P.O. Box 202501 • Helena, MT 59620-2501
Putting Montana Students First
Professional Learning Considerations for Montana Educators
Professional learning for educators in the state of Montana should follow certain guidelines and standards. The guidance and standards below can help educators understand professional learning requirements.
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).
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.
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."
Districts are able to develop policies related to micro-credentials and how they factor into salary negotiation and collective bargaining agreements. The Office of Public Instruction does not presently accept micro-credentials as renewal units for re-licensure. However, individual professional development opportunities that are built within micro-credential frameworks may be eligible for renewal units if the provider is an approved renewal unit provider and the event aligns with the Administrative Rules of Montana.
The National Education Association (NEA) has published Micro-credential Guidance to provide considerations for collective bargaining agreements. In addition, Digital Promise has developed a Micro-credential Policy Map that examines micro-credentials for educators at various levels: higher education, state-level, district-level, and the educator level.
There are numerous micro-credential providers. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, and educators should always work with district personnel regarding any approval processes related to micro-credentials.
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.
OPI Learning Opportunities Portal
1. Are you a licensed (current or seeking reinstatement) Montana educator looking for OPI Renewal Unit Certificate approval?
(Note: This procedure is strictly for OPI Renewal Unit Certificate approval. The OPI does not approve PIR or salary lane change requests - these processes are determined at your local school district per Administrative Rule of Montana 10.55.714 Professional Development (2) and your school district's Collective Bargaining Agreements. Please see FAQ "How do I get approved for PIR, salary lane changes, or "Step-Up" credits" below for more information.)
2. Is the provider listed in the approved OPI Renewal Unit Provider Directory?
3. Are you employed by a school/district listed in the approved OPI Renewal Unit Provider Directory?
4. Please submit the Pre-Approval for OPI Renewal Unit Certificate form. This form must be submitted prior to attending the renewal unit activity to be considered for OPI renewal units. (Note: We are retroactively approving some requests due to COVID-19 - please see the directions on the form linked above for more information)
The primary purpose of the OPI Teacher Learning Hub has been to address the challenges of cost, distance, time, and equity of access to high-quality professional development for Montana educators.
There are three types of courses available:
Teacher Learning Hub
For questions related to professional learning, please contact:
Carli Cockrell, Professional Learning Coordinator, 406-444-0769.
For questions related to renewal units, please email OPIRUPS@mt.gov.
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