5 Qualities to Look for in a Professional Development Partner

District and building administrators have a dizzying array of professional learning options to choose from these days. It’s a big investment for any decision-maker, but an essential one. Forbes estimates $18 billion is spent each year on K–12 professional development in the United States. That’s a national statistic, though. Your decision of which PD to purchase is personal. So let’s dig in.   

You are a school leader with your finger on the pulse of what’s working in your building, as well as what areas are opportunities for growth. You care about each and every member of your faculty, and you are passionate about developing their skills so that all students get the very best opportunity to learn. Your commitment to your staff and your students is an excellent reason to proceed with caution when choosing your professional development provider. Here are five qualities to keep in mind when making your decision. 


Is There Evidence of Effectiveness?

If you’re looking for a motivational speaker to fire up your staff, that’s one thing. A wide range of charismatic, inspirational presenters can offer key insights and start your school year on a high note. However, If you’re seeking truly transformative, long-lasting change with a partner you can trust, there’s one thing you need to know: Do the practices they plan to train your staff in actually work? Look for the evidence. And if it’s not easy to find, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

One proven process for continuous school improvement is Professional Learning Communities at Work®. Evidence abounds of schools and districts that have chosen to become a PLC with great results. In fact, a statewide initiative in Arkansas has started a wave of transformation that is nothing short of revolutionary. 

Since August 2017, Solution Tree and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) have engaged in a partnership to develop and expand the Professional Learning Communities at Work process across Arkansas. Six cohorts of nearly 100 participating schools and districts have committed to the work with job-embedded coaching, professional learning events, and books and digital resources to support continuous growth and development among staff, with data affirming what really matters: better outcomes for students.

Data shows that participating schools experienced:

  • 31% less COVID-related learning loss
  • Drastically improved student outcomes
  • Reduced teacher turnover
  • Resolved behavioral issues


Shiny New Initiative or Foundation for Lasting Change?

Research shows that PLCs lay the foundation for sustainable continuing professional development, which produces positive outcomes long after your PD provider has left the building. As well, job-embedded training is often considered of great value for teachers, as it puts the practice right in the classroom for direct application supported by expert guidance. 

Consider a multi-year PD plan that offers a combination of services and resources that you can customize to meet your needs. One example is Forward FundED™, a subscription-based professional development program by Solution Tree that offers a wide array of services over a one- to three-year period and includes: 

  • A needs assessment that identifies your strengths and opportunities for growth
  • Professional development planning
  • Embedded coaching
  • Leadership academies
  • Progress monitoring and goal reviews
  • Event registrations
  • Research-based resources written by top experts
  • Multimedia learning platforms for team and individual learning
  • End-of-year reporting and celebration

The content is quality too. Solution Tree has long been known as a premier provider of professional development, so you’ll know you will receive ongoing, customized, research-based training from trusted experts in Professional Learning Communities at Work®, Response to Intervention at Work™, the Assessment Collaborative, Transforming School Culture, Mathematics at Work™, and more.

The end goal of a professional development plan like Forward FundED is to support you through a transformational systemwide culture shift so that your entire staff has a shared commitment to your mission, vision, values, and goals, as well as the common knowledge of language, processes, and practices to stay focused on the right work to achieve better outcomes for students. You should expect no less from any professional development partnership. 


Simplicity, Solid Guidance, and Strong Return on Spending

These are the last three qualities that make a great school improvement partner. Ideally, your spending decision should be simple and worry-free and result in a partnership that will support your highest goals. No matter where you choose to spend your money, you will want your investment to benefit your staff and, importantly, your students, for years to come. 

Right now is the perfect time to choose a multi-year professional development plan such as Forward FundED, while Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II and ESSER III funds may still be available to you. Forward FundED meets the requirements of ESSER, Title I, and Title II funds. With ESSER II funds expiring September 30, 2023, and ESSER III funds expiring just one year later, you’ll want to take action now to procure a school improvement plan that makes the most of these precious dollars—the most monetary support educators have ever seen or likely will again in this lifetime. 

While navigating these deadlines can be a hassle, your choice of where to designate your spending doesn’t have to be. In addition to meeting the requirements of government funding, Forward FundED has the added benefits of simplicity and trustability. 

First, let’s look at simplicity. One price point provides a multitude of support services and resources to sustain your work year after year. And the prices of all products and services are locked in for the duration of your plan. One decision, years of support services and resources. 

As for trustability, your support team at Solution Tree will be there every step of the way to ensure every dollar goes toward the results you want to see. From certified experts working in the trenches with you to a fully transparent accounting staff and fidelity-focused PD support staff, a partnership with Solution Tree through Forward FundED means you will never have to worry whether your school improvement partner has your best interests, and those of your students, in mind.  

Last but not least, the return you get on investing with any professional development provider is likely top of mind. This is where all the other qualities come into play to culminate in a trusted collaborative relationship focused on learning and results. The evidence should show that you will see gains in teacher efficacy and student learning. Your partnership should end with your school community fully able to sustain implementation of your school improvement plan with continued momentum and progress. Making the decision to commit to this work should fill you with comfort and confidence that from the moment the partnership begins, you, your staff, and your PD provider are working shoulder to shoulder to do what’s best for students. 


Hero’s Work

Solution Tree has taken great care to embed each of these qualities into Forward FundED. So, perhaps you need not look any further. Whatever choice you make in a professional development provider, may it bring great success to your staff and students, as you are truly doing hero’s work to build a better future for us all. 


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