Currently, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides support for professional learning through a number of models. First, the system has invested significantly in staff development teachers, reading specialists, and math content coaches who are available to lead professional learning and coach teachers at the local school level. In schools that do not have a math content coach, the staff development teacher serves in this role. These instructional leaders receive their own professional development during the school year through regularly scheduled professional learning sessions which allow for ongoing support and coaching opportunities for classroom teachers in their buildings.
Second, there are professional development supports built into the online curriculum. These opportunities take the form of videos and other electronic resources that are available in a "just-in-time" format allowing for use during planning time or beyond the school day. The electronic resources take the form of model lessons, support with content and pedagogy, and the sharing of best practices.
Third, the proposed budget includes approximately $2 million to support professional learning in mathematics at identified grade levels for multiple days in summer 2016 and one day of collaborative planning time for each elementary school teacher during the school year. Last summer, and during the 2015–2016 school year, the funding invested in professional learning at the elementary school level is focused on literacy.
One day of face-to-face summer professional development for all elementary school teachers will cost the district approximately $1.6 million. To provide all teachers with one day of training in math and one day of training in literacy would cost approximately $3.2 million. Based on previous experiences and current professional learning research, the recommendation is that more than one day of face-to-face professional learning be provided to teachers. This approach significantly increases the cost and is the reason that the FY 2017 proposal focuses professional learning over multiple days for selected grade levels.
In prior years, MCPS has staggered the professional learning approach by alternating the areas of focus for three reasons. First, there are more than 5,000 elementary school teachers. The system does not have the space or the central services staff capacity to offer meaningful professional learning for all elementary school teachers in both math and literacy. Second, it is a challenge for teacher capacity to internalize and practice content and pedagogy when participating in learning in multiple areas. Third, there are significant barriers in expansion of professional learning in light of the current fiscal situation.
In the FY 2017 budget, MCPS is proposing changes to the professional learning model that increase the amount of professional learning time for identified teachers. This approach will allow the system to balance the different challenges and demands related to professional learning while focusing the funding on the staff and schools with the most need. This results in extended and deeper learning for participating teachers; however, it will be implemented for all teachers over a multiyear period.
If MCPS were to add additional professional learning opportunities for teachers, it is recommended the funding be used to accelerate implementation of summer mathematics professional learning days for teachers at identified grade levels, as well as time to continue that professional learning for participating staff during the school year. The total cost for the additional summer training and the follow-up professional learning during the school year is approximately $2.5 million.