Effective Staff Development

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Two men and a woman trainer, receiving training online.October 2010
Resources updated, April 2013

NICHCY is pleased to offer you this page of resources focused primarily upon staff development for teachers (both general and special educators) and the paraprofessionals who assist them in the classroom. Whether you’re a school administrator responsible for the professional development of others, or a teacher or a paraprofessional looking after your own professional development, we hope you’ll find information here that’s helpful to your local concerns and needs.


Staff Development: How, Why, What Works?

Professional development: 21st century models.
Read about different models that exemplify high-quality staff development.

What makes professional development effective?
The author of this article collected and analyzed 13 recent lists of characteristics of “effective” professional development and came to three conclusions. Read the abstract at the link above and learn what he found. Surprised?

And a national sample of teachers said…
Researchers asked teachers to describe each professional development activity (e.g., mentoring, coaching), its type (e.g., workshop, teacher study group) and duration, the level of collective participation (e.g., entire faculty, single department), and the degree to which they felt their knowledge and skills were advanced. Here’s an abstract of what went on and what was revealed.

How to finance professional development.
Visit the Finance Project to find key resources about developing, financing and sustaining quality professional development programs for teachers and school administrators. It is a one-stop place to learn about news, research, policies, promising practices, and tools related to professional development in education.

The National Standards.
This NICHCY resource page isn’t intended to delve into the precise details of what makes for a qualified teacher, a highly qualified teacher, or a teacher that has passed the National Board Certification. But all this is nonetheless very relevant to any staff development program intended to increase the qualifications and readiness of teachers in the classroom. Find out what’s what in this regard, including the national standards, at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

And standards for ONLINE professional development.
Online instruction gives teachers “anytime, anywhere” access to the professional development courses and workshops they need. This publication outlines specific guidelines to help schools and states plan and evaluate online programs.

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Where to Start?

The National Staff Development Council: Learning forward.
Of course an area as important as staff development would have a council to organize, synthesize, recommend, shape, and distill the body of knowledge about the subject. If you want to know about staff development, NSCD is an absolute must.

The Regional Labs.
The network of 10 Regional Educational Laboratories, serving geographic regions that span the nation, works to ensure that those involved in educational improvement at the local, state, and regional levels have access to the best available information from research and practice. The link above only begins the journey of finding the right help for your training needs. Here are just two resources from the network:

Professional development: Learning from the best.
This comprehensive toolkit is based on the experiences of award winning sites of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Awards Program for Model Professional Development. It provides schools and districts with a step-by-step guide to implementing strong, sustainable professional development that drives achievement to students’ learning goals.

Critical issues in professional development.

Professional development for special (and general!) educators.
You’ll definitely want to visit the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which offers many, many resources specific to special education, children with disabilities, and the education staff who work with them. While most of CEC’s materials and videos are very appropriate for learning how to address the educational needs of children with disabilities, CEC also offers an entire service devoted to professional development, starting at:

INTASC, Interstate New Teacher Assessment And Support Consortium.
The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), is a national center working with states on developing models for improving the preparation, licensing, and professional development of both GENERAL and SPECIAL education teachers of students with disabilities. INTASC’s Model Standards for Licensing General and Special Education Teachers of Students with Disabilities: A Resource for State Dialogue (2001) articulate for the first time what all GENERAL EDUCATION teachers, as well as special education teachers, should know and be able to do to effectively teach students with disabilities.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
ASCD is a nonprofit that represents superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. It addresses all aspects of effective teaching and learning—such as professional development, educational leadership, and capacity building. ASCD offers a wealth of publications, has trainers and consultants from the field of education ready to design workshops and more on the subject of your choice, and offers a variety of online training courses ($89.95 each). Beginning teachers, experienced teachers, administrators… the range of opportunities, insights, and concrete materials at ASCD calls out to be investigated. We give you the link to the professional development section of ASCD’s site.

What do AFT and NEA have to say?
The two largest teacher membership groups, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, surely have much to contribute on the subject of staff development. What are some of the resources they offer? Let’s see.

Professional development for teachers, a la AFT.
This jump page is where you enter the “library” of AFT offerings on professional development. The 8-page Principles of Professional Development outlines AFT’s guidelines for creating professional development programs that “make a difference.” And you can find your way into AFT’s Educational Research & Dissemination (ER&D) Program, a union-sponsored, research-based professional development program that includes summer institutes for teachers.

And a la NEA.
NEA speaks to the professional development of education support professionals with its Action Guide to Help You in Your Professional Development.

NEA offers online courses through the NEA Academy.

And the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education.
The NEA Foundation awards close to 200 grants to support educators’ efforts to close the achievement gaps, develop creative learning opportunities for students, and enhance their own professional development.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation brings us, among other things, Edutopia, where you’ll find all sorts of connections to help in staff development, including online instructional modules. The link takes you into Edutopia’s Teacher Development pages, where you’ll find lots to read and videos on key PD topics.

