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15 ESSA-Aligned Preparation and Professional Development Initiatives Pennsylvania Educators Need to Know About

15 ESSA-Aligned Preparation and Professional Development Initiatives Pennsylvania Educators Need to Know About

Educator effectiveness is a key aspect of Pennsylvania’s approach to ensure that all students in the state receive a high-quality education. And, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recognizes the need to provide teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and other staff with comprehensive resources and ongoing support to achieve this goal. Within the ESSA state plan, Pennsylvania officials outline rigorous plans to promote and measure educator effectiveness that build up existing programs the state has experienced success with.

These programs encompass broad initiatives, including school and district leadership development, teacher leadership, teacher preparation, collaboration, data interpretation, and paraprofessional advancement. All emphasize continuous learning and elevating the status of teachers and administrators to better reflect their dedicated professionalism. To ensure accountability and compliance with ESSA requirements, PDE includes data on percentage of teachers in each local education agency (LEA) that have been identified as ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced. PDE has developed the infographic below to visualize the revamped approach to educator development.

With the accountability stakes this high, at first glance, the scope and goals of these professional development programs can feel lofty for educators already strapped for time and funding. However, PDE has done a commendable job of providing high-level frameworks, putting funding into place, and outlining opportunities to partner with third parties, including online program providers, to make these programs attainable. Here, we will review the primary educator effectiveness and professional development initiatives Pennsylvania educators need to know about.

Initiatives to Support Effective School and District Leaders

1. Preparing Principals for Early Learning (already implemented): This program encompasses three Eligible Partnership Grants funded with Title II, Part A dollars that are focused on helping principals implement effective early learning programs to close achievement gaps using research-based strategies, effective student screen methods, and read-by-3rd-grade initiatives.

2. Educator Clearinghouse to Connect Teachers with Opportunities (new under ESSA): This initiative is intended to create an online platform that helps credentialed teachers—especially those in hard-to-staff areas—connect with employment opportunities across Pennsylvania LEAs and assist PDE in understanding K–12 workforce demands.

Initiatives to Improve Educator Preparation in Pennsylvania

3. Identifying Teacher Shortages and Underserved Communities (already implemented): PDE reports teacher shortage areas, both subject areas and specific LEAs, to the S. Department of Education on an annual basis, and Pennsylvania teacher certification candidates working in those underserved communities are eligible for academic scholarships and loan repayment assistance through the federal TEACH grant. PDE is also in process of developing pathways to help current early childhood education professionals complete recognized credentials.

4. Supporting English Learners and Students with Disabilities (already implemented): All teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania are required by PDE to include at least nine credits (or equivalent) focused on providing effective accommodations and adaptions in an inclusive classroom setting, including literacy instruction and cognitive skills development, for students with disabilities. PDE also requires three credits (or equivalent) focused on instructing English language learners.

5. Teacher and Principal Clinical Residency Programs (new under ESSA): This program builds off of significant research and stakeholder feedback in regard to the importance of high-quality, extended residency programs to sufficiently prepare new educators for success. PDE is offering competitive grants funding through Title II, Part A dollars to support partnerships between districts and educator preparation programs that would embed at least one year of clinical experience within preparation programs through residency-based models where educators live and work in the communities where they are training. Focus will be put on communities that have reported chronic or multiple educator shortage areas.

Educator Growth and Development Systems: Initiatives to Support Pennsylvania School and District Leaders

6. Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) Program (already implemented): Based on the NCEE’s ”9 Building Blocks for a World-Class Education System,” this required two-year induction program for all new school and system leaders in Pennsylvania focuses on concepts foundational to school leadership and equity. PIL encourages continued learning and growth by offering alumni access to ongoing professional development opportunities tailored to a variety of leadership interests and paths.

7. Differentiated Supports for Principals - National SEED Project (already implemented): Pennsylvania is one of three states collaborating with the National Institute for School Leadership to develop a nationally recognized principal credentialing system to recognize qualified individuals as lead and master principals. In addition to building leadership competencies critical to the success of school and district initiatives, this program is also intended to support new principal mentoring.

8. Superintendent’s Academy (already implemented): This program addresses the issue of high superintendent turnover in Pennsylvania, especially within high-need communities, by focusing on systemic strategies to support achievement for students facing poverty. The program is built around action learning projects, which are designed to help program participants bring their learning back to their home communities and implement meaningful changes.

9. Supporting Teacher Leaders (new under ESSA): With this initiative, PDE plans to use Title II, Part A funds toward innovative programs that empower teachers as leaders in order to better communicate and support student needs.

10. Building Principal Capacity (new under ESSA): This program is a partnership between PDE, the Wallace Foundation, Pittsburgh Public Schools, the School District of Philadelphia, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and other higher education and advocacy groups to offer grants to support the development not only of current principals but also of assistant principals and aspiring principals. Grants will help to grow the educator leader pipeline and focus on instructional leadership skills and equity advancement, primarily through collaboration between preparation programs and LEAs and the creation of a statewide principal coaching model.

Educator Growth and Development Systems: Initiatives to Support Pennsylvania Teachers

11. Troops to Teachers (already implemented): Made possible with a $400,000 Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES) grant, PDE has put into place a ‘“Troops to Teachers” program that helps veterans who already hold a bachelor’s degree complete an efficient alternative pathway to Pennsylvania teacher certification. The program supports diversity in the teacher workforce and helps fill openings in high-need districts.

12. Standards Aligned System Portal (already implemented): The Standards Aligned System (SAS) portal is intended to help Pennsylvania educators easily find and implement effective, Pennsylvania Core Standards–aligned content and tools in addition to facilitating opportunities for educator collaboration. The portal offers access to resources across six areas: Standards, Assessments, Curriculum Framework, Instruction, Materials and Resources, and Safe and Supportive Schools.

13. K–12 Educator Pipeline (new under ESSA): PDE plans to use seed grants to help LEAs implement innovative curriculum that helps recruit high school students to explore teaching as a profession and that supports development of a diverse and highly skilled educator pipeline in the state.

14. Paraprofessionals Pathway Program (new under ESSA): With this initiative, PDE intends to further expand the educator pipeline by building on the expertise and potential of current paraprofessionals working in schools. PDE plans to use Title II, Part A funds to support partnerships between educator preparation programs and LEAs to develop pathways to certification for this diverse and already-skilled group.

15. Skills to Address Specific Learning Needs (new under ESSA): In accordance with ESSA requirements, PDE is expand its offerings of technical assistance to LEAs leveraging the -multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) model. This will include professional development related to instruction of students with disabilities and English language learners, as well as growth and achievement data analysis and intervention support. PDE will also work toward embedding culturally responsive and trauma-informed practices within professional development.

At Edmentum, we know that educators make the difference on every district, school, and classroom initiative, including navigating curriculum changes and rolling out new technology. That’s why we’re dedicated to being a true partner to every organization that we work with, throughout every step of the journey, by providing comprehensive consulting, program design, and ongoing training services, in addition to our online learning and assessment programs.

Want to learn more? Find out how Selinsgrove Area High School is partnering with Edmentum for customized online learning and tailored training to support its unique students!