Professional Development Schools

What is a Professional Development School?

Professional development schools (PDSs) are innovative institutions formed through partnerships between professional education programs and P–12 schools. PDS partnerships have a four-fold mission:

  • the preparation of new teachers,

  • faculty development,

  • inquiry directed at the improvement of practice, and

  • enhanced student achievement.

PDSs improve both the quality of teaching and student learning.

PDSs are often compared to teaching hospitals, which are also hybrid institutions created in the early twentieth century. As practicing professions, both teaching and medicine require a sound academic program and intense clinical preparation. The teaching hospital was designed to provide such clinical preparation for medical students and interns; PDSs serve the same function for teacher candidates and in-service faculty. Both settings provide support for professional learning in a real-world setting in which practice takes place.

Five Defining Characteristics of PDSs

Standard I: Learning Community—Addresses the unique environment created in a PDS partnership that supports both professional and children’s learning.

Standard II: Accountability and Quality Assurance—Addresses the responsibility of a PDS partnership to uphold professional standards for teaching and learning.

Standard III: Collaboration—Addresses the development and implementation of a unique university/school community which shares responsibility across institutional boundaries.

Standard IV: Equity and Diversity— Addresses the responsibility of the PDS partnership to prepare professionals to meet the needs of diverse learners

Standard V: Structures, Resources and Roles—Addresses the infrastructure that a PDS partnerships uses and/or creates to support its work.

Why are PDSs Important?

Professional Development Schools are devoted to improving student learning. The preparation of teacher candidates, professional development for practicing teachers, and research helps all students learn. Students benefit because the knowledge, skills, and resources of both university and school are focused on meeting their needs. Students also benefit from teacher interns, mentor teachers, and university faculty who play active roles in the PDS setting. PDSs are extremely important in enhancing teacher quality and student achievement in urban schools with high needs populations. (See 10 Step Solution)

PDSs serve as models of good practice for the broader community –demonstrating how collegiality, inquiry, and accountability can benefit students in all schools. Finally, PDSs prepare teachers better. These more qualified teachers go on to teach children in non-PDS schools.

Why Did NCATE Develop Standards for PDSs?

NCATE recognized the potential power of PDSs for improving the quality of teaching and enhancing student achievement. Standards strengthen and support PDS development, are a tool to assess progress within the PDS, and assure accountability.

Between 1995 and 2001 NCATE worked with hundreds of practitioners and teacher educators to design and field test standards for professional development schools. Draft standards were developed based on extensive input from experts in the field. The draft standards were then field-tested for three years by eighteen diverse and representative PDS partnerships:

Pilot Sites Selected for NCATE’s PDS Standards Field-Test Project

  1. Baylor University/Hillcrest PDS (elementary), Waco, Texas

  2. Doane College/Crete Public Schools (K–12), Crete, Nebraska

  3. Eastern New Mexico University/Washington Avenue School (elementary), Portales, New Mexico

  4. Kansas State University/Manhattan High School, Manhattan, Kansas

  5. Kent State University/Allen Elementary School, Kent, Ohio

  6. Maryville University/Parkway South High School, St. Louis, Missouri

  7. Montclair State University/Montclair High School, Upper Montclair, New Jersey

  8. North Carolina Central University/Governor Morehead School for the Blind, Durham, North Carolina

  9. Rutgers University/Lincoln Professional Development School (elementary), New Brunswick, New Jersey

  10. San Jose State University/Washington Elementary PDS, San Jose, California

  11. Towson University/Owings Mill Elementary School, Towson, Maryland

  12. University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Public School District- Shroder Paideia Middle School, Cincinnati, Ohio

  13. University of Colorado at Denver/Northglean High School, Denver, Colorado

  14. University of Louisville/Fairdale High School, Louisville, Kentucky

  15. University of Massachusetts-Amherst/Chestnut Accelerated Middle School, Amherst, Massachusetts

  16. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Chatham County At-Risk Dropout Prevention Program, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  17. University of North Dakota/Lake Agassiz Elementary School, Grand Forks, North Dakota

  18. University of South Carolina/Columbia Rice Creek Elementary School, Columbia, South Carolina

  19. West Liberty State College/Madison Elementary School, West Liberty, West Virginia

  20. Wheelock College Learning/Teaching Collaborative/Edward F. Devotion School (elementary), Brookline, Massachusetts

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