This month, charter public school leaders, teachers, and staff across the state are back in school buildings, engaging in leading-edge professional development (PD), getting inspired, connected, and ready to deliver a school experience that meets not only the academic, but also the social and emotional needs of all students.
Washington’s charter public schools emerged out of the belief that there is no “one size fits all” solution for free, public education. This is also true of PD across our schools, because one size does not fit all teams. Every one of Washington’s charter schools offers relevant trainings that reflects its school model and values.
August PD is also a space to level-up practices and deepen mindsets that translated to positive results in the previous year, and to introduce new innovative and antiracist practices to the educators who will be delivering them. This ability to be nimble and adapt to respond to the unique needs of a school community is the hallmark of charter public schools: charter schools and educators have more latitude than in traditional schools to take different approaches, and in exchange, they must demonstrate that they are making a measurable difference for the students they serve.
Here’s a closer look at professional development happening at four different Washington state charter public schools.
Catalyst Public Schools: Bremerton
At Catalyst: Bremerton, staff convene for at least 2 weeks each summer to “launch” the new school year. These days are a precious gift where educators convene to build a sense of team, mission, and purpose and to put their heads together to find ways to best serve Catalyst: Bremerton scholars.
During this year’s launch, the Catalyst team is diving into the school’s core value of Belonging through sessions about trauma-informed practices and culturally relevant teaching. Educators who are new to Catalyst: Bremerton have the opportunity to learn about the school’s model, vision, and values, and veteran teachers have the opportunity to mentor those newer to the practice of teaching.
Everyone in the school community – from custodians to office staff to teachers and school Co-Founders, come together to decide how to deliver on the school’s biggest mission promise – creating a school where every scholar is seen, known, loved, and challenged.
Impact Public Schools
Impact is excited to welcome 42 new teachers joining the team this year. This summer, the school played BIG with new incoming faculty at their Friday’s New Hire Social. School leaders were in professional development and did a deep dive into best practices in instructional coaching to provide exceptional support to faculty. Everyone is motivated, energized, and ready to welcome scholars to campuses in just a couple weeks.
At Impact Public Schools, professional development is centered on an immersive learning experience. First, PD is differentiated by experience, role, and grade span so that faculty are developing with their peers. Next, teachers explore core content areas. They experience a model lesson as a learner, reflect on the experience, learn about instructional best practices, and practice teaching a lesson in front of their peers.
A critical part of all professional development at Impact is engaging in Circle. Circle has been a part of the community life of Indigenous peoples for millennia. It refers to a process of facilitating dialogue wherein participants engage in an intentional conversation about values and building relationships as we tackle challenging issues. Having Circle be an integral part of PD is a reflection of many of Impact’s Core Values.
Rainier Prep’s Basecamp is a three-week series of collaborative work sessions, team-building, and goal-setting that sets the tone and pace for yet another excellent school year. They begin with a week-long introduction for our new staff members, after a long hiring process to select mission- and equity-focused talent. New colleagues delve into Rainier Prep’s values and community partnerships, especially how those have been instrumental for advancing students’ success over the last seven years. By attending to the mechanics of a strong classroom, setting positive class culture, planning with team calendars, and managing professional development goals, new staff ground themselves in important considerations of sustainability, consistency and equity before all staff return for the second week.
Rainier Prep ensures that academic growth, student agency, and college and career success mutually reinforce each other. Once all staff are together, they ground themselves in our whole-school goals for equitable access and opportunity for all students. A panel of family members reframes planning within considerations of what families and community want for their students’ success. Grade level teams prepare for student-led family conferences so that the year begins with students’ goals, strengths, interests, and unique personalities in view. Staff then plan informative orientation sessions for all grade levels so that advisory groups can begin to support, relate, and build each other up throughout the year.
Teachers continue to finalize their opening units and set collaborative goals across grade teams and academic content areas, keeping an important focus on inclusivity for all students and learning styles. Field studies are confirmed on the school calendar, supplies are ordered, decorations go up, student name-tags are printed, and with plenty of positive energy and support, Rainier Prep is ready, set, and GO for the first day of school — and beyond.
Rainier Valley Leadership Academy
“Wake Up…Change the World…Repeat” – David Watson, Principal of Rainier Valley Leadership Academy
The RVLA team participated in UnboundEd Training, focusing on Decolonizing Curriculum and Equity in Education within the realm of math and ELA. Other activities included: Circle Training (Social Emotional Learning components of staff and scholar culture) and Team Building exercises for the staff retreat. The leadership retreat focused on the importance of having a solid foundation and united/cohesive plan for an anti-racist collaborative community.