• 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