Transcript of the testimony of Cheri Michael at SRC April 26, 2018

Click on the picture above and go to timestamp 30:39 to view Cheri’s testimony.

Cheri Micheau

Professional Development and Outsourcing

I am a resident of Philadelphia and a taxpayer.  I attended the first “listening session” for the new school board last evening and was reminded of one of the board’s major responsibilities: To monitor finances, including expenses for personnel and professional development.  I look forward to much more careful oversight on these issues.  

One of the many questions that arise when I examine the mind-boggling number of resolutions and then attend SRC meetings is about the amount of money being spent to outsource professional development (PD).  I always ask myself why a number of these PDs for teachers and administrators are not planned and delivered by 440 staff and/or by School District master teachers and administrators who have already received the same training in years past. Any outsider would assume, I think, that personnel in the Office of Specialized Services, Multilingual, or in Curriculum, for example, would have been selected for their professional experience and academic preparation, including their ability to educate teachers on new methods, policies and practices.  Yet that does not seem to be the case.  Criteria for hiring are unclear:  It seems that individuals with limited administrative and teaching experience, and little to no professional development experience, are hired not only for manager-level, but also for upper administrative positions.  

One of the results of this apparent lack of qualified central-office staff may very well be the outsourcing of professional development. To use just a few examples, the Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs has outsourced, or proposes to outsource, training for bilingual teachers and administrators, as well as for content-area teachers of English Learners, to the tune of over $200,000. 

Over 3 million dollars will be spent to plan and deliver a summer math institute for, I believe, the third year in a row.  OSS/IU proposes to spend over $300,000 to provide training for teachers of autistic students.  If these programs were new to the SDP, the outsourcing would be understandable during the introductory period.  Yet bilingual programs, content-area instruction for ELs, teaching of autistic students, and math instruction are certainly not new.  For instance, one of the components of the proposed Center for Applied Linguistics program for bilingual teachers is “Developing Academic Literacy and Language,” a movement that had its start in our field of second language instruction in the mid-1980s.

I wonder why it is not possible, first, to hire people in the central office departments such as curriculum, special education, and multilingual who bring qualifications in teacher development in their specialized areas. Furthermore, I wonder why it has not already been possible to develop in-house experts in some of the above-mentioned programs; in other words, staff who have participated in the initial PD program will then turn around the training to teachers “in house.”  Now that bilingual personnel have received the specialized training from the Center for Applied Linguistics in the past several years, why are those teachers—-and 440 administrators assigned to support those programs—- not able to turn it around?  Similarly, why are math experts in the curriculum office and master math teachers not able to present the math institute, after supposedly having participated in this institute in past years?

One of the advantages that the Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs has is that substantial Title III funds are available to support PD for teachers and other school personnel, and, of course, that PD would be most cost effective, I assume, if done in house rather than through outsourcing.  Yet in this school year, very limited PD has been planned and provided by that office, and an inordinate amount of time and money have been devoted to PD for dual language programs, of which there are only six in the entire District.  This, at the same time that new ESOL teachers are being hired who are either newly entering teaching or moving from another content area into ESOL.  And, of course, new classroom teachers have joined the SDP, and many have not previously confronted the challenges of adapting instruction for ELs.  There is a great need for support from the office that is supposedly designated as the source of knowledge on EL instruction.  Can we assume, given the dearth of PD for these teachers, that few of the representatives of that office have the expertise to deliver high-quality PD?  Or any PD?

It would be helpful for taxpayers to have an overview of PD being delivered to SDP personnel and the providers of that PD.  There is no question that staff can benefit in many ways from updating their skills. It is my hope that that updating of skills is done in the most cost effective way, so that as many staff members as possible can benefit.

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