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Pennsylvania Department of Education

Professional Education Plan Guidelines

I. INTRODUCTION

Ensuring that all Pennsylvania children receive the high-quality education that they

deserve requires an effective teacher in every classroom and school and district leadership that is

focused on raising achievement. The Commonwealth’s educators – from the classroom teacher

to the district superintendent – are the most important components of Pennsylvania’s strategy for

educational success.

As professionals in an ever-changing knowledge-based society, the state’s educators are

required to continuously upgrade their skill-set – just as it is an expectation for lawyers and

doctors. Pennsylvania’s professional development law, known as Act 48 of 1999, describes the

requirements that apply to all certified educational professionals.

The professional education plan of each school entity shall be designed to meet the

education needs of that school entity and its professional employees, so that they may meet the

specific needs of students. Professional development must be based on sound research and

promising practices, and it must be part of an approved plan for building educators’ skills over

the long term.

Each school entity in Pennsylvania – including school districts, intermediate units, area

career and technical centers and charter schools, the Scotland School and the Scranton State

School for the Deaf – is required to submit a Professional Education Plan to the Pennsylvania

Department of Education. The Pennsylvania Department of Education will approve or reject

each plan; a plan that is rejected must be revised and resubmitted. The Professional Education

Plan sets out each school entity’s strategy for training school personnel at all stages of their

careers. School entities are required to examine their student-level data, determine their

professional education goals from the data, design an action plan with activities that meet their

identified needs, and then evaluate the effectiveness of the training.

All certified educators must then complete every five years 180 hours of professional

development that is related to an area of the professional educator’s assignment or certification

and, if the educator is employed by a school entity, complies with their school entity’s plan. The

180-hour requirement can be met with 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 other programs, activities or

learning experiences equivalent to 180 hours. For the purposes of calculating hours and credits,

one credit of collegiate study or continuing professional education course is equivalent to 30

hours of continuing professional education.

This document is intended as a guide to help school entities and educators meet the

professional education requirements of Act 48 and – most importantly – continue their

professional growth in order to increase the achievement levels of the Commonwealth’s students.

 

II. PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION CRITERIA

In evaluating each school entity’s Professional Education Plan, the Department of

Education will determine whether plans meet the following criteria:

A. Professional development decisions are based on student needs and evaluated using

student data.

Approved professional development:

A1. Uses disaggregated student data to determine educators’ learning priorities

A2. Is evaluated to show its impact on teaching practice and student learning

B. Professional development activities have content that will increase student learning.

Approved professional development:

For classroom teachers, school counselors and education specialists:

B1. Enhances the educator’s content knowledge in the area of the educator’s

certification or assignment

B2. Increases the educator’s teaching skills based on research on effective practice,

with attention given to interventions for struggling students

B3. Provides educators with a variety of classroom-based assessment skills and the

skills needed to analyze and use data in instructional decision-making

B4. Empowers educators to work effectively with parents and community partners

For school and district administrators, and other educators seeking leadership roles:

B5. Provides the knowledge and skills to think and plan strategically, ensuring that

assessments, curriculum, instruction, staff professional education, teaching

materials and interventions for struggling students are aligned to each other as

well as to Pennsylvania’s academic standards

B6. Provides leaders with the ability to access and use appropriate data to inform

decision-making

B7. Empowers leaders to create a culture of teaching and learning, with an emphasis

on learning

B8. Instructs the leader in managing resources for effective results

 

C. Professional development is provided through a process that is most likely to result in

sustained school improvement.

Approved professional development:

C1. Is set out in a plan that is updated annually by the Act 48 Committee after the

committee critically evaluates the prior year’s

student data,

professional education activities, and

the feedback/evaluation of those activities

C2. Is based on knowledge of adult learning styles

C3. Is tailored to each stage of an educator’s career, differentiating between the needs

of novice and experienced professionals

III. ALLOWABLE PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION ACTIVITIES

In order to meet the Content criteria outlined in Section II, a school entity’s Professional

Education Plan must comply with the following:

Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Educators (including Special Education)

To receive Department approval, a school entity Professional Education plan must

include strategies for all classroom teachers to enhance their content area knowledge and

pedagogical skills, with particular attention to the needs of diverse learners who are below

proficient or below grade-level.

Content Area

All early childhood, elementary and secondary educators will be expected to

participate in content-specific professional development within their area of certification or

assigned work over the course of the Professional Education Plan. All teachers certified in

Special Education are encouraged to obtain at least half of their required hours for Act 48

in one or more academic content areas.

Examples of Acceptable Activities:

Building knowledge of literacy, mathematics and science-specific content

Building knowledge of specific content in other areas covered by the Pennsylvania

academic standards, for teachers who are assigned to those areas

Curriculum development aligned with Pennsylvania standards

Data analysis training (all aspects of assessment and evaluation)

Examples of Unacceptable Activities:

Courses taken outside of an area of certification or work assignment, except for school

administration

Any courses/programs for personal growth or an alternative career

Repeat of awareness-level introductory courses, e.g., Introduction to Computers

Teacher/parent student conferences, grade book analysis, and preparation of report cards

Repeating a course or program unless it has significantly changed its focus or approach

Teaching Practices

All early childhood, elementary and secondary educators will be expected to

participate in professional development activities that advance high-quality classroom

instruction over the course of the Professional Education Plan.

