When completing my teaching program, one of my final classes was on Washington State’s Professional Growth Plan (PGP). Like a good student, I followed my professor’s direction and completed all the tasks required to finish the class. The final exam consisted of creating a mock PGP. During the process, in the back of my mind I kept asking myself two questions:
Is this actually going to help me become a better educator?
Why would Washington State add yet another item to the list of things educators should do?
It wasn’t until my first year of teaching that I became infinitely grateful that Washington voluntarily offers the PGP to teachers, administrators, ESAs, and paraeducators. My perspective of viewing the PGP as obligatory and possibly useless was grossly incorrect.
The PGP is how the Washington State Professional Educators Standards Board (PESB) recognizes an educator's additional professional work. Basically, a person can view it as a way to gain clock hours, even those hard-to-obtain STEM clock hours, and possibly use the PGP to gain salary advancement. Oh, and here’s the best part; it’s completely FREE!
The PGP has five components an educator needs to complete.
Self-assessment: Use a self-assessment to identify an area of focus that will lead to your professional growth.
Standards: The area of focus for your professional growth goal needs to align to the certificate standards.
Professional growth goal(s): What is your goal for this professional growth plan? Describe how this goal relates to your self-assessment and focus area identified in question one.
Intended outcomes: What will you and/or your students be able to do as a result of your professional growth that you and/or they are not able to do now?
Activities: Describe the specific growth activities you will engage in to obtain the identified new learning. How will these activities positively impact student learning?
As a new teacher, I was placed on the comprehensive evaluation process for my Teacher/Principal Evaluation Process (TPEP). Many components of the TPEP also fulfill PGP requirements. My activities and evidence used in Domain 1 and 2 of the Danielson Framework and my student growth goals aided in fulfilling the criteria of the PGP. The PGP, in turn, had me critically analyze the foundation of the activities/lessons selected and assisted my professional growth in regards to my selected area of focus for science and math.
The PGP made professional sense to complete. Educators share a continuous, internal monologue addressing professional growth moves in most all things taught in their classrooms. The PGP is the vessel in which an educator can receive recognition for this work and 25 clock hours for their efforts at no additional cost.
PESB has step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the necessary forms and a facts and questions page that I found thoroughly answered additional questions. The site even takes it a step further by providing examples of PGPs that are acceptable and non-acceptable. I used all this information to help draft my first PGP and shared examples and my progress with my Professional Learning Committee (PLC).
I did this for two reasons. First, I was trying to inform my colleagues of the fantastic benefits the PGP provides to educators, free-of-charge. Second, in order to finalize and certify my PGP, I need a reviewer’s signature. In essence, a certificated Washington State educator needs to attest that my PGP was completed by me and that my data fulfilled the PGP requirements. The reviewer does not need to be a co-worker. This is monumental because, as professionals, many of us PLC with networks outside of our building.
Once I completed the PGP and a colleague reviewed my work, I recorded the information in OSPI’s EDS E-Certification application. The recording of this was far simpler than submitting clock hour paperwork for my district. The last step was to keep my paperwork as proof of completion, in case of a future audit.
Once my PLC witnessed the uncomplicated (and helpful) process of completing a PGP all 4 of my co-workers decided to complete a PGP this year. Last year during the conversations with my PLC, I was warned by veteran teachers that I would eventually discover that the PGP wouldn’t be that straightforward. To the PLC’s surprise, they were proven incorrect, it was exactly as simple as it should have been.
My focus was to use the PGP and my TPEP evaluation in partnership because, as a first-year teacher, I saw the commonalities. However, this relationship doesn’t need to be used in this manner. This school year I chose a different direction and will not be using the same approach as my first year. I currently teach just math and different classes each period of the school day. I need to figure out how I can integrate STEM components with my new math curriculum.
Last year’s PGP helped me gain 25 free clock hours, which met my STEM clock hour certification renewal requirement by adding STEM components to the focus within my PGP. Completion also helped me gain salary advancement within my district. Washington State is providing a path in which educators can finally earn recognition for their extensive work toward continuing their professional growth.