Schools turn to online professional development, tools for mentors

As technology evolves and instructional practices improve, teachers of all experience levels need to continually enhance their knowledge and skills. And, as teachers of the Baby Boomer generation retire, there must be a pool of effective, diverse teachers ready to step in and take their place. Successful veteran teachers are being tasked by administrators with providing leadership and coaching to their peers to help them develop effective teaching skills and strategies.

To support such leadership efforts, the Louisiana Governor's Office and several school districts in the state have selected Peer Connection, a service of PBS TeacherLine® ( Peer Connection will offer ongoing support to the state's preK-12 instructional coaches and educators through anytime, anywhere access to best practices and teaching resources, and a professional learning community.

Delivered locally through Louisiana Public Broadcasting, PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection will be implemented by state and district education leaders this year. PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection, which recently earned the highest quality rating from the federal Government Performance and Results Act review, is an online suite of instructional strategies and tools for teacher leaders and instructional coaches who provide sustained, job-embedded professional development for their peers. Featuring thousands of research-based, standards-aligned resources in preK-12 math, reading, instructional strategies, and instructional technology, PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection enables coaches and mentors to create customized, practical learning experiences and guide teachers in their professional growth.

The Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program (NSECD), an initiative of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Community Programs, is training its monitors and educators on Peer Connection to implement in the 2010-2011 school year. The NSECD Program was first created through legislative appropriation for the 2001-2002 school year to operate in Orleans Parish. The Program expanded under the prior Administration to serve at-risk children who attended schools in nine designated parishes before being expanded statewide due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Teacher quality is critical to the success of early childhood education to ensure developmentally appropriate practices are used. High-quality early childhood programs are proven by research to result in long-term positive outcomes for children.

"Peer Connection will help keep our teachers up-to-date and ahead of the curve when it comes to early childhood education," said Petrouchka Moise, the program's director. "Our monitors will be able to build resource networks for teachers and their principals to ensure a supportive learning community no matter where they are located. Peer Connection provides quick access to a wealth of information that is well-organized and presented in a user-friendly way, so it's easy for busy teachers to find high-quality resources they need."

In addition to the Governor's Office, five school districts in the state have selected PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection: Louisiana Department of Education's Special School District #2, Lafourche Parish Public Schools in Thibodaux, East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, Point Coupee Parish Schools in New Roads, and Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles.
Lafourche Parish Public Schools serves about 15,000 students in 28 schools, with approximately 2,400 staff members. "Peer Connection fits well with the instructional coaching and mentoring model that our district and others around the state are using," said Pam Folse, supervisor of Title I programs. "The online suite is easy-to-use and supports the face-to-face interaction to which teachers are accustomed."