The Senate Education Committee heard testimony Monday from several superintendents and a representative from the Department of Education touting the importance of continuing education programs for teachers across the state.
Testifying in front of the committee were Paul Burns, DOE’s Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality, along with Superintendents Addison Davis of Clay County, Michael Grego of Pinellas County and Russell Hughes of Walton County.
Burns started the afternoon session off by emphasizing the trickle-down effects of continuing education session for the state’s teachers.
“Professional development is a key concept, and it really can drive and increase student outcomes by helpful change teachers’ practices and also helping change leaders’ behaviors and school leaders’ practices as well,” Burns said Monday.
That significance was echoed by the trio of superintendents who testified following Burns.
“We have to find a way to expand best practices that are working,” Grego said.
Superintendent Hughes, of Walton County, agreed: “We have to do it because the end result is we want success in those classroom.
“And for that to be the case, we really have to be intentional. We have to be strategic. We have to be aggressive in what we’re doing to make sure that that’s happening.”
But Superintendent Davis, of Clay County, said he didn’t always see that significance during his prior experience as an educator.
“The first thing I’d always say is, ‘Why did I have to go to this professional development? Why do I gotta go? I know this, I’m the expert. I can do this by myself,’ ” Davis recalled.
“We still hear that conversation today. Therefore, it is my job as the instructional leader to make certain that professional development is so attractive, so enticing that teachers are really, truly, highly über-engaged in the learning process.”
Davis says he frequently seeks feedback from teachers on whether a continuing education session is hitting relevant topics, is too long or too short, and whether it addresses the overall goals of the school and district.
Education Committee Chair Manny Diaz said he’d like to hear specifics from those superintendents, as well as teachers, regarding how to improve those continuing education programs.
“If you were to ask for action from this Senate to make professional development better, what would be that wish list?” Diaz asked. “I think we’d like to hear from you, from your perspective, what would make it better?”
In an exchange with Sen. Kelli Stargel, Davis suggested districts could receive more guidance from the state level as to what a model continuing education program regarding topics such as mental health, substance abuse or other topics would look like.
“What is the content? What’s the duration? How should you deliver it? Is it a blended model between computer-based or is it face-to-face?” Davis asked.
According to Diaz, those discussions will continue as the official start of the 2020 Legislative Session grows near. But Superintendent Grego said he was appreciative of the Committee’s efforts to tackle the issue.
“I think by elevating this topic, we will continually give the message that teaching is a true profession and we value it.”