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Case Study

Fostering a Culture of Growth: Council Rock School District

How Council Rock School District fosters a collaborative and innovative culture of growth to boost retention rates.

Council Rock Header Image

District Background

  • Location

    Bucks County, Pennsylvania

  • K-12 Enrollment

    10,500 students

  • Staff

    Teaching: 900

    Support: 250

    Leadership: 40

  • Product & Solutions

We’ll say it: not all professional development is effective. When workshops are one-size-fits all or only happen once per year, the learning probably isn’t relevant and it’s likely nothing will change in the classroom.

But when your school district is spending thousands of dollars and countless hours each year on professional learning, it’s critical that your program has a demonstrable impact on teachers’ classroom practice.

The good news: we can learn from each other! Although states have different requirements for professional learning, it’s worth taking a look at school districts who approach professional learning with forward-thinking and innovation.

Find out how Council Rock School District cultivated a culture of growth to increase retention, drive a collaborative professional learning strategy, and provide an excellent educational experience for students.

A Culture of Growth

Just outside of Philadelphia sits Council Rock, a district of nearly 11,000 students.

With ten elementary schools (grades K-6), three middle schools (grades 7-8), and two high schools (grades 9-12), Council Rock aims to foster continuous growth for their staff to impact student achievement and provide high quality learning experiences.

This culture of growth has driven a collaborative and innovative professional learning strategy, and Ann Bell believes it’s one of the reasons the district has such a high retention rate.

Check out what she has to say about Council Rock’s forward-thinking approach, and how their programming has shifted over the years to best fit the needs of their staff:

Ann Bell Photo

“One of the reasons I’m proud to work at Council Rock, is we have a long-standing history of valuing professional development. I’m in my 22nd year of working at Council Rock. It was that way when I started working here, and it remains that way today. Our staff work at very high levels of excellence. They always want to continue learning; they want to continue to grow.”

Ann Bell
– Professional Growth Lead, Council Rock School District

Council Rock Professional Development: An Overview

Professional development standards

The professional development program at Council Rock follows three standards:

  • ESSA
  • Learning Forward’s standards for professional development
  • Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching

A culture of continual growth

With a long-standing history of valuing professional development, the foundation of Council Rock’s culture of continual growth starts with:

  • High expectations with high levels of support
  • Staff committed to meeting needs of all students and continuing their own learning in order to do so
  • A program designed to support teachers’ success in the classroom and to enhance student learning

Staff development programs

Council Rock fosters continuous improvement for all stages of the employee life cycle:

  • Teacher induction program
  • District professional development program
  • Curriculum focused program
  • Technology program
  • Out of school conferences

A look back at the pandemic

Did COVID impact your district’s professional learning programming?

“Our teachers were hungry for best practices for virtual learning, which caused our program to pivot to on-demand, needs-based, and in the moment.”

What PD formats did you adopt during this time?

“We quickly switched to virtual formats, which were a lot shorter in nature and a lot more frequent. We also shifted to more self-paced courses, which teachers could access in their own time. And we also built collaborative components into almost every learning experience teachers were having, which they valued more than ever.”

Did this change how teachers view PD in your district?

“We did a lot of co-planning and co-teaching with teachers to help them with implementation of so many of the new technology tools and strategies we were using to reach learners in the virtual world. As a result, I think the teachers really started to value professional development. They saw how it could serve them and how we pivoted to better meet their needs.”

What about instructional coaching?

“Our instructional coaching also shifted as a result. Again, we weren’t physically present in the classrooms during this time, so we became instructional coaches virtually. We did a lot of co-planning and co-teaching with teachers to help them with implementation of so many of the new technology tools and strategies we were using to reach learners in the virtual world.”

Putting the ‘best’ in best practice

What sets Council Rock apart in terms of professional development?

“We provide graduate credits as an option to our participants. We have partnered with a local university, which provides an incentive for our teachers to gain a little something extra besides lots of learning and applicable classroom practices.”

What can new staff members expect after being hired?

“From the moment our staff is brought on board, they are immersed in this culture of high expectations, and it’s coupled with a very high level of support as well. Our new hires also have a (compensated) mentor to acclimate them to not only to the district, but also to the specific building in which the teacher will be working.”

