To complement the on-site classroom support, a regular series of off-site professional development (PD) gatherings brought ARTS ACHIEVE participants together for group learning. Major NYC cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the ARTS ACHIEVE consortium’s sites, hosted these events. In each assessment implementation year, off-site PD included:
- Three all-day retreats for treatment teachers, principals, and facilitators.
- Up to four workshops for facilitators and teachers together.
- Up to seven workshops for all facilitators.
- Internal meetings of facilitators in each art form.
- Two school inter-visitations for teachers and facilitators.
- Periodic technology trainings for everyone.
Additionally, the proctor/adjudicators in each art form met twice annually for training in assessment delivery, including inter-rater reliability exercises to norm scoring. Assessment scoring itself constituted a form of PD for this cohort, inspiring them to reflect on their own students and pedagogy.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
While all ARTS ACHIEVE off-site PD promoted common goals, sessions were targeted specifically to the needs of different cohorts. The facilitators and the treatment arts teachers were two key cohorts who constituted their own Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which convened both separately and together. Facilitator PLC met regularly to share successes and challenges, student work, and effective teaching methods. Cross-discipline whole group and per-discipline small group work encouraged expansive and deep reflection. The treatment arts teacher PLC attended school inter-visitations to observe a master arts teacher or ARTS ACHIEVE peer teacher. The day included observing classes, analyzing instruction, and reflecting on their own and peers’ teaching styles. The two PLCs worked together in sessions on data interpretation, formative assessment, action research, unit writing, and technology (devices and online platforms).
Building an ARTS ACHIEVE Community through PD
The vital role of off-site PD gatherings in building a community of learners cannot be overstated. Cohering the various parties around common understandings and goals, and including principals and other school leadership in the arc of learning, changed the dynamic for the arts in many of our treatment schools. During the tri-annual retreats, teachers worked together with their School Wide Arts Team (SWAT) on interpreting data and brainstorming next steps. This data-driven discussion between supervisors and teachers created an unusual opportunity for frank, open dialogue about improving student outcomes.