Your district budget needs to stretch to cover many competing priorities. As a district leader, you’re likely already thinking about how to invest your 2023-24 funding to support achieving your district’s strategic plan.
An investment in professional development provides much needed support for the educators and leaders who have to enact the changes outlined in your strategic plan. A one-off PD day likely won’t drive change, but job-embedded and strategically aligned professional learning for your educators and leaders certainly will.
Whether your goal is implementing a new curriculum or finding new ways to drive improvements in student outcomes, it all comes down to having outcomes-aligned PD. Reaching these goals requires investment from the district budget and the participation of your entire team.
BetterLesson’s CEO, Matthew Kennard, sat down to answer a few questions about the power of connected professional learning and why 2023 is the time to invest in it for your district.
What do you believe to be the power of professional development?
I didn’t start my career in education, I started as a finance professional. Coming to BetterLesson, I couldn’t help but compare my career experience to the experience of educators. The most interesting thing I’ve noticed is we often expect new teachers to come in ready to develop and drive outcomes, without a well defined growth and development plan to build and enhance their skill set. As a young finance professional, I was given time and mentorship to grow into driving those outcomes over my first few years. The unfortunate reality is that teachers don’t get the same kind of support, but they are expected to provide incredible results. We know that educators want to make a difference and have the drive and talent to do so. We also know that they need the same level of investment to develop in the classroom and to be given the same opportunities for growth that virtually every other profession offers so that they are motivated to stay in the classroom.
This also relates to the conversation about teacher compensation. Compensation is an incredibly valuable tool in teacher retention; teachers need competitive pay for the value they create. But we also need to acknowledge that teachers are leaving because they don’t feel they can be successful in the classroom. To fully unlock their potential they need ongoing support to advance their practice.
For any professional to feel like they can grow, they need to feel that there is a willingness to invest in them and their practice and BetterLesson’s approach to professional learning aligns to the idea that it can be a district-wide effort.
How do you bridge the gap for teachers, where investing time and resources into their professional learning is continually pushed down the priority list?
After nearly 15 years of research and work in districts, the BetterLesson team has learned that for professional development programs to work, they have to be strategically aligned to what is already happening in the district. We are able to sustain progress when we take advantage of professional learning that can be delivered in all of the ways we know adults learn best, including one-on-one, one-to-many, and asynchronous learning modalities.
To establish alignment on goals from district leadership to classroom educators, we find that the most success comes from outcome-based initiatives. For this reason, we start by working with leaders to understand outcomes they want to see before prescribing any solutions.
When we view professional learning for the ROI it can deliver rather than another checklist item, we ensure a positive impact on teacher retention and leadership growth in the district.
There are a lot of ways to do PD: one-off workshops, in-house solutions, PLCs, etc. How does a partnership with a provider like BetterLesson stand out?
School districts often have to cover a lot of territory each year. If PD isn’t connected to district initiatives it will fail. Successful professional learning has to be outcomes-based and coherent across all participants and modalities. By building a long-term, meaningful partnership with your district, we are able to carry out a consistent and effective approach to solving the difficult to tackle challenges in your schools.
How can BetterLesson help districts reach their strategic goals?
BetterLesson’s secret sauce is both the understanding of the need for professional learning to be a strategic part of any district’s plan and the ability to work in partnership to understand pain points and deliver the right solutions at the right time. Our solutions align to the Guskey Framework for evaluating professional development and cover a wide variety of focus areas.
How can a district fund professional learning services?
We take a lot of pride in helping districts fund. Our Partnerships team can help you find the most efficient ways to support professional learning across your district.
Our goal is to work with your existing strategic plan and complement the great work your team is already doing today, because no one knows your district better than you. Together, we can supercharge your goals and deliver outcomes for leaders, educators, and students.
If you’re looking for more information on how to find funding for professional learning, check out BetterLesson’s guides on Using ESSER Funds for Professional Learning and Using ESSA Funds for Professional Learning.
Interested in building a professional learning plan that aligns to your district’s strategic plan and budget?Let's Talk