Bermuda Post

Wednesday, Apr 14, 2021

Ministerial Statement: Professional Development for Public School Educators

Mr Speaker, Today I rise to share with my honourable colleagues and the community at large the efforts that are being undertaken to develop the workforce for Bermuda's schools and the professional development that will be provided throughout education reform and thereafter.
Mr Speaker,

Commencing in January 2021, and to date, the Ministry of Education has been holding consultation meetings to share the Introduction of Parish Primary School proposals. During many of those consultation meetings, participants have asked, "What will you do to prepare teachers for the new vision of learning?" "How will you get them ready for the transformation?"

Mr Speaker,

We have responded that professional development will play a key role in preparing teachers to implement a powerful vision for learning that we expect to take place in Bermuda's classrooms every day. We have also stated that professional development will be provided throughout education reform, and it will continue after the Bermuda Public School system has been transformed. Specifically, professional development will be ongoing and job-embedded to ensure that our teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to help all students achieve high learning, development standards and improve student results.

Mr Speaker,

The OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, comprises 37 member countries that discuss and develop economic and social policy. The OECD's stated goal is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity, and well-being for all. Mr Speaker, the OECD is an important organization because it plays a key role in sharing information data and measuring progress on poverty eradication or inequality and in bringing to the forefront solutions pertinent for the betterment of humanity and children.

Mr Speaker,

An excerpt taken from an OECD report on professional development stated,

"In many countries, the role and functioning of schools are changing, and so is what is expected of teachers. Teachers are asked to teach in increasingly multicultural classrooms; to place greater emphasis on integrating students with special learning needs in their classrooms; to make more effective use of information and communication technologies for teaching; to engage more in planning within evaluative and accountability frameworks; and to do more to involve parents in schools. Education systems therefore, must seek to provide teachers with opportunities for professional development in order to maintain a high standard of teaching and to retain a high-quality teacher workforce."

Mr Speaker,

We recognize the integral role of teachers and leaders who have significant responsibilities placed on them. We also acknowledge the Department of Education's role to ensure ongoing opportunities for professional development.

Mr Speaker,

The OECD adopts a broad definition of professional development. It is defined as,

"…activities that develop an individual's skills, knowledge, expertise and other characteristics as a teacher."

An OECD report also stated that professional development could serve the following objectives:

to update individuals' knowledge of a subject in light of recent advances in the area;
to update individuals' skills, attitudes and approaches in light of the development of new teaching techniques and objectives, new circumstances and new educational research;
to enable individuals to apply changes made to curricula or other aspects of teaching practice;
to enable schools to develop and apply new strategies concerning the curriculum and other aspects of teaching practice;
to exchange information and expertise among teachers and others, e.g. academics, industrialists; and
to help weaker teachers become more effective

Mr Speaker,

The Ministry and Department of Education recognize the critical importance of professional development and of the need to provide professional development for our leaders, teachers and school staff on an ongoing basis.

Mr Speaker, providing professional development during education reform is extremely important as we prepare for the significant changes that legislation will bring to the Bermuda Public School System by:

Phasing out middle schools
Introducing signature schools
Introducing a signature school for students with exceptionalities
Introducing an alternative education signature school
Adding two additional years to primary schools and one additional year to senior schools

Mr Speaker,

Plan 2022 Priority 3 communicates the strategies that are to be executed as it relates to developing the workforce that is responsible for equipping Bermuda's children with the knowledge, skills, values and dispositions so that they can successfully transition to colleges and universities; and the workforce; and ultimately lead and compete locally and globally, fulfilling the vision for Education.

Mr Speaker,

Professional development for teachers is an imperative. We know that the evidence continues to accumulate, showing that teachers' high-quality professional development influences student performance. High-quality professional development is essential to the nation's goal of high standards of learning for every child. The most important investment school systems can make is to ensure that leaders and teachers continue to learn.

Mr Speaker,

The OECD indicates that professional development activities can include the following:

courses/workshops (e.g. on subject matter or methods and/or other education-related topics);
education conferences or seminars (at which teachers and/or researchers present their research results and discuss education problems);
qualification programme (e.g. a degree programme);
observation visits to other schools;
participation in a network of teachers formed specifically for the professional development of teachers;
individual or collaborative research on a topic of professional interest; and
mentoring and/or peer observation and coaching, as part of a formal school arrangement.
reading professional literature (e.g. journals, evidence-based papers, thesis papers); and
engaging in informal dialogue with peers on how to improve teaching.

Mr Speaker,

Over the past three and a half years, the Department of Education has provided quality professional development activities for our teachers and specialist staff, including para educators and educational therapist assistants, including the types of professional development activities that I just referenced. All of these efforts are aligned with Plan 2022 Priority 3, which focuses on the efforts to be expanded to "Enhance the Quality of Teacher Practices and System Leadership."

