School may be out, but in-service keeps teachers busy

Jefferson County school districts provide professional development training to teachers during the summer, in accordance with the law requiring 60 hours of training annually to remain certified.

White Hall School District Assistant Superintendent Dorothy Welch said that the professional development training is making a positive difference.

“It has been effective in that our students are performing better as reflected in good test scores,” Welch said. “We have provided better professional development.

“I want to be able to provide the teachers with the mandated requirements plus allow them to choose a workshop of their own choosing,” Welch said.

Educators fulfill professional development requirements in classes, seminars, workshops and lectures. White Hall uses certified teachers only, as opposed to aides in its classrooms, she said.

The Watson Chapel School District will be offering all 60 hours of in-service requirements to its teachers from Aug. 4-15, said Brenda Melton, assistant superintendent of Watson Chapel schools. Watson Chapel teachers will report to their respective campuses to take part in the training.

Topics include technology, parental involvement, identifying children who may be victims of abuse outside the classroom, how to identify hurting students to prevent suicide, special education, Arkansas history and ethics training.

“We want parents to be involved because learning goes on at home,” Melton said. “Parents are a reinforcement.”

The Watson Chapel teachers may fulfill in-service requirements at other locations on their own time. Most teachers know how to use email and computer software but the district does not want to assume that the educators are proficient in using technology, Melton said.

Arkansas Department of Education communications director Kimberly Friedman said the purpose of professional development is “to improve knowledge and skills in order to facilitate individual, team, schoolwide and districtwide improvement designed to ensure that all students demonstrate proficiency on the state academic standards.

“There are multiple professional development providers and modes of providing professional development in different settings,” Friedman said via email.

The state must approve the professional development providers, she said.

“Professional development can be face-to-face, online or blended,” she said. “It can be held at regional cooperatives, [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] centers, Educational Renewal Zone sites [or] school sites.”

The topics include instructional strategies, data-driven decision making, advocacy/leadership/fiscal management, systemic change processes, standards, frameworks, curriculum alignment, supervision, mentoring/peer coaching, next generation learning/integrated technology, principles of learning/developmental stages/diverse learners, cognitive research, parent involvement/academic planning and scholarship, collaborative learning community, student health and wellness, anti-bullying policies, appropriate training for anticipated rescuers in the use of automated external defibrillator or cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators.