Act 48 Essay, Research Paper
On November 23,1999 Governor Ridge signed Act 48 of 1999, enacting new requirements for professional education (formerly professional development) plans. The legislation also requires that all certified educators complete six college credits, six credits of continuing professional education courses, 180 clock hours of continuing professional education, or any combination of collegiate studies, continuing professional education courses or learning experiences equivalent to 180 hours every five years. For the purposes of calculating hours and credits, one credit of collegiate studies or continuing professional education courses is equivalent to 30 hours of continuing professional education. The professional education requirements take effect July 1, 2000 for all certified educators and will support achievement of the Pennsylvania Academic Standards, the Chapter 49 Teacher Certification Standards, and high standards for all educators and student. The information below has been researched directly from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Act 48-Professional Development Plan.
The Act 48 plan requires that “upon expiration of an existing professional development plan, each school entity (district, intermediate unit (Ill), area-vocational-technical school (AVTS), joint school district, charter school, the Scotland School for Veterans Children and the Scranton School for the Deaf) submit a three-year professional education plan to the Department of Education for approval.” Approved schools for special education are also required to comply with Act 48 by the Bureau of Special Education. This plan is based on national standards, state standards and the individual needs of the district.
Professional education plans from IUs, approved schools for special education and state-owned schools are submitted by June 30 in two phases. School district and
AVTS professional education plans are due with a strategic plan by September 30 in the assigned phase. Private schools may also submit a professional education plan for approval so they can be an approved professional education provider. This, however, is an option to private schools and is not mandated by the state because they do not receive federal funding in the way that public schools do so. Wallenpaupack Area School District is currently in phase one of the strategic plan.
The plan is prepared to help school entities and private schools prepare professional education plans that meet the requirements of Act 48. It also establishes criteria for continuing professional education experiences. Certified professional educators not employed by a school entity that has a professional education plan must independently seek professional education opportunities from approved providers and/or colleges and universities. This would include private schools and certain charter organizations. As a reference and for information on approved providers see the Act 48 Continuing Professional Education Approved Provider Guidelines.
Increasing student achievement and achieving the Pennsylvania academic standards will require professional education for all educators that changes practice, addresses organizational goals, and provides sufficient support over time to master new skills. Therefore, professional education plans must strike a balance between content, pedagogy and other skills needed and include evidence that they meet the following professional education criteria. This content, however, should not be too specific. It must allow for opportunity to grow from within the boundaries, not limited to specific statements, categories and conditions.
Each professional education experience:
1. Is related to attainment of the Pennsylvania academic standards and high quality instruction. This includes state standards and any national standards either in revision or in implementation.
2. Is planned in response to a need of the school entity and its professional employees, which has been identified for a target audience. Again, each district is unique and should be considered so when creating the plan. Each district has its own needs and resources that make it different form their neigh boring school.
3. Has clear and concise, written content and skill based competencies. The competencies are statewide expectations of the skills that students have learned and are able to apply.
4. Includes content and instructional methods that are appropriate for the intended competencies to be mastered.
5. Is planned and conducted by personnel who have an academic degree or other education and experience appropriate to the subject matter being taught. In Pennsylvania, teachers are held to strict certification standards, we are one of the few states today that requires our substitutes to have a four-year degree.
6. Is research-based, data-driven and contributes to measurable increases in student achievement. Research can be compiled in. Myself and another intern used a district-wide survey (included) and tallied results for the purpose of finding out the strengths and weaknesses of our districts are.
7. Provides sufficient support and resources over time to enable individuals to master new skills. These resources are important to keep us growing with today’s ever-changing needs in the workplace and beyond.
8. Contributes to building learning communities and continuous improvement. One of the elements that Wallenpaupack Area School District is working on is involving community leaders and industry more in the district’s day-to-day operations. One such way is through the graduation project, which can and should involve community members.
9. Requires that participants demonstrate attainment of the competencies. Again, these can be assessed through testing, grades in classes themselves and/or through the presentation of a graduation project.
10. Is evaluated by the participants.
Preparing a Professional Education Plan
The next step in preparing the professional education plan is to select a professional education coordinator, form a professional education committee, and establish operating procedures. The coordinator for our district is Dr. Lorraine Clauss and Dr. John Gnall. Our professional education committee members were chosen from within the strategic plan committee. The Act 48 regulations require that the plan be prepared by a committee consisting of teacher representatives divided equally among elementary, middle, and high school teachers chosen by the teachers; educational specialists representatives chosen by educational specialists; and administrative representatives chosen by the administrators of the school entity. Educational specialists include School Nurses, Guidance Counsellors etc. The committee must also include parents of children attending a school in the district, local business representatives and other individuals representing the community appointed by the board of directors. Our district had several parents and several business members from the area. The district had volunteer participants as well as board-selected representatives. The size of the committee and method of selection are local decisions, but there should be at least two representatives from each required group. You can view the “List of Certificates” at www. nde.nsu.edu for the positions that require certification as an educational specialist.
Needs Assessment and Goal Setting
The professional education committee should assess the educational and staff development needs of the school entity and its professional educators, students and the community. The needs assessment should be data-driven and identify the staff development needed to achieve the academic standards and goals of the entity’s strategic plan. Again, the data was contrived from a district-wide survey tabulated by Peter Casazza and David Miller. The research was used to identify areas of strength and weakness.
Once the educational and staff development needs have been evaluated, goals must be established for the three-year professional education plan. This includes setting goals for students and goals for staff that support achievement of the goals for students and balance the need for content, pedagogy and other skills.
When the professional education needs and goals have been identified, the plan to achieve the goals must be designed. The delivery system should create learning communities, be intensive, and based on data that indicate it will lead to higher achievement. The data can be seen, again, through written assessment, averages in teacher-lead classes and graduation projects. Opportunities for implementation of new knowledge and skills must be provided to ensure that they are mastered, applied, and result in student success.
The professional education plan must specify the professional education options and needs that will be met by the completion of each option and how it relates to areas of assignment and certification. The Act 48 committee establishes the options. The options may include, but shall not he limited to:
1. Collegiate studies;
2. Continuing professional education courses taken for credit;
3. Other programs, activities or learning experiences taken for credit or hourly to include:
Curriculum development and other program design and delivery activities at the school entity or grade level as determined by the school entity and approved by the board of directors; participation in professional conferences and workshops; education in the workplace, where the work is related to the professional educator’s area of assignment and is approved by the board of directors; review, redesign and restructuring of school programs, organizations and functions as determined by the school entity and approved by the board of directors; in-service programs that comply with guidelines established by the department; Early childhood and child development activities for professional educators whose area of assignment includes kindergarten through third grade; special education activities for professional educators whose area of assignment includes students with special needs; or other continuing professional education courses, programs, activities or learning experiences sponsored by the Department of Education.
If a school entity has enrolled students with limited English proficiency and/or students who are English language learners, the Professional Education Plan must
include programs, activities or learning experiences for professional staff to assure that programs offered to the students are based on sound educational theory; are effectively implemented; and produce the successful result of removing language barriers. This is the same for students who have learning disabilities. The professional education offerings must be available to all teachers.
Professional education plans that are focused, measurable and specific are most likely to achieve their goals. These goals should be specific to the direction that the committees should look toward and not towards specific language as to policy and practice. This leaves open options for growth throughout the years of the plan. Therefore, action plans to achieve the professional education goals over three years should be developed and included in the plan. Specific competencies to be achieved by the end of each professional education activity should also be developed and assessed as part of the evaluation of each activity but do not need to be included in the plan.
Evaluation and Revision
Professional education plans must be reviewed annually and revised as needed. The review should include evaluation of the goals, activities, and delivery system, and attainment of the competencies for each activity. Use of the five levels of evaluation of
professional development is also recommended. These include: 1) participant reaction, 2) participants’ learning, 3) organization support and change, 4) participants’ use of new knowledge and skills, and 5) student outcomes (Guskey, 1998, p. 36-44). Amendments to the plan must be recommended by the professional education committee, approved by the board of directors, and submitted to the Department for approval.
Approval and Submission
The professional education plan must be approved by the board of directors of the school entity prior to submission to the Department of Education for approval. The Professional Education Signature Form is in Appendix A. The professional education plan must be included in the strategic plan when required by the Chapter 4 Academic Standards and Assessment Regulations. Plans should be sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Curriculum and Academic Services, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333 for review and approval. Professional education plans will be approved when they include all of the information required and meet the professional education criteria. A Bureau of Curriculum and Academic Services representative will send a letter of approval. Additional information will be requested orally and in writing when needed. The provisions of section 2552 of the School Code (24 P .S. ? 25-2552) regarding withholding of funds apply to any school entity failing to submit a professional education plan.
According to the PDE, these are professional education plans shall include the following:
I. A description of the individuals who developed the plan and how they were selected. All required groups must be included, as noted on page 2.
2. A description of the needs assessment and how the plan meets the educational and staff development needs of the school entity, its professional educators, students and the community.
3. The professional education needs/goals that will be met by completion of each continuing professional education option and how it relates to areas of assignment and certification or potential administrative certification. The options may include but shall not be limited to:
a. Collegiate studies;
b. Continuing professional education courses taken for credit;
c. Other programs, activities or learning experiences taken for credit.
4. School entities that have students who are limited English proficient/English
language learners address the professional education needs of staff that work with these students.
5. A list of providers, courses, programs and activities approved by the professional education committee to provide the continuing professional education options listed in the plan.
6. Action plans for professional education activities to meet the goals of the three-year plan. Action plans must include objectives, a listing of the actions to be taken, timelines for completion, person(s) responsible for action plan implementation, and evaluation procedures.
7. A description of the process for reviewing and amending the plan annually.
8. Evidence that the plan meets the professional education criteria and strikes a balance between content, pedagogy and other skills.
9. A signature form showing approval of the plan by the board of directors.
HOW IS TEACHER EDUCATION RESPONDING?
My question in regards to increasing standards is how are professional development programs and colleges/universities responding to this policy? The answer can be found in with six established goals. Higher education institutions have shaped the original six Goals into programs that can help prospective teachers and their future students. In a 1992 survey, over 90% of more than 600 private colleges and universities were conducting eight or more programs related to the National Education Goals (Report, 1993).
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recast the Goals to reflect the involvement of teacher educators by adding strategies for learning to accompany each Goal (AACTE, 1992, p. 13):
GOAL 1: Readiness for School
Strategy–All schools will be ready for children.
GOAL 2: High School Completion
Strategy–Schools and teachers will receive necessary support to engage all children in learning, including development of special programs for those most at risk.
GOAL 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship
Strategy–Teachers will be proficient in the subjects they teach and the pedagogies to teach them. They will be skilled in the use of assessment to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners.
GOAL 4: Science and Mathematics
Strategy–U.S. citizens will be first in the world in thinking skills and problem solving.
GOAL 5: Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning
Strategy–Schools and businesses will join together to enhance workers’ abilities, both in the classroom and beyond.
GOAL 6: Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-free Schools
Strategy–All children will be guaranteed a safe learning environment. To that end, every child in America will be taught by a fully qualified, licensed, professional teacher.
How do school districts make more time for professional development?
In a study of regional and national innovative school groups, Cross (1991) found three broad approaches to finding time for teachers to collaborate: (1) adding time by extending the school day or year, (2) extracting time from the existing schedule, and (3) altering staff utilization patterns. Given below are examples of the five types of time created for teacher development that Taylor (2000) identified in a survey of schools involved in National Education Association initiatives.
Freed up time using teaching assistants, college interns, parents, and administrators to cover classes; regularly scheduled early release days.
Restructured or rescheduled time lengthening school day on four days, with early release on day five.
Better-used time using regular staff or district meetings for planning and professional growth rather than for informational or administrative purposes.
Common time scheduling common planning periods for colleagues having similar assignments.
Purchased time establishing a substitute bank of 30-40 days per year, which teachers can tap when they participate in committee work or professional development activities.
Block scheduling can also make it easier to carve professional development time from the school day (Tanner, Canady, & Rettig, 1995). For example, Hackmann (1995) describes a middle school block schedule that frees one-fourth of the faculty to plan or engage in other professional work during each period of the day. At least one day a week, teachers in the Teaching and Learning Collaborative in Massachusetts have no teaching duties. They can use this Alternative Professional Time to pursue professional interests or alternative roles, such as writing curriculum, conducting research, supervising student teacher interns, or teaching college classes. This arrangement is facilitated by the presence of full-time teaching interns and team-teaching. (Troen & Bolles, 1994). Newer technologies, such as Internet and video conferencing, can give teachers access to instructional resources and collegial networks (Professional Development, 1994).
There may be opposition to some of the above-mentioned strategies. Adding more pupil-free professional development days can be costly and may provoke opposition from financial managers or legislators. Cambone (1995) points out that schools do not exist in a vacuum, isolated from the larger community. Extending the school day and school year to accommodate more professional development time can upset parents’ childcare arrangements and family vacations. If schools remain open during the summer and teenagers are not free for summer jobs in places like amusement parks, the local economy can be affected and commercial interests may object to such a schedule change. School maintenance agendas, which often schedule big projects over the summer, may also be affected by extending the school year.
Perhaps the most formidable challenge to institutionalising effective professional development time may be the prevailing school culture, which generally considers a teacher’s proper place during school hours to be in front of a class and which isolates teachers from one another and discourages collaborative work (NECTL, 1994). It is a culture that does not place a premium on teacher learning and in which decisions about professional development needs are not usually made by teachers but by state, district, and building administrators. Paradoxically, implementing a more effective pattern of teacher professional development requires struggling against these constraints, but it may also help to create a school climate that is more hospitable to teacher learning.
Wallenpaupack Area School District’s Act 48 Committee
Our chairpersons were nominated and elected by the Act 48 committee members from previous studies. The committee is comprised of teacher representatives, one per each elementary building, two middle school, and two high school chosen by the teachers; two members of the association, two educational specialists selected by educational specialists, one central office administrator; and all building principals. The board of directors appoint two parents of children attending a school within the district, and two local business representatives.
The administrative interns of the Act 48 Professional Education Committee base our professional education needs on a review of the collected data. Our results identified the following categories of professional education needs:
1) To increase the knowledge and skills of all professional staff members in the effective use of technology in the curriculum and for administrative and student support functions.
2) To assist teachers in aligning curriculum and assessment with the Pennsylvania Academic Standards.
3) To assist teachers with the implementation of instructional strategies and assessment practice in reading, writing, and math that result in increased student achievement of the Pennsylvania Academic Standards.
4) To instruct all professional staff members in the methods of creating and maintaining measures to promote safety and security of all students and staff.
5) To assist teachers with the development of strategies for dealing with the disenfranchised or at-risk student.
6) To assist teachers with maintaining current professional certifications.
The professional Education Committee (Act 48) will meet once per year to monitor implementation of the plan. An implementation committee will be created with the membership as follows:
Administration – two central office, two high school, one middle school, one each elementary building and one special education director.
Professional Employees – two association, two high school, two middle school, one each elementary building.
The committee will use feedback from the participants to determine the need for modifications of the program. The ongoing evaluation of the Professional Education Plan will include a review of the goals, activities, delivery system, and attainment of the competencies listed for each activity. Amendments to the plan, if needed, will be recommended annually by the Professional Education Committee, approved by the board of directors, and submitted to the department for approval. The evaluation devices to be used may include, but not be limited to: surveys, test scores, discussion and interviews. All such devices will be obtained from teachers, administration and community members except for test scores. Teachers and administration will obtain the test scores only.
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