Mr Speaker,

There are designated professional development days on the academic calendar each year in September, October, January and February. This past September 2020, we added additional days for professional development to ensure that school leaders and staff were well-versed about the new Entry to Exit Safety and Health Protocols that would have to be strictly adhered to in our schools in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Speaker,

The professional development days designated on the academic calendar are in addition to the site-based professional development days set aside for school leaders to coordinate site-based professional development; and hold workshops facilitated for school staff by Department of Education Technical Officers.

Mr Speaker,

This year, in support of principals' efforts to hold site-based professional development aligned with school improvement plans and in alignment with Plan 2022 Strategy 3.1.1, three days were designated for schools to close early. The first early closure for professional development was at 2:00pm on Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 and as a reminder to parents and guardians, the remaining early closures for professional development will take place on Thursday, April 1st, 2021 and Thursday, May 27th, 2021, at 2:00pm.

Mr. Speaker,

The types of professional development activities that the Department of Education provided for teachers and school staff during the February 2021 PD days serve as excellent examples of the quality and type of professional development provided by officers, school staff and community partners. These professional development activities included workshops on a range of topics, including using digital tools and dealing with our teachers and staff's social, emotional needs. They included:

Standards-Based Grading Assessment (Ongoing PD)
Math Mastery Flow (In support of our efforts to improve math instruction and student outcomes for mathematics)
Psychologically Safe
Creating Assessments in Schoology
Getting Started with PearDeck (How to use interactive google slides for presentation)
Maximizing Videos with EdPuzzle
Innovative Ways to Use Plickers (Using Plickers to increase student engagement)
Using the Flipped Classroom
Creating Your Own Bitmoji
Creating and Using Digital and Interactive Notebooks
Using and Managing Your Google Drive
Resiliency in the Classroom
Are You Using Your Self-Care Toolkit (Facilitated by EAP)
Social Studies Assessment Creation
Math Assessment Creation
Middle School Science Teacher Constructivist Learning Model and Backwards Design
English Language Arts Assessment Creation
Foreign Language Assessment Creation
Creating a Future for the Arts
School Counsellors PD: Bio Psychosocial Assessment and Interventions
Behaviour Specialist Training- Behaviour Interventions
The Purpose and Policy of Intervention Learning Plans
Student Services: Meeting the Needs of Our Students

Mr Speaker,

Efforts are made to ensure that the professional development activities allow school staff to go deeper and deeper with the workshops' content during the year. For example, workshops on Standards-Based Grading take place during all workshop days to enable teachers and leaders to do deeper and deeper with the learning of content and skills.

Mr Speaker,

Staff have opportunities to select workshops; however, Mr Speaker, some of the workshops provided are also mandatory for staff. This occurs when there are system-wide practices that teachers and leaders are expected to carry out at the school level. Even when the sessions are mandatory, there is still some opportunity to personalize professional development. For example, Mr Speaker, all teachers in the Bermuda Public School system must participate in workshops on Schoology; however, staff can access the workshop in both self-paced or virtual workshops.

Also, Mr Speaker,

Since May 2020, EAP has played a key role in providing workshops for BPSS Staff during system-wide professional development days and at other times. To date, EAP has facilitated over 26 sessions with staff, focusing on equipping them with tools and strategies to navigate the demands of their roles. Mr Speaker, we have included these workshops from EAP because our staff's social-emotional well-being is critical.

Mr Speaker,

In addition to these offerings, professional development activities connected specifically to staff and students' needs are determined and coordinated by the senior school principals, the Principal at DAME, and the Acting Director of Success Academy during designated professional development days.

Mr Speaker,

I want to take a moment to highlight that the entire staff at DAME, who, under the guidance of the Principal, are working to earn Registered Behaviour Technician (RBT) certification and some members of the staff have already successfully completed the training.

Mr Speaker,

The Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education leads and coordinates the professional development activities for Preschool Administrators and staff. Preschool leaders and teachers have been receiving intensive professional development designed to ensure integration of the inquiry (enquiry) model of teaching and learning with the Creative Curriculum. There has also been significant investment in professional development in the use of Teaching Strategies Gold, the online platform for planning, documentation, assessment and communication internally and with parents/guardians.

Mr Speaker,

I would also highlight that Bermuda Public School Preschools have earned Teaching Strategies Gold's Ambassador status recognition because of their commitment to improving children's outcomes through professional development.

Mr Speaker,

We have communicated our commitment to a foundation year. As we prepare for this, starting this year, early years training for Primary 1 Teachers has been provided twice a month to equip teachers with evidence-based strategies to increase student engagement and facilitate active learning. Teachers also learned how to engage in authentic assessment by using students' observations in more creative exploration during inquiry learning. Teachers have been exposed to a more progressive, engaging and personalized approach to teaching and learning, which has opened the teachers to the possibilities of what can be achieved through active learning and inquiry learning.

