West Hartford Public Schools
Curriculum and Staff Improvement (CSI)
The Connecticut State Department of Education requires school districts, who are approved providers, to provide 18 hours of professional development annually to help meet the learning needs of teachers. In many districts this is a responsibility met simply and quickly with three 6-hour in-service dates that address current trends in teaching and learning. Traditionally, these “workshops” are in presentation mode, and teachers passively absorb what they can with little time for application. While teachers appreciate new information, they often view such presentations as disconnected from the realities of the classrooms they are anxious to organize and design for their students.
In West Hartford, this professional learning requirement is elevated to a level that not only provides current information, but also ensures that the learning teachers engage in will impact student achievement in their classrooms. Our efforts are not limited to three days a year, but instead are sustained throughout the year in a detailed and carefully planned CSI Calendar. This blueprint carves out time for all educators in West Hartford to engage in professional learning at the classroom, school, department and district levels. Time is allocated for district, building and department initiatives, and for curriculum review and renewal. Two Townwide CSI Series, consisting of three Wednesday afternoons in the winter and three in the spring, allow for district wide collaboration. Teachers work with supervisors to plan programs of professional learning that are aligned with the goals of the district, school, and departments. Through collaborative inquiry, learning becomes part of the work of teaching.
Our CSI program, because it is sustained throughout the year, allows us to address and implement initiatives over the course of time rather than in a brief experience. Professional learning becomes a process, rather than an event. Teachers are able to learn something one week, try it, and come back and reflect on the effectiveness of the strategy. Teachers are more accountable for their learning in this system because they know the topic won’t disappear when the in-service is over. New programs are implemented more effectively and smoothly, as time is built in to address issues that arise in the course of implementation.