REL Mid-Atlantic at ICF International

The Center for Effective School Practices served as an integral partner of the Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic (REL MA) over the past decade. In this role, the Center collaboratively engaged in the investigation of best educational practices for school districts and state departments of education with the intention of promoting the use of research data to inform and guide education policy and decision making in the region. This program was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the US Department of Education. REL Mid-Atlantic is one of ten regional laboratories across the country conducting quality research . This research is used to inform important education policy at the local, state, and national levels

Dr. Cindy Blitz, CESP’s Executive Director, served as the Research Alliance Task Lead. She was also the Research Alliance Coordinator of the Professional Learning Research Alliance (PLRA), which focused on identifying and disseminating data-driven strategies to help SEAs, LEAs, and other educational organizations achieve an effective professional learning environment. Through changing classroom and administrative practices, the PLRA provided a forum for educational stakeholders to share ideas, strategies and resources on Professional Learning as well as Technical Assistance evaluation around implementing structures and processes to support high quality Professional Learning in their schools, districts and states.

Heather Ngoma CESP’s Alternate Route Program Director, served as the New Jersey State Coordinator for REL Mid-Atlantic. She engaged in a variety of needs-assessment and sensing activities throughout the state, including conducting targeted meetings with stakeholders and affinity groups and attending professional association conferences. These needs-sensing efforts inform REL Mid-Atlantic about important educational issues and emerging trends in the state.

Related Projects (REL MA)

Evaluation of District-Wide Implementation of Professional Learning Communities. CESP acted as an external evaluator of the full-scale launch of teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) across all schools in a large district in Pennsylvania. Because each school developed its own approach to the PLC implementation based on existing professional relationships, CESP designed a study that is observational in nature rather than attempting to measure adherence to district-wide protocols. Using rich data collected from teacher surveys and administrator interviews, the study aimed to understand the experience of teachers and principals as participants in PLC teams, as well as assessed the progress of the PLC initiative in terms of the creation of specific artifacts (e.g., common assessments, systematic interventions, etc.). Because very few real-world studies have examined the role PLCs play in student learning and teaching practices, this evaluation was of substantial interest to the national community of education scholars.

Measurement Instruments for Assessing the Effectiveness of Professional Learning Communities.CESP created an online archive of measurement tools intended to assess the effectiveness of PLCs and also carried out a literature review of the existing research on professional development for principals. The team searched scholarly databases and other sources for relevant research materials, particularly empirical studies of one of the four models of principal professional development (university courses, mentoring, coaching, and professional learning communities).

Comparing the Effectiveness of Different Approaches to Principal Professional Development. CESP carried out a literature review of the existing research on professional development for principals. The role of principal has evolved from a solely managerial position to one that calls for expertise in instruction, academic content, data analysis, public relations, and more. Professional development, then, has become necessary for principals as they adapt to the increasingly broad range of responsibilities they face each day. The team thoroughly searched scholarly databases and other sources for relevant research materials, particularly empirical studies of one of the four models of principal professional development (university courses, mentoring, coaching, and professional learning communities). The selected literature was coded to align findings with the standards created by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). This project provided an updated snapshot of the present state of professional development for principals that may illuminate areas of deficiency present in the existing models.

Can Online Learning Communities Achieve the Goals of Traditional Professional Learning Communities? Dr. Blitz and CESP staff conducted a literature review of the existing research on online and hybrid professional learning communities in response to a direct request from PLRA members and interest from IES. The goal of the review was to synthesize the information available to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of online or partially-online PLCs compared to traditional PLCs. Ultimately, the CESP team discovered that online PLCs were usually designed to operate like traditional PLCs, with the same emphasis on strong leadership, community, and clearly-defined goals. For the most part, technology-enhanced PLCs produced outcomes similar to those of traditional PLCs, but had the advantage of being much more flexible and more conducive to self-reflected learning compared to traditional PLCs.