Every school day, teachers and program staff take on significant professional and creative challenges in the service of our students. These daily challenges require skill, sophistication, preparation, planning, and endurance.
The primary goal of the District’s Staff Development Program is to engage teachers, administrators and staff in developing, researching and disseminating effective models of instruction that reach and engage our diverse student body of learners.
Effective professional development programs—teachers and staff learning successful educational strategies—are essential to improving overall student outcomes.
The following strategic directions guide Berkeley Unified School District’s Professional Development program:
- Build a collaborative Professional Development structure that is guided by District vision and goals and implemented at the site level.
- Expand knowledge and use of a wide range of approaches to teaching that lead to high achievement and equitable outcomes for all students.
- Expand knowledge of subject matter expertise in priority areas.
BUSD has a thriving Professional Development department, and every K-8 school has specialists (listed below) dedicated to teacher and instructional staff development that are key to ensuring our students are served by a three-tier instructional model designed to reach all students.
- Literacy Coaches
- Professional Development Teachers on Special Assignment (TSAs) for English Language Arts (ELA) and math
- Response to Intervention & Instruction (RtI) Teachers
- English Language Development Teachers
- Equity Teacher Leaders
Professional Development Department staff are required to develop and deliver high quality workshops for teachers and instructional staff within their content area. Teachers on Special Assignment and site teacher leaders provide training sessions for staff development days, collaboration meetings, and during staff meetings.
Following is an overview of the priority elements in each of the three strategic directions that are the focus of professional development opportunities for the district’s educators.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
A Professional Learning Community is a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. The educators participate in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Teachers and staff learn to work together on answering four critical questions in a continuous cycle of teaching and learning.
Since 2016, every teacher and principal in Berkeley Unified has been trained in the PLC process and is now a member of a functioning PLC at their school or in their respective department.
During the 2017-18 school year, PLC development continues with TK-5 grade levels from all elementary sites meeting in grade level for half day trainings. Teachers from all elementary schools will join grade alike colleagues to learn more about being a part of an effective PLC. They will have time to practice the use a common assessment for math as a way to learn how to use the four PLC questions to guide their examination of the assessment. They will also learn about how to plan and participate in PLC meetings and how to use their findings to tailor instruction to student learning needs.
A general overview of the recurring cycle used by staff in a Professional Learning Community is shown in this image. More information on PLCs in BUSD can be found on this webpage.
Leadership of Collaborative Teams
To support PLC processes and the development of effective and collaborative teams in every school, training opportunities and workshops are woven throughout the school year for principals, teacher leaders, and classroom teachers and instructional assistants.
The focus of PLC training for principals is on helping educators assess the current reality in their own schools and how to take purposeful steps to develop their staff’s capacity to function as effective PLCs in which student learning is always at the center. BUSD principals are currently reading and discussing Learning by Doing
Leadership Development for School Principals and Educational Leaders
Each week school principals meet to collaborate on the implementation of district-wide initiatives and to participate in professional learning designed to support their leadership development. The focus for school leaders is on building their capacity for coaching effective teams.
2017-18: The Art of Coaching Institute
As part of this year’s professional development program, BUSD principals and other educational leaders are working through a series of training workshops as part of The Art of Coaching Teams Institute offered by Elena Aguilar, a professional coach. Administrators further their expertise in site leadership areas including: designing and leading effective meetings in PLC structures, developing instructional leadership and instructional coaching.
In this video clip below, several BUSD principals share the importance of adult learning and the positive impact it has on their school and on student learning.
High Quality Teaching Strategies
Constructing Meaning (CM)
Constructing Meaning provides teachers with the process and tools for weaving explicit language instruction in to content area teaching. CM provides essential scaffolds for English Language Learners as well as in academic language development for all students and promotes teachers to reflect and decide on what language knowledge students need to access content and to express their understanding of it. It includes explicit oral and written language instruction and practice. Constructing Meaning is a valuable teaching approach that supports the state standards that embed the development of reading and writing skills within the teaching and learning of math and science content.
