Choosing Professional Learning for Your District and School

The professional learning for your school should match the priorities outlined in the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP). Many of the priorities identified may require coordination with professional learning providers outside of your district. The Office of Public Instruction is committed to offering multiple, high-quality professional learning opportunities that are equitably accessible to all Montana educators.

 

OPI Learning Opportunities Portal

 

The OPI Learning Opportunities Portal shares information about the professional learning opportunities happening across the state from the OPI and Montana's many other professional learning providers. A calendar is available for any opportunities that are date-based, and a catalog is available for any opportunities that are self-paced or available by contracting directly with a provider.

 

Teacher Learning Hub

 

The OPI Teacher Learning Hub is a free, online learning platform that provides over 125 courses for Montana's educators and school personnel. There are courses in most subject areas and other specific topics, such as mental health and behavior, instructional strategies, and school issues and administration. If you are considering using the Teacher Learning Hub as a part of your PIR days, we recommend reviewing Information for School Administrators.

Funding Considerations

While some professional learning is free, many opportunities are not. Depending on your professional learning goals, you may consider applying for funding to support your professional learning plan. The following webpages provide guidance on funding professional development.

Title II, Part A grants support the implementation of high-quality, personalized, evidence-based professional learning for teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional leadership teams, principals, or other school leaders that is focused on improving teacher and student learning. The professional learning should be sustained, personalized, and job-embedded rather than stand-alone, one-day, or short-term professional learning. Specific information related to the allowable use of funds can be found in the Montana Title II-A Guidance document.

Title IV, Part A grants are intended to improve students' academic achievement by increasing the capacity of state education agencies, local education agencies, and local communities to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education.  The grants may be used to improve school conditions for student learning and to improve the use of technology as it relates to student academic achievement and digital literacy.  School climate and safety are priorities in Montana.  Specific information related to the allowable use of funds can be found in the OPI's Title IV Part A Fact Sheet.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Evidence-Based Practices in Professional Learning

It is important to provide professional learning that results in improved student outcomes. While there has been a shift toward evidence-based strategies used in the classroom, there has been less of a shift to implement evidence-based professional learning for educators. The following resources can help clarify what practices are considered evidence-based for professional learning.

 

 

Guidelines and Standards for Professional Learning

Professional learning for educators in the state of Montana should follow certain guidelines and standards.  The guidance and standards below can help administrators with professional learning requirements. 


Federal Definition of Professional Learning

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) § 8101(42) defines "professional development," specifically noting that professional development activities are to be "sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused..." (ESEA § 8101(42), pg. 401).


Administrative Rules of Montana

There are a number of Administrative Rules of Montana (ARMs) that guide professional learning for education-related personnel, including:

 

  • ARM 10.16.3135 Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPDs) - CSPD is a regionalized structure that provides special education-related professional learning for pre-service and in-service educators, administrators, and paraprofessionals.

  • ARM 10.55.601 Accreditation Standards: Procedures - Continuous School Improvement Plans (CSIPs) are developed, implemented, and evaluated yearly by school districts and schools.  The CSIPs include a professional development planning component.

  • ARM 10.55.714 Professional Development - The Professional Development ARM specifies the standards that professional development opportunities must meet.

  • ARM 10.57.215 Renewal Requirements - The activities that are eligible for renewal units are professional development activities and college credits that are of a planned and structured experience and an activity that provides "exposure to a new idea or skill or an extension of an existing idea or skill."

  • ARM 10.57.216 Approved Renewal Activity - Approved renewal unit providers must offer activities that are "deemed appropriate for professional development of licensees in compliance with ARM 10.55.714 and 10.57.215."

Other ARMs address professional learning requirements for specific licenses and endorsements. Additional resources related to licensure can be found on the Montana Educator Licensing website.


Standards

Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning "outline the characteristics of professional learning that leads to effective teaching practice, supportive leadership, and improved student results" (2017).  The standards include:

 

  • Learning Communities - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment."

  • Leadership - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning."

