School-Wide Professional Development to Help the 1 in 5

Written by NCLD Policy Team | 2 years ago

Each student has his own unique strengths and challenges, but we know that every student can meet his full potential. Educators must be equipped with different strategies and tools to meet the needs of diverse learners in their classrooms. For this reason, teacher professional development is essential but in reality it is often lacking in critical areas.

With the proper supports and ongoing training, teachers can implement recognized, evidence-based strategies that support all students, including those with learning and attention issues. These school-wide strategies include universal design for learning (UDL), multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), strengths-based Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and personalized learning.

To effectively implement and scale evidence-based practices, conversations must begin at a local level where teachers can use these strategies to improve student outcomes. That’s why NCLD and developed a toolkit for parents and advocates to use in their schools and districts to share the importance of using frameworks like UDL, MTSS, personalized learning, and strengths-based IEPs and to help link schools to funding streams that can support these approaches.

Despite the fact that these strategies are proven to improve student outcomes, they don’t often receive the support of districts and states needed to be implemented system-wide. However, federal policy, and particularly the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), offers timely opportunities for states, districts, and schools to invest in and scale these school-wide practices. ESSA also creates opportunities for parents to engage with their child’s school, help schools improve, and hold them accountable for meeting the needs of all students.  

When federal policies like ESSA offer opportunities to advance effective practices, we must support school and district leaders and connect them to resources that can help them bring the practices to life in their schools.

The toolkit includes information about key professional development topics such as MTSS, UDL, personalized learning and strengths-based IEPs.  It also discusses advocacy strategies that parents can use with their schools or districts to make sure teacher professional development will help their children thrive. To start advocating for more teacher professional development in your community, you can view our expert chat on how to advocate with your school board, read our toolkit, and take action in your local district!