Professional Development

Professional Development and Professional Learning Communities

Professional Development

Farmington Area Public Schools is dedicated to customizing staff development and being responsive to truly meet the needs of staff members within each building. Professional Development in literacy focuses on the delivery of instruction and student learning. This involved a series of different approaches to professional development.

  • Whole Staff Training: Professional development involves some whole staff trainings building or district wide where staffs are given a foundation of skills and strategies to support their literacy instruction focusing on the principles of the Gradual Release of Responsibility in instruction. 
  • Two Hour After School Sessions: Schools across the district also utilize a series of two hour after school professional development sessions to spread out the learning over the course of the school year with time to practice and reflect between sessions areas of literacy based on building need. 
  • Grade Level, Specialist, & Program Teams: Another aspect of professional development is the weekly work within grade levels teams utilizing an instructional coach to work on skills determined by the group to help support student learning based on data from assessments administered by the team. 
  • Peer Coaching: Staffs have the opportunity to work with peer coaches individually based on where they want to grow professionally to continue to support their students.

Professional Learning Communities

With our District Initiative being Customized Student Learning, we believe a common, central focus on Professional Learning Communities will move us along in our professional growth and understanding around this idea. Professional Learning Communities are defined as a culture of collaboration where staff members work together towards a common goal focused on student learning. In the culture of collaboration they emphasize communication, positive relationships, support for one another, high quality instructional strategies and accountability to student learning as the focus at all times. The graphic above provides a framework in which staff members work with throughout the school year to respond to student learning. This focus on responsive teaching means knowing where each and every one of our students are in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and motivations (aka customized student learning). Above is a flow chart that helps lay out the path to take in order to be able to customize student learning. Each of the components will be explained below along with what that may look like in regards to literacy instruction. Even though the graphic is shown in linear form the arrows signify the fluidity that needs to take place for the culture to be most effective. For example, data analysis may occur to help determine essential learnings or learning targets based off the standards, but it also may be part of the analysis to establish if a student is making progress in the area of intervention. These areas do not stand alone. They work together to provide a collective learning and team approach that when utilized will build sustained and unified effort for continuous student progress.

Standards/Essential Learnings/Learning Targets

These are what we want every student to know or be able to do at a grade level and/or in a content area. As grade level teams clarify the standards and benchmarks to determine what that means in terms of student learning. This means looking at what students are expected to retain for the future, what skills are applicable to many academic areas, and are these skill to help them prepare for success as they proceed in their academic career. Staff also put these “wants” for students in language that students can understand. An example of an essential learning in literacy for 5th grade would be, “I can compare and contrast two characters, settings, or events in a text with specific details.”

Common Formative Assessments/Rubric Development

Common Formative Assessments (CFA) are frequent consistent checks that are used to monitor student progress on the skills and knowledge that are considered essential. These are developed by grade level teams working together to help students develop knowledge and skill. They are most effective when they provide both the teacher and the student with information about academic progress. Rubric development is a vital piece of creating common formative assessments because they provide the framework for determining the level of achievement on a given check. For example, a team would develop an assessment and rubric for students to demonstrate their ability to compare and contrast characters in a text along with a rubric that supports the determined skills and knowledge.

Lesson Development and Implementation of CFA’s

Using the essential learnings, common formative assessments, and rubrics teachers can collaborate to determine lessons that would support students to be successful. They can utilize multiple resources and methods to deliver instruction. Throughout the instruction teachers will implement CFA’s to check student understanding. For example, fifth grade teachers would pull together various texts that allow students to compare and contrast two characters in a story and discuss ways that they are similar and different.

Data Analysis

At the heart of professional learning communities is data analysis. This is where staff members collaboratively look at their CFA’s to determine which students have an understanding of the essential learnings and which are in need of more support. For example, this same fifth grade team would meet to determine which students are in need of more support on making comparisons and contrasts between characters.


Interventions are the methods and activities that teachers utilize to respond to students based on CFA data. Enrichments are interventions for students that entered with the understanding of the essential learnings. In this fifth grade example a teacher may pull a group of students that continue to struggle with comparing and contrasting characters into a guided reading group to work together on a think aloud with text involving two characters.