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Case Study

Easier Tracking, Greater Voice and Choice, and More Transparency in Professional Learning

How Greece Central School District fosters improvements in teaching practice using Frontline Professional Growth.

Greece Central School District Hero Image

District Background

Just north of Rochester on the edge of Lake Ontario, Director of Professional Learning Marguerite Dimgba oversees professional growth in Greece Central School District.

Back in 2008, Greece Central was using an Access database to track professional learning (PL) for teachers and staff. Evaluations for New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) were recorded in an old Lotus Notes database.

The professional learning process was cumbersome and expensive, Marguerite recalls. “We had several people manually entering each class, manually putting in payments.” It took still more work to type out handwritten feedback forms. The twice-yearly catalog listing professional learning opportunities was time-consuming and expensive produce and was quickly outdated.

Teachers also found the old system frustrating. A backlog of emails and communications around PL was the norm. Twice-a-year reports about credits and payments for professional learning were frequently inaccurate, and teachers often had to wait for reimbursement.

“Something has to change,” Marguerite thought.

The Solution: Frontline Professional Growth

To address those challenges, Greece Central chose Frontline Professional Growth, which makes it simpler to manage and track learning for all 2,000 staff and streamlines the evaluation process. The district was particularly drawn to the choice of learning that the system’s dynamic online catalog allows them to offer their teachers, as well as the online planning and approval process for learning opportunities.

Marguerite Dimgba Photo

“Greece Central chose Frontline Professional Growth because we did a lot of homework — we certainly didn’t choose it on a whim.”

Marguerite Dimgba
– Director of Professional Learning

Professional Learning at Greece Central Today

Today, professional learning looks drastically different at Greece Central. In recent years, the district has averaged 135 new teachers per year. “We really had to think about doing new teacher induction differently.” Teacher contracts now require each teacher to complete 10 hours of PL. Meeting each individual’s needs — plus those of each building and offering mandatory district-wide training — requires an agility that would have been impossible in the past. “Just trying to have more flexibility, more choice, it definitely is more tracking, but thanks to Frontline, I’m able to track all of that,” says Marguerite.

Easier to Manage

With Frontline Professional Growth, Marguerite says that professional learning at Greece Central is now much more efficient to manage. Their PL catalog is online and up to date. Teachers have more choice in their learning and gone are the days of paper registration sheets and endless hours spent entering data. Tuition reimbursements and conference requests — which in the past were requested through paper forms — are automatic as well, reducing errors.

“For tuition reimbursement, the form doesn’t get lost in the mail anymore, because it has to be submitted ahead of time. It really cleaned up some processes.” 

Marguerite Dimgba
– Director of Professional Learning

Marguerite has found that Frontline Professional Growth is more cost-effective than what Greece Central was doing before. When personnel reductions during the financial crisis of 2008 cut the size of the Professional Learning Department from six people to two, Marguerite says that Frontline enabled them to continue to offer top-notch learning opportunities. “In terms of person power, it helped us to survive, because I don’t know how I would have done that.”

Tracking PL Requirements

“It definitely is the core of our professional learning system,” Marguerite says. All learning opportunities in the catalog meet New York’s Continuing Teacher & Leader Education (CTLE) standards, so ensuring that all teachers meet their annual CTLE requirements is a snap. Teachers can earn CTLE hours for mentoring, and forms and mentor logs in Frontline collect the necessary state-required information, including action plans, reflection, and feedback.

When teachers exceed their contractually required ten hours of PL, they are paid on an hourly basis, and Frontline makes it easy to track that as well. “We can see how many hours they already have in progress, and then we can code it to the right payment code. Those reports go quarterly to our business office so teachers can be paid out, as well as when it’s a building budget that can be earmarked.”

Professional learning at Greece Central includes far more than in-person workshops. With Frontline, the district can track — and give credit for — a much wider array of learning opportunities ranging from online courses and professional learning communities to conferences and college courses, and everything in between.

Voice and Choice for Teachers

All activities in the catalog are also tagged to the appropriate standard on the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) rubric, which is based on the Danielson Framework for Teaching. Staff can sort activities by topic area (such as DE&I, English Language Arts, and Leadership), activity format (such as book studies or instructor-led learning), Every Student Succeeds Act standards, instructor, dates, and the superintendent’s strategic plan goals.

