Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU) is a small, rural school administrative coalition serving 1100 students in 6 schools from 6 towns in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. From 2008 to 2012, OSSU spent between $80,000 and $130,000 per year on professional development designed to address gaps in students’ mathematical achievement. This represents a significant investment for a district with an overall budget of $25 Million. The district lacked the means to assess the effectiveness of the initiative.
By building a model of student achievement that controls for factors that affect state exam results, but are outside the school’s control, we were able to demonstrate the changes in outcome at the district, school and classroom level.
We then looked at the teacher professional development records to determine staff exposure to the strategies. We also looked at supervision and evaluation documents to determine the level of implementation in the classrooms. This allowed us to determine the effect that the professional development program had on teacher practice and student achievement.
We determined that the professional development strategy, while comprehensive, did not result in significant changes in teachers’ practice or in student achievement. OSSU was able to recommit the funding to other initiatives, reduce its overall professional development budget by 60% and create a highly effective and valued professional development model.