  • Resources - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for educator learning."

  • Data - "Professional Learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning."

  • Learning Designs - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes."

  • Implementation - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long term change."

  • Outcomes - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards."

National Board Teacher Stipend Program

Montana provides a state stipend to teachers who receive National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The current program was enacted into law by the 2017 Montana legislature. 

Since the legislation was partially aimed at helping the recruitment and retention of teachers at impacted schools, the stipend amount is higher for teachers at schools with critical educator shortages and those schools who qualify for school wide free and reduced lunch. 

More information about the National Board Teacher Stipend Program can be found on the Educator Recruitment & Retention website.

Professional Learning Planning Resources for District Leaders

Districtwide and/or schoolwide planning for professional learning is addressed in the Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM), specific state and federal grant programs, and Montana's Consolidated State Plan Under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The following guidelines and statutes clarify the responsibilities of administrators in the planning process:

 

  • ARM 10.55.714 Professional Development - "The local board of trustees shall establish an advisory committee [consisting of trustees, administrators, and teachers, with the majority of the committee being teachers] to evaluate the school district's current school year professional development plan; and develop and recommend a plan for the subsequent school year."

  • ARM 10.55.601 Continuous Improvement - "The school district and each of its schools shall develop, implement, and evaluate continuous school improvement plans and make the plans available to the public." The plan shall include a professional development component amongst other requirements.

  • Specific federal and state grant programs 

  • The Every Student Succeeds Act 

Creating Professional Learning Plans

A comprehensive professional learning plan contains many components. Learning Forward has developed a workbook to help districts and schools isolate needs and develop short- and long-term professional learning plans.


Funding Considerations

While some professional learning is free, many opportunities are not. Depending on your professional learning goals, you may consider applying for funding to support your professional learning plan. The following webpages provide guidance on funding professional development.

Title II, Part A grants support the implementation of high-quality, personalized, evidence-based professional learning for teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional leadership teams, principals, or other school leaders that is focused on improving teacher and student learning. The professional learning should be sustained, personalized, and job-embedded rather than stand-alone, one-day, or short-term professional learning. Specific information related to the allowable use of funds can be found in the Montana Title II-A Guidance document.

Title IV, Part A grants are intended to improve students' academic achievement by increasing the capacity of state education agencies, local education agencies, and local communities to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education.  The grants may be used to improve school conditions for student learning and to improve the use of technology as it relates to student academic achievement and digital literacy.  School climate and safety are priorities in Montana.  Specific information related to the allowable use of funds can be found in the OPI's Title IV Part A Fact Sheet.

Professional Learning Provider Insider Newsletter

The Professional Learning Provider (PLP) Insider is a monthly newsletter sent to professional learning providers, county superintendents, district superintendents, curriculum directors, and others interested in receiving the newsletter. The newsletter focuses on best practices in professional learning, updates from the OPI, and the latest research and evidence related to the professional learning of school personnel.

 

To receive the PLP Insider monthly newsletter, visit OPI Email Updates, enter your email address, and select "Professional Learning Network."

Past Issues

The Professional Learning Provider Network Collaborative

On the third Tuesday of each month from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m., the OPI will host a conference call for education-related providers in the state of Montana.  The call will be recorded and available on the new Professional Learning webpage that is currently in development.

The following links contain calendar invites that provide the information on how to log-in to the conference call.

You can also connect using the Zoom link or by calling 1-720-707-2699 and entering in access code 454 817 432 when prompted.

Meeting Recordings

Please contact the OPI's Professional Learning Coordinator, Carli Cockrell, for access to PLP Network Collaborative recordings.

Additional OPI Resources

We make every attempt to list all professional learning opportunities for educators on the OPI Learning Opportunities Portal. The following webpages also contain additional professional learning opportunities that you may be interested in!
 

We're here to help!

For questions related to re-licensure and Renewal Units, please visit the Montana Educator Licensing website.

For questions related to professional learning, please contact:

Carli Cockrell, Professional Learning Coordinator, 406-444-0769.