When a teacher or staff member wants to offer a learning activity that is not part of the catalog, they complete an activity proposal form, which collects all the data that Marguerite needs for state reporting and compensation. “Is it a book study? Is it instructor led learning? And that also triggers for me what kind of contract they get. For instructor-led learning, I pay them. For a book study, they get professional learning hours. There is a lot of stuff that helps behind the scenes.”

Teachers can also pursue their own in-depth learning. “I was able to use Frontline to do some innovative things. For example, we have what is called an independent study,” says Marguerite. Teachers can propose learning they want to engage in, detail how they will learn, the evidence they will provide, and what support they may require for a five-hour learning exercise. They complete a form in Frontline, submit it to their supervisor for approval, then engage in reflection afterward.

If a teacher wants to observe another teacher, or even an administrator, they can request a “shadow day.” “A shadow day is really one of the most impactful forms of professional learning, whether you’re a new or veteran teacher, to go and observe a teacher in practice,” Marguerite says. “They complete the shadow day form in Frontline, and they have a few questions that they have to answer in terms of who they are going to shadow, the dates, the times, what standard skill, how does it relate to their evaluation? And then we send them a couple of tools that we tied in with Learning Forward, some look-fors on their shadow day.”

Using Frontline has made for a more thoughtful process all around. The automatic proposal and approval process encourages teachers to ask, “Does this course make sense for me, given my role?” And by requiring PL offerings to align to district goals and objectives and New York state standards, instructors and curriculum directors are encouraged to plan more thoroughly. Now, Greece Central can offer more targeted learning than it had in the past.

Quicker Reporting

When it comes time to submit her end-of-year report to the state, all the data Marguerite needs is already in Frontline, and she simply runs a custom report. That data is also useful for internal reporting, because Marguerite has configured the forms to require the information she knows she will need. “If an administrator asks me, ‘Marguerite, can you tell me how much professional learning is for goal commitment number two: attract, develop, and retain a high-quality, culturally responsive workforce?’ And I can pull that.”

“When you have [data] in a random Google Doc, who is going to see that? Where is that housed? If it is in your Google Drive and then you leave, then that data is gone. Whereas everything is housed in Frontline, where it’s in a one-stop shop.” 

Marguerite Dimgba
– Director of Professional Learning

Evaluations and the Learning Loop

Administrators in Greece Central also use Frontline Professional Growth to manage the teacher evaluation process, logging observations in the system. Custom workflows streamline observations for certified and classified staff, and Frontline calculates composite scores needed for New York’s APPR process. Marguerite appreciates how the system automatically populates each person’s professional learning history, tagged to the appropriate standard, which means less data entry for administrators.

The system also recommends tailored learning opportunities to address areas of need identified through the observation process. “We tied it into the Learning Loop where it can recommend professional learning based upon a certain threshold in the rubric,” Marguerite says. This way, she can be confident that the learning staff are engaging with is exactly what each employee needs.

Greater Transparency for Employees

How does Frontline benefit employees? Marguerite sums it up: “It provides choice and streamlines the process and provides transparency.” When a staff member wants to check on a conference request or tuition reimbursement or find out if they are approved to take a college course, they can access that in the system.

Teachers can also see the status of their evaluations. “It is very transparent where things are in the process, even our evaluations. We negotiated so teachers can see the evaluation form in real time. It’s not a hidden thing. As a supervisor, if I am using the evidence collection tool, once I sync that data as a teacher, I can see where it is. I no longer have to wait weeks for the administrator to give it to the secretary to type up to put in the system. You get that feedback in the moment that you need, and people are not sitting and waiting or wondering. I think that is a huge benefit.”

Pursuing Educator Growth

Using the automated workflows, dynamic catalog and robust tracking and reporting in Frontline Professional Growth, Greece Central can continually support educator growth through ongoing, job-embedded professional learning — with minimum hassle and maximum effectiveness.

Connecting Solutions with Frontline Central

Recently, Greece Central also implemented Frontline Central, which houses employee information and connects data from Frontline Professional Growth with the district’s other Frontline solutions, such as Recruiting & Hiring and Absence Management. When someone gets married, changes their name, or moves to a new address, the district enters the information in Central and it updates throughout Frontline.

Adding Central had the added benefit of spurring the district to clean its employee data, which had previously lived in multiple locations and did not always match. “It needed to be done,” says Marguerite. “Having it in one system has been a game changer.”