Strong Beginnings

Quest Professional Develoment

Strong Beginnings

Strong Beginnings is a program designed by the Educational Issues Department of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) Health and Welfare Fund. The program emphasizes classroom management, student discipline and effective teaching practices. The goal of Strong Beginnings is to provide a superior professional development opportunity that will ultimately help retain committed and effective teachers in Philadelphia Public Schools.

“Strong Beginnings” was specifically designed using documented research to address the needs of teachers. What differentiates this program from other programs is its emphasis on critical beginning-of-the-year issues including: Classroom Management, Student Discipline, Effective Teaching Practices and Collaborating with Students and Parents. It can offer yearlong support for teachers. In addition to five days of face-to-face sessions, teachers may implement what they learned and complete 25 Reflection on Research Concepts during the school year. If teachers need help applying what they’ve learned, they can reach out to Educational Issues Professional Development Leaders for guidance.

The Educational Issues Department ran a successful “Strong Beginnings” pilot program in 2001 at Temple University. In 2008, former superintendent Arlene Ackerman visited the program citing its merits, and identified the need for a stronger induction program in the District to help retain teachers.

Participants attend five days of face-to-face professional development during the summer months. The summer instructional sessions presents the latest research available along with proven best practices. Participants are exposed to strategies that are demonstrated with an emphasis on interactive instruction and instructor modeling. Each participant then utilizes their current classroom population to focus on the strategies presented in the program. Participants reflect on 25 research concepts and submit with an artifact that demonstrates integration of the concept into classroom instruction. There are three or four concepts submitted each month from September to March.

The evaluation process is set up so that each reflection is reviewed by three evaluators, to provide inter-rater reliability. The evaluators access the reflections from participants they have instructed, and then the reflection is evaluated by an additional instructor. The electronic submission process begins with each participant receiving a username and a password to log into the system. After successful login is accomplished each participant is presented with the three reflection questions. Each page contains the participant’s name, the name of the concept being reflected upon, three questions, and a link to upload a supporting artifact. The participant completes the reflection questions that ask:

  1. How did you apply the strategy; what did you change in your practice to implement; with whom did you try the strategy?
  2. Now that you have had a chance to apply the strategy comment on how well it worked; if it worked, what change did you notice; did what you want to happen, happen?
  3. What if anything will you do differently in the future to apply the strategy?

The turnaround time for participant evaluations is three weeks. Reflections submitted at the end of one month are evaluated before the next set of reflections are submitted. Upon a successful completion rate of 80%, the participant receives Act 48 hours

Strong Beginnings