 

Examples of Acceptable Activities:

Training in assessing students and analyzing student data to implement effective change

in instruction

Observing exemplary school and classroom practices and collaboratively designing

instructional strategies based on analysis of the observed experience

Training to align and embed literacy, mathematics and science standards and

instructional strategies within other academic content areas

Acquiring technology skills and designing strategies to integrate technology into the

instructional setting

Creating shared lessons that help students learn specific skills that assessments identify

as weak or lacking

Acquiring secondary strategies to increase student engagement and personalize learning

Training in how to create safe and welcoming learning environments

Improving understanding of the academic, social, emotional and physical needs of the

individual learner

Developing knowledge and skills in how to involve families and other stakeholders in the

educational process

Training in dealing with non-academic issues that may affect learning (grief counseling,

intervening in student-on-student harassment, etc.)

School- or district-wide planning (strategic, professional development, induction, special

education, school improvement, technology and student support, wellness)

Examples of Unacceptable Activities:

Instruction time, serving as a mentor or cooperating teacher

Attending administrative faculty meetings with superintendent or principal

Supervision of school field trips

Tutoring

Tours of school buildings

Preparing and presenting college course lessons

Extra curricular assignments (coaching or advising of sports, drama, debate, clubs or

student government)

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

All teachers certified in early childhood, elementary or secondary education

(including special education) should participate in continued education focused on

enhancing their ability to teach diverse learners in the least restrictive environment – with

a focus on students who are below proficient or below grade-level.

Such coursework may include diagnosing students’ educational needs, intervening for struggling students, making

appropriate accommodations and adaptations in curriculum, academic content and materials, and

studies about teaching limited English language learners.

Diverse learners are those students who because of limited English language proficiency

or disabilities may have academic needs that require varied instructional strategies to help them

learn. An inclusive setting is the placement of students with disabilities and English language

learners in a regular classroom setting.

Such coursework may include diagnosing students’ educational needs, intervening for

struggling students, making appropriate accommodations and adaptations in curriculum,

academic content and materials, and studies about teaching limited English language learners.

School and District Administrators

All Act 48 activity must meet the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) core

standards, as described in criteria B5 through B8.

Examples of Acceptable Activities:

Training to facilitate staff analysis of student work

Training related to strategies, curricula and programs that meet student academic needs

Effective coaching practices for proven strategies that boost student performance

Identifying the needs of student subgroups and effective strategies for meeting those

needs

Training to implement state school improvement planning processes

Collaborative work with parents and community partners to develop collective efforts

focused on the achievement rate of student subgroups

School- or district-wide planning (strategic, professional development, induction, special

education, school improvement, technology and student support, wellness)

Training on legal issues, governance and Board/Superintendent relationships

Examples of Unacceptable Activities:

IU Superintendent meetings

Equipment expositions

Undefined off-site retreats

School Counselors

All elementary, middle and secondary school counselors will be expected to

participate in content-specific professional development applicable to their assigned level

of work over the course of the Professional Education Plan. This professional development

should include training based upon research of effective practices to build capacity to

address the needs of diverse learners who are below proficient or below grade-level – i.e.,

those who, because of gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, differing ability

levels, learning styles, limited English language proficiency or disabilities, may have

academic needs that require varied instructional strategies to help them learn.

Professional Development Options Applicable at All Levels (Pre-K – 12)

 

Examples of Acceptable Activities:

Advocacy processes needed to address institutional and social barriers that impede

access, equity, and success for students

Training that provides an understanding of the cultural context of relationships, issues

and trends in a multicultural, diverse society

Study of developmental disorders

Training to disaggregate data in relation to student achievement

Working with instructional teams to develop curriculum/lesson plans

Training that builds capacity to collaborate with teams of teachers, school leadership

and parents

Design and implementation of a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling

program

Training in the facilitation and evaluation of advisory programs

Training that deals with special needs like homelessness, adolescent depression, etc.

Career development program: planning, organization, implementation, administration and

evaluation

School- or district-wide planning and team planning activities (strategic, professional

development, induction, special education, school improvement, technology, student

support, and wellness) with other professional employees, where those professional

employees are receiving Act 48 credit

Examples of Unacceptable Activities:

Undefined counselor workshops

Sheltered workshop visitation

Undefined district meeting

Sorting PSSA reports

Undefined hot topics seminar

Supervision of visits to career sites/colleges

Career Day monitoring

Parents Anonymous Meeting

Community center evening work

Undefined independent studies abroad

Educational Specialists, excluding School Counselors

Educational specialists, other than school counselors, must participate in professional

development activities that enhance their ability to meet the demonstrated needs of the students

and families they serve in order to increase the ability of students to succeed academically.

Content knowledge for education specialists may include training in how to reduce health

problems and prevent health risk behaviors that delay student learning.

 

Examples of Acceptable Activities:

Identifying the health and social services needs and assets of students, families, schools

and communities by using various types of data

Training to acquire health risk reduction and prevention strategies

Study of school-based health programs at state and national levels

Student Assistance Program training

Learning how to implement school-wide programs and classroom management strategies

designed to improve student conduct

Studies related to cross-organizational professional development on social and health

services issues

Prevention training on contemporary health issues affecting school age children

Training for emergency preparedness: CPR/AED training and certification updates

Professional education programs that grant Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for

purpose of licensure

School- or district-wide planning (strategic, professional development, induction, special

education, school improvement, technology and student support, wellness)

Examples of Unacceptable Activities:

Independent studies

Union related bargaining behavior studies

 

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