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LEAP: Teacher Professional Development

What is LEAP?

At its core, LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice) is about helping teachers become truly expert at teaching the DCPS Common Core-aligned curriculum – so that every student across the city experiences rich, engaging, and challenging instruction every day. To do this, teachers will engage in a weekly cycle of development in small content-specific professional learning communities (LEAP Teams) at their schools. These teams will be led by content experts (LEAP Leaders) at their schools.

Each weekly cycle will have three parts:

  • First is the weekly 90-minute LEAP Seminar. During this time, teachers will deepen their content knowledge and hone their expertise at the Common-Core aligned teaching practices that are most important for their particular content area. For example, ELA teachers will deepen their understanding of the emphasis in Common Core on academic vocabulary instruction and will become more adept at planning explicit instruction aimed at regular practice with tier 2 words.
  • The second part of the cycle is a regular LEAP Observation (15 minutes). This brief observation is an opportunity for the teacher to showcase her learning from the weekly seminar. It’s intentionally brief to help the teacher and LEAP Leader hone in on key instructional practices.
  • The third part of the cycle is a regular LEAP “5P” Debrief, during which the teacher will have the opportunity to receive praise for the growth she’s making, to process with her LEAP Leader where improvements could be made, to prioritize one skill to focus on during the coming week, to plan an upcoming lesson with this skill in mind, and to practice the skill with her LEAP Leader.

Hear from a DCPS LEAP Leader how LEAP is transforming instruction at her school.

What distinguishes LEAP from other PD models?

DCPS is sobered by the research on professional development. Millions, if not billions, of dollars are spent on PD every year with little to show for it. That’s why DCPS is doing a number of things differently. For example, the district is:

  • Leveraging collaboration – A great deal of research – and teachers themselves – make it clear that the best professional learning happens when teams work together. LEAP is built around this concept.
  • Emphasizing practice – Every complex human endeavor requires practice. Teaching is no different. But rarely do educators have time to actually practice their lessons. LEAP creates a space and structure for this to happen on a weekly basis.
  • Creating a Common-Core aligned adult curriculum – DCPS is creating the nation’s first Common Core-aligned adult learning curriculum, which will serve as the foundation for all the learning that occurs during the weekly LEAP Cycle. Why? So that LEAP Leaders won’t have to figure out how to support their teachers all on their own.
  • Selecting the right LEAP Leaders – It takes a special skill set to be a LEAP Leader. One needs expertise in a whole set of adult coaching and facilitation skills, as well as deep content knowledge. That’s why DCPS is putting every applicant for a LEAP Leader role through an extensive screening process and also providing extensive training opportunities throughout the year.
  • Investing in training for LEAP Leaders – LEAP Leaders will undergo training over the summer, along with ongoing support throughout the school year, to ensure that they can expertly implement DCPS’s adult PD curriculum.
  • Going all in on implementation – If DCPS has learned anything over the past several years, it’s that ideas are only as good as their execution, particularly at scale. That’s why DCPS has dedicated teams for LEAP Design, Strategy, Leadership Development, and Implementation, whose sole purpose is to make sure that schools have what they need in order to be successful. This is exactly how DCPS approached IMPACT, its groundbreaking teacher evaluation system.
  • Researching from the start – DCPS wants to make sure LEAP is working to transform teaching practice and raise student achievement. The district has already engaged researchers from Stanford University and the University of Virginia to help learn what’s working and what needs to be tweaked as quickly as possible.
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