New Staff Members

New staff members

Three-year induction program

Year one program based on Danielson’s’ framework

  • Optional graduate credits
  • Mentor for each new hire
  • District & building level focus

Circle of support

  • Instructional coaches, curriculum coordinators, special education supervisors, technology integration specialists, and administrators provide support in the classroom and beyond

What does your induction program look like?

“Our induction program centers around everything that teachers will need to know, understand, and be able to do in order to be successful in the classroom. Within the program, we base all of our focus around Danielson’s’ Framework for Teaching. The induction program really is a lifeline for our new teachers. It also runs after school hours, which is kind of unique.”

Are there any other unique factors to your PD programming?

“In each of our PD events, we build in an opportunity for wellness checks, a sort of social-emotional component. We started doing this during COVID because it was such an incredibly stressful time for teachers. So, we wanted to say listen, your wellness and your wellbeing are very important to us. Not just as a teacher, but as a person. In doing so, we encourage our teachers to do the same for the students in the classroom.”

Have you refined any specific areas to your programming this year?

“This year we’re working to get back to the data-driven cycle and refining our common formative assessments. In addition, we have an annual in-service calendar, in which we have in-service days that are divided among district focus, curriculum focus, and building focus. We are also continuing to build our library of self-paced courses, based on needs, and based on data.”

PD for all Staff Members

PD for all staff members

Professional learning community work

  • Collaborative teams at each building

Scheduled days throughout the year devoted to district, building, and curriculum based professional development

  • Heavy focus on collaboration and reflection

Self-paced courses designed to support teachers in meeting the needs of all learners

What benefits have teachers experienced with the on-demand library of resources?

“We have recently had an influx of students from Ukraine, so I’m working hand in hand with our ELD coordinator, not only to support these students and their families, but also to build a library of courses and resources for our teachers who will be working with non-English speaking students. We can provide professional learning opportunities which can be addresses in more of an on-demand style for our teachers who don’t have the time to be out of the classroom or to attend after school events.”

Are there areas of your program you are looking to refine in the next year?

“We are continually looking for ways to improve our professional development programming. We are looking to refine and reevaluate. We want to continue to build our programming around relationships and supporting all of our staff members in addressing the needs of all students and building the trust to make our teachers successful.”

Has your professional development program had an impact on retention?

“I’d like to think that our professional development programming is one of the reasons we have a very high retention rate here in our district. Over the last five years, on average, we retain about 93% of our teachers. We have a lot of wonderful things happening in our school community, but again, I think professional development is an important part of that process.”

Retention Rates

Avg. Retention Rates

Over the past five years, the average teacher retention rate is 93%.

Ready to supercharge professional learning in your district?

Like Council Rock School district, you can provide personalized professional learning for teachers – and all employees – to improve practice and enhance student outcomes. And Frontline Professional Learning Management can help:

  1. Offer a catalog of goal-aligned learning opportunities

    Provide relevant learning experiences for all teachers and employees with online/virtual courses, in-district workshops, out-of-district events, conferences and more.

  2. Track progress toward state and district requirements

    Use Professional Learning Management to track hours and credits for annual requirements or relicensure.

  3. Use evaluation results to drive learning, and track its impact on the classroom

    Identify areas where teachers need additional support to provide relevant learning opportunities and use impact forms to assess classroom outcomes.

  4. Engage your employees in the learning process

    Enable employees to take an active role in their professional growth by setting up individual professional development plans and making activity proposals.

Related Resources

  • Effective Professional Learning Strategies (That Actually Work)

    In Depth Effective Professional Learning Strategies (That Actually Work)

    Strategies and tools for implementing a classroom-focused, job-embedded professional development program in your district.

  • Professional Growth Retains Educators

    Webinar Year-round Strategies: Professional Growth Retains Educators

    Tune in to this on-demand webinar to hear from industry leaders (like Learning Forward!) and learn how to deploy a PG retention plan.

  • Designing High-Quality Professional Development Programs

    Playbook Designing High-Quality Professional Development Programs

    A play-by-play of what high-quality professional learning looks like, and how to plan and implement it at your district.