based, two-part assessment. The first part requires candidates to develop a portfolio during the school year that reflects their practice and includes samples of their students' work; written, personal reflections on their students' work; and videotapes of activities in their classrooms. To complete the two-part assessment, candidates spend two days during the summer at an NBPTS assessment center, where they participate in structured interviews and collaborative activities and take essay exams to document their teaching skills and subject-matter knowledge. Teachers receive written feedback on all parts of the process.
NBPTS has a strict policy that the certification process remain voluntary; the organization is opposed to making their certification a district or state requirement. However, the board does encourage states and localities to support teachers who seek certification by offering financial compensation, hiring board-certified teachers, providing credits toward license renewal for board-certified teachers, and paying candidates' NBPTS application fees. Several states and districts have devised incentives to encourage educators to seek certification (see boxes below).
New Mexico's World Class Teacher ProjectThe New Mexico State Board of Education earmarked $328,000 in staff development funding in 1994-95 for teacher recruitment, preparation, and fees for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. The effort, known as the World Class Teacher Project, represents a collaboration among the state's seven colleges of education and its public schools. Up to 76 teachers will have their application and travel fees paid, receive professional development such as graduate seminars and study groups, receive five days of release time, obtain help in producing their required videos, and receive other support services.
State and Local Incentives to Encourage Educators to Obtain NBPTS Certification