Mr Speaker,

Training in SCERTS (Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Supports) started a few years ago. This year, the training continued to provide continuity and ongoing progress of the Growing Connections' preschool children with ASD and Developmental Delays. Additionally, Mr Speaker, learning support teachers, is ASD and Functional Skills classes received coaching on engaging and supporting children with challenges within their classroom's natural environment.

Mr Speaker,

Ensuring that our students with special needs are provided quality services, the learning support teachers have been provided with ongoing professional training on the School Team Process; Pre-Referral Intervention Process, IEP Planning and Audits; Intervention Learning Plans (ILP); Dyslexia; ADHD; and Identifying Key Concepts with Behaviour. Learning support teachers were also presented with IEP implementation and documentation methods to collect data for IEPs and ILPs accurately. Professional development was provided for school staff in Learning Styles that focused on children's instructional, behavioural and environmental needs. Mr Speaker, workshops are also provided for paraeducators and educational therapist assistants as required by Plan 2022 strategy 3.21.

Mr Speaker,

Principals are responsible for leading and coordinating professional development for their staff throughout the school year. At the primary and middle levels, the professional development is aligned with the targets and objectives set out in the school improvement plan. In collaboration with education officers, principals delivered site-based professional development in the following areas: Writing Proficiency; Mathematics; Reading; Research-based Instructional Strategies; and Innovation. This is also connected to the Government's Education Platform and its commitment to ensuring teachers' professional development to improve students' learning outcomes.

Mr Speaker,

Ongoing professional development is also provided for school principals and Department of Education Technical Officers each month by the Standards-Based Grading Standing Committee. Principals and Deputy principals also participate in workshops facilitated by the Assistant Directors Educational Standards and Accountability.

Mr Speaker,

In alignment with Plan 2022 Strategy 3.5, the first principal certification programme has already commenced at the Bermuda College via a
Partnership with Framingham State University. The Graduate Certificate Program in Educational Leadership started on October 12th, 2020, and the cohort of 14 educators includes teachers, year level heads, mentor teachers, deputy principals, acting principals, and Department of Education Officers.

Mr Speaker,

Teachers' professional development is an essential component of comprehensive school reform. As we look to the future of Education, we recognize that we will need a high-quality, sustainable professional learning plan for teachers, specialist staff, school and Department of Education Officers. That plan will be sustainable, research and include:

Site-based professional learning which targets the needs of individual schools and their staff
System-wide professional learning focused on building the knowledge and skills of all staff for national priorities that will improve the outcomes for students
National-Level professional learning for all educators on the island
The Department of Education will also look to the National Education Institute (NEI) to provide leadership with professional learning opportunities for all of Bermuda's educators.

The National Educators Institute (NEI) will provide strands of professional learning, including Pedagogy, Social Emotional Learning, Peer Coaching, Research and Scholarship, and Brothers as Scholars. Teachers for Teachers will facilitate the NEI's professional learning; it will be job-embedded, ongoing; based on educator interests, inquiry-based; include peer coaching.

Mr Speaker,

I also want to share about the work that will take place to develop the education workforce, one of six national and core priorities currently being addressed by the Learning First Design team, which is currently focused on three areas. There will be professional learning for educators to support the implementation of school redesign. The ideas that are currently under development in this category include:

Creating a teaching task force of skilled mentors and coaches able to demonstrate, support and quality assure new teaching practices as they are introduced into schools
An approach to practice development, based on the proven lesson study model, in which educators work together using peer observation and coaching to test and improve new lessons, resources and assessments and embed these in their practice
Mr Speaker,

We will introduce consistent teaching standards and shared accountability for excellence. The ideas being explored in this category include:

The development, with the profession, of Bermudian professional standards for educators that describe key aspects of effective practice at every career stage from novice to master teacher and into leadership roles, including school principal and administrator
Support for schools to become professional learning communities, rich in evidence-based models for professional learning where collaboration is the norm
A professional growth planning team, educators working together each summer term to plan, design and commission professional learning for the coming year, based on national and school priorities and educators' needs and interests
Mr Speaker,

We also plan to raise the teaching profession's profile and make a career in Education a natural choice for Bermuda's brightest graduates. Ideas for achieving this include:

An annual Bermudian education conference showcasing the best of public and private Education in Bermuda
Partnerships between schools, businesses and community organizations to provide work placements, enrichment and resources for students and career development opportunities for educators, including exchanges and externships
Mr Speaker,

The American Federation of Teachers has stated that "the nation can adopt rigorous standards, set forth a visionary scenario, compile the best research about how students learn, change textbooks and assessment, promote teaching strategies that have been successful with a wide range of students, and change all the other elements involved in systemic reform - but without professional development, school reform and improved achievement for all students will not happen."

Mr Speaker,

We will continue to make professional development a priority now and throughout education reform. We will also develop an infrastructure for sustainable professional learning for our educators to become a natural part of their work experience.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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