Prince William is planning to drop a six-year-old rule that all teachers complete 30 staff development hours a year in addition to the 180 hours they must complete every five years as a state requirement.
Instead, teachers would be given "expectations for growth" based on what they teach and do. For example, English as a Second Language teachers would have staff development requirements created especially for them. Principals also would be encouraged to come up with suggestions for individual teachers.
"The teachers have said, 'We're professionals. We don't have to be coerced into taking some of these courses,' " Superintendent Edward L. Kelly said.
The change, slated to begin in the 2005-2006 school year, is a marked shift away from the early days of the staff development requirement, referred to informally as "Kelly points." When the program was first developed, "we were having some difficulties getting some staff members to do staff development," Kelly said. "We want to teach the curriculum, and make sure the staff was familiar with the curriculum."
But teachers complained that the requirement took away their discretion, because most of the points had to be earned in classes developed by county staff.
Others were concerned that college courses could count for only a fraction of the required hours. In 2001, a teacher went before the School Board and said that he was leaving the district because of the requirement. Chris Stallings, a science teacher, told the board he was receiving only 6.5 hours of credit for an 80-hour course he was taking on his own.
Board member Michael Otaigbe (Coles), said he heard many of those complaints when he was running for School Board. "Many of the teachers I spoke to were telling me . . . this is another layer of requirement on top of being certified" by the state, he said.
Otaigbe said he supports the changes as proposed. "I would support not doing away with it completely. At least we'll be flexible with it."
Kelly said there is no longer a need for the points program. "I think teachers are convinced that staff development is important," Kelly said.
He added that the new program should allow teachers a chance to find their own programs, while giving the county an opportunity to focus on local objectives.
The requirement is not disappearing immediately; it will still be in place in the fall. Next year, however, teachers will have three "floating" workdays in which to take staff development classes.
In addition, college class work that teachers are doing on their own can count for up to 18 of the 30 hours. The remaining hours must come from the county course book.
"No one has ever had anything against quality staff development," said Megan Link, president of the Prince William County Education Association. The problems came when teachers couldn't get full credit for college work, or couldn't find classes offered by the county that met their specific needs, she said.
"It seems to me that what they're attempting to do is a more individual type of program, which is probably good," Link said.