Chicago audit triggers change

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Last December, Chicago Public Schools began an inventory and audit of spending on professional development similar to Boston’s. The work is about half done—central office spending has been analyzed, but spending at a sample of 25 schools is still being reviewed.

Citing audit findings, Al Bertani, chief CPS professional development officer, reports that this year, central office is spending $123 million on professional development, or 3.4 percent of its $3.6 billion budget. This percentage is considered typical.

Chicago’s expenses fall into three broad categories:

$56 million for eight teacher professional development days, as required by the board’s contract with the Chicago Teachers Union.

$38 million for subject-specific training delivered in schools, such as the Chicago Reading Initiative reading specialists.

$29 million to underwrite individual teacher training, such as courses at the board’s Teachers Academy for Professional Development and teacher recertification courses.

If Chicago follows Boston’s lead, professional development days and teacher training courses are likely to change. Steps are already being taken to focus the latter on district priorities. Starting next year, courses offered by the Teachers Academy for Professional Development will be narrowed to three topics: reading, math and instructional technology.

Although a final audit report is not due until later this summer, the administration already has begun to shift spending. For one, Bertani found that the work of one of his own units overlapped the work of a unit in the Office of Accountability. He closed his unit and is using the money to open a unit to build teacher leadership, led by Norma Rodriguez.

Secondly, the committee overseeing the audit has drafted principles of professional development to guide how district training is conducted. Three new training institutes, developed in line with those principles, will take place this summer.

Summer school reading institute

About 1,000 elementary teachers working in summer school will receive coaching on reading strategies from a cadre of 45 reading specialists and nationally certified teachers. The institute will train both the teachers and the coaching cadre, which will develop a curriculum and materials to be used across the system in the fall. “These activities are really the seeding of teacher leadership,” says Bertani. “Enhancing the capacity of the reading specialists is a key way to move the instructional capacity at the school level.”

Instructional leadership training

Aimed at low-scoring schools with reading specialists, this institute will bring principals and assistant principals together for four days to study instructional leadership and plan ways to work more closely with their reading specialists. “Our design last year didn’t do enough of a job supporting principals in those schools,” Bertani acknowledges.

Summer teacher leadership academies

Elementary schools with higher levels of reading achievement have been invited to send teams of three to five staff, including the principal, to work on building professional community, improving instruction and managing change. Chicago Teachers Union representatives and principals helped design the training. In addition to the weeklong summer session, teams will receive follow-up training during the school year.

Meanwhile, reconfigured regional offices will get instructional support staff this summer. Their first assignment will be to plan how the offices will work with their schools.