Professional Development Works

Why provide teachers with time for professional development? Because it contributes to the success of our students!

The Des Moines School Board approved continuing the district’s comprehensive, three-year professional development plan, which allows time for teachers to participate in collaboration and professional development on Wednesday afternoons.

There is a lot of evidence pointing to the positive difference this effort has on our students. One big piece of evidence is the graduation rate. Between 2009 and 2010, Des Moines had an increase of nearly 6 percent in our graduation rate, the biggest gain among the state’s 25 largest school districts and far ahead of the overall state increase of less than 2 percent.

But in addition, preliminary reports of 2010-11 ITED and ITBS scores show that providing teachers with tools to support their work contributes to very positive educational gains among students at all grade levels. Here are just a few examples:

  • The staff at North High School “is proud to announce the incredible gains our students achieved on Iowa Test of Educational Development this year. We worked hard to improve teaching and learning which resulted in a 9 percentage point increase in Math. This gain in mathematics, as impressive as it is, is eclipsed by an astonishing 19 percentage point gain in both Science and Reading…These results were generated after testing 98.5 percent of students, a new school record for participation in testing.”
  • At Harding Middle School, all grades surpassed their reading benchmarks. The result? Not only are students better prepared for success in school but principal Tom Ahart kept a promise he made if students reached this goal: they could shave his head at the year-end assembly.
  • The cohort at Willard Elementary School that moved from 3rd to 4th grade this year went from proficiency ratings of 44%, 46% and 35% in reading, math and science, respectively, to 65%, 69% and 60%!
  • At Lovejoy Elementary School, the average overall proficiency rating on ITBS rose 13.4%.
  • Jefferson Elementary School reports that the percentage of 5th graders who scored at the 90th percentile or higher in math on the ITBS rose from 31% to 45%.
  • During the 2008-09 school year at Park Avenue Elementary School, the 3rd, 4th & 5th grade proficiency ratings in ITBS reading were 51%, 66% & 48%, respectively. In 2010-11 those numbers were 70%, 75% & 71%!
  • District-wide, reading for grades 3-5 saw every single cohort – 18 out of 18 – gain in proficiency, with an overall gain of 7.35%!

And our curriculum supervisor, JoEllen Latham, adds: “Our preliminary reports show that 4th grade reading – the first class to have our new reading materials for four years – had a 6 percentage point gain on ITBS at the district level, the highest achievement levels in 10 years. While we still want to increase this achievement, it is a solid indicator of the impact of the supports that have been established. The best thing is that every subgroup of students – African American, Latino, ELL, White, Free and Reduced Lunch, and Special Education – contributed to this success.”

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