As your school works to implement the TSLP, your site/campus-based leadership team will want to review established procedures and practices currently in place regarding language and pre-literacy instruction.
Throughout the TSLP, schools are asked to build sustainability by
- tracking progress toward goals;
- developing leadership at the teacher and administrative levels;
- maintaining your site/campus-based leadership team;
- monitoring and supporting language and pre-literacy development practices through mentoring and coaching;
- providing ongoing professional development for leaders, teachers, and caregivers;
- working together with your local district and community to leverage funding sources when possible; and
- making decisions based on data analysis.
A major part of sustaining your improvement efforts is providing support and professional development that is matched to the individual needs of staff members. Indicators in each Action Step of the TSLP ask you to evaluate staff needs as they relate to the priorities you set.
Investing in your staff is one of the most worthwhile goals you will set. Given the high turnover rate of 0–SE teachers, you and your team will want to identify professional development activities that encourage staff to stay despite funding constraints that may not always allow for financial incentives. By “professionalizing” the work of 0–SE teachers and developing their expertise, you will help staff feel more empowered, supported, educated, and stimulated in their work. Additionally, as teachers gain more and more expertise, it is important to recognize their growth and empower effective staff to take on leadership roles—namely, to help lead your professional development efforts and provide key support to other staff.
In planning professional development, you and your team will want to be thoughtful about the different needs of your staff. Your considerations may include the different levels of experience and background knowledge of staff and the time constraints for participating in professional development. Flexibility is key to a sustainable plan, and you will want to consider ways to meet different and changing needs over time. For example, you might establish a list of trainings that all staff members are expected to have over time, with some topics marked as high priority (such as compliance topics and the foundations of language and pre-literacy development). Over time, your staff could work to complete the trainings on the list. Once these foundational skills are mastered, you can integrate further job-embedded activities to build on and extend those skills.
As you consider ways to build capacity, remember that professional development doesn’t always have to be full- or half-day workshops. Professional growth happens on the job as staff members apply new skills, collaborate with others, and tweak their practice. Some job-embedded activities you may consider include peer observation, self-observation through videotaping and guided reflection, online training opportunities, webinars, and learning walks. Each of these can offer flexible opportunities to staff with different strengths and needs as long as leadership delivers consistent expectations and support.
In addition to developing current staff, you will need to have plans in place for mentoring and training new staff at your school. Finding opportunities for staff to participate in professional development can be a challenge—one that is compounded when a new staff member has multiple topics to catch up on. It is worth spending time with your team to brainstorm ways to put a system in place that will address this challenge so that you can maintain a high level of care and instruction.
In addition to having a system for training incoming staff, establishing written procedures, policies, and schedules, along with an up-to-date implementation plan (as discussed in Lesson S1), also helps you maintain efforts to improve children’s language and pre-literacy development.
Finally, in addition to putting systems in place to prevent staff turnover, you and your team will need to consider ways you can lessen the negative effects of turnover when it does occur. Research shows that teacher turnover can disrupt learning environments for children and create unstable working environments for teachers. Cassidy, Lower, Kinter-Duffy, Hedge, and Shim (2001) suggest putting some purposeful strategies in place for minimizing these negative effects. Some examples they give include the following:
- Have some teachers work as “floaters.” These teachers can step in when needed (e.g., until a new teacher is hired) to prevent children from having to abruptly shift teachers and classrooms.
- When you have advance notice, have new teachers shadow departing teachers. This puts less strain on current teachers to train incoming staff. This also allows children to form a relationship with the new teacher during the transition time.
- Maintain consistent communication with parents about transitions so that they can form relationships with new teachers and support their children during the transition process.
Again, your investment in your staff is one of the most important goals. Supporting staff through quality professional development, promoting teacher leadership, and putting strategies in place to reduce teacher turnover are all critical to building capacity at your early learning site.
TO LEARN MORE: The following resources may be useful to you as you consider options for staff development.
Some lessons in the Effective Instructional Framework module in this course provide additional information that you and your team may find useful as you consider what skills to focus on in professional development and what written policies and procedures need to be established.
The Texas Rising Star program is “a voluntary, quality-based child care rating system of child care providers participating in the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child care program.” You and your team may want to pursue certification at this high level of care or simply use the guidelines and resources to inform your decisions about what to work on with your staff.