Teacher to Teacher Workshops.
The U.S. Department of Education brought together some of the nation’s most effective teachers and education experts to share with their colleagues research-based practices and proven methods of using data-to-inform instruction. The Teacher-to-Teacher Summer Workshops have now morphed into video courses at the link below, to help teachers increase their knowledge and skills for improving student achievement. Subjects? English/Language Arts, Math/Science, NCLB Basics, Turning Data into Information, Differentiated Instruction…and more.

The Knowledge Loom.
The Knowledge Loom is an online support resource for educators to present principles of best practices in various subject areas. The Loom presents topic-based, spotlight collections of best practices in teaching and learning. It’s a place for educators worldwide to: review research that identifies best practices related to various themes; view stories about the practice in real schools/districts; discover supporting organizations and resources; learn to replicate the success of these practices in their own organizations; add their own stories, knowledge, and questions to the collections; and participate in online events and discussions. And guess what? There’s a “Spotlight” collection on professional development!

Are you in one of these southern-ish states? And even if you’re not…
Ya’ll come, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia. The work of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a rich resource for you (and for the rest of us, too). The link below takes you straight into the Teacher Center.

Finding and keeping quality teachers: What’s effective?
The Personnel Center can tell you. The Center is working to increase the capacity of states, local school districts, early intervention programs, and personnel preparation programs to recruit, prepare, and retain well-qualified, diverse special educators, early intervention, and related service providers. To this end, the Center provides information on successful recruitment, preparation and retention strategies for increasing the quantity and quality of practicing professionals, paraprofessionals, and assistants who serve the needs of infants, young children and youth with disabilities and their families. Visit the Personnel Center’s Web site and find such resources as, particularly its section called Resources for Best Practice in Recruiting, Preparing, and Retaining Personnel, at:

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On Professional Learning Communities

PLCs…sounds like… TLC, doesn’t it? Staff training and development that lasts and builds capacity increasingly involves setting up PLCs. Learn more via the resources below.

What are they, and why are they important?
This publication will tell you.

Getting started.
“Launching Professional Learning Communities: Beginning Actions” focuses on the actions taken at schools to develop professional learning communities. It’s part of the Southwest Educational Development Lab’s Issues About Change series.

FAQs on PLCs and much more.
SERVE, one of the regional labs, has developed and piloted a successful Professional Learning Team process. Take advantage of this expertise in their materials on the subject, including Professional Learning Communities 101 and Team to Teach: A Facilitator’s Guide to Professional Learning Teams. Access both (and more) at:

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On Coaching and Mentoring

See NICHCY’s separate (more lengthy) resource page on Mentoring.

Coaching as a strategy for improving instructional capacity.
This paper argues for the potential of coaching to develop strong learning communities and improve student achievement. The authors discuss two distinct types of coaches – “change coaches” and “content coaches.” Change coaches work with principals and teachers to improve leadership skills and help schools more effectively use their resources, time, money and personnel. Content coaches focus on improving teacher instructional strategies and generally work directly with teachers, either one on one or in small groups.

Mentoring tips from NEA.
A manual for mentoring programs for education support professionals called Supporting Our Own.

Best practices resources on mentoring.
This site concentrates almost exclusively on teacher mentoring. There are toolkits and lots of “how-to’s” about setting up programs—most of the info is for sale but not too expensive.

How to be a mentor teacher.

And while we’re talking mentoring…
The National Mentoring Center (NMC) actually focuses upon the mentoring of youth, but you may find it helpful to read NMC’s extensive guidance on how to create a mentoring system that works.

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Training Your Paraprofessionals

Oh, we are so very pleased to be able to refer you to another already developed page on Paraprofessionals and the great resources there, if you ARE one or you WORK with many. Rather than repeat the resources here, go have a look at:

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What’s Happening in Your State?

States are charged with improving teacher quality, establishing standards, and determinating certification and licensure. What’s what in your state? What are your state’s standards and requirements? Is your state offering professional development over the Internet, a new professional development approach that is both effective and inexpensive. Hook up with state info at the links below.

National Board Certification info, state by state.
The effectiveness of National Board Certification rests on the collaborative efforts of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the nation’s states and localities. What’s your state doing?

Are you in one of these southern-ish states?
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia. The work of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) was mentioned above. State-specific info of all kinds is available at SREB’s site, including such resources as:

Professional development opportunities in your area.
Visit the Professional Development section of SREB’s website to find upcoming institutes and conferences and to access videos of past conferences.

How does your state define a “highly qualified” teacher?
Pick an SREB state at the link below—or more than one state—and get state requirements, obtain information, and learn about options available to you. You can also search for subject-matter competency information for any grade level.

SREB online professional development.
Enter SREB’s portal to professional development opportunities and offerings in this region, including state-specific resources and events.

Health educators: What each state requires for their professional development.
State-by-state professional development policies for health educators…courtesy of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

California, for math and science.
The K-12 Alliance, focusing its efforts in California, unites three professional development networks–CSIN, SPAN and SS&C–to provide three types of professional development services: long-term (focusing on schools or departments), associate (which focuses on the needs of individual teachers or school teams), and the Hub program (offered statewide through a system of local services based in the Superintendents’ regions).

