The Norman Transcript

April 15, 2014

Norman teachers excited about professional development

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman Public Schools’ teachers are focused on students and want to take advantage of professional development, Beth Spears, director of Staff Development and Student Achievement, said was the overall response teachers had to a recent District Staff Development Survey.

Spears presented a report of survey results to Norman Public Schools’ Board of Education at a regular meeting Monday night.

“Our teachers believe that professional learning must engage each educator in timely, high-quality learning that meets his or her particular needs,” Spears said. “And that the primary purpose of professional learning is for educators to develop the knowledge, skills, practices and dispositions they need to help students perform at a higher level.”

Six hundred and seventeen certified staff took part in the survey from all levels of NPS. Spears said through the survey, the district learned that all levels are interested in literacy strategies in content areas, effective professional learning communities and more in-classroom examples of the Marzano Model. Teachers at the secondary level also requested more training for Achieve 3000.

Teachers reported that challenges to attending professional development include time, money, scheduling and prepping for a substitute.

NPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano said finding time for professional development and keeping teachers in the classroom was a balancing act, but professional development would always be a priority to a community that values education.

“We can always use more time for professional development, but the next best thing is targeted development with a payoff for kids,” Siano said. “Schools districts that don’t find ways for teachers to get new information and tools may have teachers in the classroom more, but they are going backwards in terms of finding what works.”

The survey asked teachers to report their most positive, impactful professional development experience, Spears said, to which the following were listed most often: Get Fit, Summer AP Institute, Nuts & Bolts, High Schools That Work, From L to J, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Oklahoma Writing Project.

Priorities for the 2014-2015 school year will include collaboration, Marzano instructional rounds, Oklahoma Academic Standards and differentiation, Spears said.

“I think our commitment to professional development makes us a leader across the state,” Siano said.

Dan Snell, office No. 2 board member, agreed, saying, “We want our schools to be a learning community, including our teachers.”

Siano thanked board members for allowing NPS to participate in the recent education rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol in March. The school had about 200 teachers represent the district, Siano said.

“The rally was right on target,” he said. “What struck me the most — whether it was a parent or teacher speaking — was that the concerns were parallel.”

Siano said he was thankful for the legislatures that came out to speak to NPS teachers and that two key things could be taken from the rally: 1) We need help from the state now and 2) Current education problems are a systemic issue.

“There is a sense in the state that it’s time and that it’s not about a one-time fix,” Siano said. “This is not about a one-year fix but about what are the long-term solutions that will get the state to invest in public education.”

Additionally, the board approved the continued employment of certified teaching staff for the 2014-2015 school year.

“I think our teaching staff, particularly this year, is absolutely wonderful,” said Linda Sexton, Board of Education president. “If the rest of the teaching staff is as good as the ones my grandkids have at Lincoln, then we are right on top of the world here.”

The board also passed a revision to policy No. 5001 related to academic achievement and pertaining to concurrent enrollment.

And the board approved the district’s Technology Plan, including a discussion of the Child Internet Protection Act for 2014-2017.

“Technology is just another example of local communities like ours doing everything they can to enhance instruction,” Siano said.

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Katherine Parker


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