CM has been part of the high school professional development program for the last several years, and continues this year (2017-18) with all middle school math and science teachers.
Subject Matter Expertise
Our educators and instructional staff participate in subject matter professional development aligned to the teaching and learning of these new, more rigorous grade level standards. During this period of transition, Berkeley has also adopted new curricular materials that are in line with the new standards, and are better designed to support the learning that is critical to meeting grade level expectations and ensuring our students are on the path to a successful future of college and career opportunities.
Here is one of our teachers at Willard Middle School talking about the integration of the new Inquiry by Design curriculum being used now in every middle school English Language Arts classroom.
We are committed to offering our teachers high quality professional development as well as ample opportunity to collaborate with their grade level peers at their school and across the district.
New Teacher Induction Program
Newly credentialed teachers who join our district participate in the New Teacher Induction Program that seeks to ensure that teachers new to the classroom have the needed support to successfully transition to the teaching profession and have regular opportunity for peer mentorship and to further develop their expertise.
- Weekly individualized, job-embedded mentor support.
- An opportunity to increase student learning.
- An opportunity to reflect upon their development as a teacher with another professional.
- A Clear California Teaching Credential upon successful completion of the program.
In addition, teacher leaders support new teacher development with full day grade level model classroom trainings in literacy. These days are held in model classrooms where skilled teachers are observed teaching all components of the TCRWP curriculum used in grades K-5. There are Literacy Coaches at every K-8 school that provide coaching for new teachers throughout the day of modeling.
This same model is used to support new teachers in the use of the math curriculum. New teachers attend model classroom trainings supported by the district’s elementary or middle school math coach.
Peer Assistance and Review
Funding for Professional Development Program and Adult Learning Activities
Title II – The purpose of Title II is to increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality. Federal funding under Title II is designed to support teacher preparation and qualifications of new teachers, recruitment and hiring, induction, professional development, and retention.
Local Control & Accountability Plan (LCAP)
Several action plans in the district’s LCAP are designed to strengthen the quality of teaching in our schools. A summary of Berkeley’s LCAP is on this webpage.
Berkeley Schools Excellence Program
The Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) has made it possible over many years to invest in teacher, principal, and staff professional development. BSEP resources have been used to make significant improvements in support for teaching and learning so that our teams might better manage the complexities associated with their work. Each year an annual plan for the expenditure of BSEP funds is presented and approved by the School Board.
The plan for the use of BSEP funds for professional development is based on our on-going needs assessment and is part of a multi-funded effort to ensure our teachers, principals, and staff have the tools they need to provide a high quality instructional program for every student. In order to yield continuous growth and better outcomes for students, our goal is to support the practice and craft of teaching in a manner that acknowledges the sophistication and skill that good teaching requires.
Adult Learning Beyond Berkeley
Beyond the list of professional development opportunities offered in house, many of our educators and specialized staff are also participating in seminars, workshops, and retreats to hone their skills and to share best practices with others. A few such opportunities are highlighted here.
Closing the Achievement Gap: Strategies for Excellence with Equity – Harvard Graduate School, Summer 2016
The goal of the institute is for Harvard faculty to cultivate and disseminate the strongest possible knowledge base to support the movement aimed to ensure that excellence comes with equity for the benefit of all students in our public schools. This was a five day summer training attended by a number of Berkeley’s educational leaders.
Yale National Fellows: Summer 2016
King Middle School teachers Akemi Hamai (8th-grade science) and Jacqueline Rastrullo (6th-grade math/science and AVID) were among 52 teachers from across the nation selected to be Yale National Fellows in 2016. As part of the fellowship, they spent two weeks at Yale attending seminars and conferring with other educators, while also each developing a curriculum unit: “Genetic Engineering and the Potential Effects on Evolution” by Ms. Hamai, and “The Future of Energy” by Ms. Rastrullo.