Aligning with the ESSA Definition of
Professional Development

A Responsive Blended Approach for Increased Access to Professional Learning

Case Study // By Laryssa Doherty,
Senior Program Director, Academics & Professional Learning, Boston Public Schools; Doannie Tran, Ed.L.D., Assistant Superintendent, Academics & Professional Learning; Juliet Correll, Senior Consultant, Frontline Research & Learning Institute

Boston Public Schools

Data Guides Differentiated Delivery

Tran and his team have taken a deep look at data about educator participation rates and barriers to teacher involvement. This analysis has led to the design of multiple delivery options to meet teacher needs for learning about two strategic district-wide focus areas: universal design for learning (UDL) and disciplinary literacy. The goal of professional learning for these initiatives is to deepen individuals’ depth of knowledge through high-quality implementation of high-quality materials.

We are taking several steps to reach this goal:

  1. Expanding teacher leadership and increasing teacher-designed resources
  2. Providing a variety of different opportunities and time for grade level teams to learn from peers at school and district levels
  3. Fostering innovation by flexibly varying groups and implementation models, including an online toolkit to meet some identified needs and deeper blended learning designs for others.

We looked at all of our documented professional learning opportunities district-wide over the last three years and found that the percentage of online and blended learning experiences has steadily increased, while the percentage of in-person learning has decreased. This finding is consistent with our efforts to structure differentiated learning designs to ensure that professional learning on strategic topics is accessible for a broader group of educators.

ESSA Offers a Lens for Continuous Refinement

When Massachusetts reauthorizes ESSA, our office will revisit program alignment with state requirements to be responsive to any changes needed. We will amplify the collaborative culture from the central office to the schools, within schools and back to the central office by continuing to deepen capacity within teams across all levels. Another anticipated focus area will be to upgrade the online teacher developer logs and fine-tune configuration of the district’s professional learning management system to track varied delivery models.

Beyond implementation monitoring, we plan to track and utilize data from the central office and schools to measure outcomes in the following three dimensions:

  • Coverage
  • Satisfaction
  • Impact

In addition, we have devised a professional development effectiveness rubric, which will serve as the standard impact evaluation tool used throughout the system to measure the effectiveness of professional learning.


“Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference.”
mike schmoker, former school administrator, English teacher, football coach and author //

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steps to reach this goa

These steps could be summarized as "teacher empowerment" which are commendable and can serve as a model for other districts to replicate.

Teachers are leading this work, which is having a profound effect on the entire community.

Teachers are empowered to lead the work! The impact is on the community, the profession, and will ripple into society and beyond. This is inspiring work!

demonstrated through results from seven standard reflective questions

It is very important to think of professional learning effectiveness through the lens of measurable results.


It's so important to get to that level of connecting changes in teacher practice to impact on student learning.