Educators participate in workshops for instructional excellence

Restoration of Title IIA funds will allow diocesan schools to increase professional development activities

By Sedonna Prater

As Diocese of Knoxville schools prepare for students returning from summer break, school administrators and teachers are completing training in a series of workshops aimed at enhancing teacher quality and instructional effectiveness in the classroom.

In April, all private schools across Tennessee were informed that over several years the state used the wrong formula to calculate Title IIA funds to non-public schools, resulting in a shortfall in allocations.

Private schools in the state learned that each school would receive the correct allocation for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and additionally would receive a payback allocation over the next four years. Under Title IIA, local public education systems are required to provide equitable services for private school teachers and other educational personnel for professional development.

Title IIA is the former Eisenhower Professional Development law that was reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind federal education program. NCLB Title IIA says all nonpublic schools are eligible to receive funds for the purpose of increasing achievement of students by helping schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality and by ensuring that all teachers are highly qualified.

Catholic school leaders immediately began addressing several professional development goals related to diocesan-wide school improvement initiatives and individual school initiatives.

Schools in the diocese are preparing to become district accredited in 2017 through AdvancED, an international accrediting agency. As part of this process, the schools conducted an initial self-assessment this past school year to identify strengths and potential areas for growth. Also completed this past year was a site analysis at each school to establish a baseline foundation for future needs assessment purposes and to provide a rationale for professional development goals.

In addition, an organizational cultural inventory assessment through the Pacific Institute was completed on every diocesan school this past school year to assist school leaders in identifying and addressing cultural assumptions that could impede performance.

All the information collected has been analyzed, and professional development goals have been created.

To increase integration of technology and learn alternative instructional strategies for whole-group and lecture-style instruction, all diocesan schools will participate in a Project-

Based Institute at Knoxville Catholic High School on Sept. 4. Educators will be involved in training with three educational consultants who are experts in their areas. Anthony Johnson, an Apple Distinguished Educator, will share his innovative method that uses technology to transform instruction, not just as a glorified tool. Brandy Kerbow will provide inspiring and energizing literacy strategies for problem-based learning, and Camryn Pinner will focus on strategies to promote higher levels of student cognition.

Also, school administrators and lead teachers are participating in five instructional effectiveness workshops that began in July and continue through November on evidenced-based strategies of effective instructional practices, peer coaching/ mentoring, and use of student performance data to make instructional decisions.

Principals and school leaders will use this information to develop a comprehensive, customized teacher evaluation system for schools in the diocese that focuses on authentic classroom data from frequent formal and informal classroom observations, professional coaching, teacher mentoring, and student engagement and performance.

With the additional Title IIA allocations, each school also will be able to focus on school-wide professional development needs. Title IIA funds allocated to the 10 Diocese of Knoxville schools for professional development exceed $164,000 for this fiscal year. By law, this revenue is not given directly to individual schools but is allocated to the local education system, which authorizes payment for materials and services used only for professional development of teachers and principals.

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