Texas, on technology.
Visit Texas’ “Educational Technology” page for tools and guidance on statewide technology initiatives.

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Staff Development Resources on Specific Topics

Accessible information technology for students.
Information on the Web abounds and is increasingly a part of students’ lives, in and out of the classroom. But what about the students who cannot see the information, hear the audio or move the mouse? Visit AccessIT, and connect with valuable information about products, services, and guidelines to help educators improve access to information technology resources for students with disabilities.

Accessible instructional materials.
Many students can’t access information in print. They need alternate and accessible materials. So, visit the AIM Center (National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials), to find out all about…um….AIMs?

Assessment accommodations.
If teachers would like to know what specific accommodations in assessment work for students with specific types of disabilities, they will love the information on the website of the National Center on Education Outcomes (NCEO). The link below will take you to NCEO’s Accommodations for Students with Disabilities entry page, where you can then access any number of publications or the wonderful searchable database of accommodations. Also look on the left menu nav under “Topics for Students with Disabilities” and find other treasure troves of assessment-related info. Have fun!

Assistive technology.
Visit the Family Center on Disability and Technology for a wealth of info on AT. The link below takes you to FCDT’s home page, where you will branch off to find hundreds of reviews of AT resources such as books, newsletters, training manuals (hey! training manuals), software, and Web sites. As a useful resource for staff training on AT, ask for ACDT’s primer on AT. It’s very, very good.

Assistive technology training module.
Visit the IRIS Center and use their professional development module called Assistive Technology: An Overview.

Assistive technology in the classroom: Use the TechMatrix.
Nice service, here. The TechMatrix is a free online searchable database of educational and assistive technology for students with disabilities. What helps in math, in science, in reading, in writing? In transitioning to postsecondary environments?

Autism spectrum disorders.
The National Professional Development Center on ASD provides resources, professional development, and technical assistance that will increase the number of highly qualified personnel serving children and youth with ASD.

Behavior: FBAs and BIPs.
A hot topic, to say the least. Want to learn more about how to conduct a functional behavioral analysis (FBA) and develop an appropriate behavioral intervention plan (BIP)? Try these resources for starters.

6 training modules for professional development.
Visit the IRIS Center and take advantage of the wonderful selection of training modules on how to address behavior-related issues. The link below takes you the resources locator. Select “Behavior and Classroom Management” on the left nav, and you’ll see the titles of the modules that are freely available! Many are in Spanish, too.

Online training resources in multimodal FBA.

Top 10 Positive Behavior Support (PBIS) Online Resources.

Conducting an FBA tutorial.

Cultural proficiency.
The IRIS Center offers two online training modules addressing diversity: (a) Cultural and Linguistic Differences: What Teachers Should Know (available in English and Spanish); and (b) Considerations for Diverse Student Populations. The link below takes you the resources locator. Select “Diversity” on the left nav, and you’ll see the titles of two modules.

The National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness is your resource of choice.

Learning disabilities.
Oh la la, if you’re considering professional development activities to improve your teachers’ skills for working with students who have LD, there are many, many, many resources available. We are going to just point you to a few sources to get you started. Landing on the home pages of any of these sites will be just the first step in hitting the mother lode of info on this subject.

Teaching LD.
TeachingLD is a service of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children. The purpose of TeachingLD is to provide trustworthy and up-to-date resources about teaching students with learning disabilities.


Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

Again, if you’re looking for professional development materials to use or share with respect to teaching reading, there are quite a few. Here are several to get you started.

Reading Rockets.
This OSEP-funded project is all about teaching kids to read and helping those who are struggling.

Center on Instruction.
COI is one of the funded comprehensive centers of the Department of Education. One whole section of its website is devoted to reading, where you’ll find gobs of fine materials to guide professional development.

The IRIS Center.
Find multiple online training modules addressing reading and language arts. The link below takes you the resources locator. Select “Reading, Literacy, and Language Arts” on the left nav, and you’ll see the titles of 8 modules (several in Spanish, too!).

Center on Instruction! That’s one of the comp centers funded by the Department of Education. It offers an entire section of its website to materials to help improve science instruction.

Social-emotional competence.
The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children, also known as TACSEI, is a five-year grant made possible by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. TACSEI takes the research that shows which practices improve the social-emotional outcomes for young children with, or at risk for, delays or disabilities and creates free products and resources to help decision-makers, caregivers, and service providers apply these best practices in the work they do every day.

Technology in the classroom.
Visit the Center for Technology in Education (CITEd), another OSEP-funded project. CITEd identifies evidence-based practices for integrating instructional technology to support the achievement of all students, and has scads of info for educators and others on its website.

Transition to adulthood.
Visit the IRIS Center and take advantage of its training module called School Counselors: Facilitating Transitions for Students with Disabilities from High School to Post-School Settings. The link below takes you the resources page. On the left nav, select “Transition.” The module will appear in the window and you can access it.

Transition to adulthood.
Check out HEATH’s Guidance and Career Counselors’ Toolkit: Advising High School Students with Disabilities on Postsecondary Options.

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