Personalized PD Empowers Teachers and Increases Achievement at Par Excellence Academy

EnvisionEdPlus has been working closely with Par Excellence Academy for the last three years. Par Excellence is a community (charter) school in Newark, OH that serves about 150 high poverty children in grades K-5. In 2013 and 2014 100% of Par’s 3rd and/or 4th graders scored proficient or higher in reading. However, like schools all across the state, as Ohio changed learning standards and accountability measures, Par Excellence struggled to continue demonstrating the strong achievement parents had grown to expect. Par’s Superintendent Ms. Gisele James recalls, “One of the reasons Craig and I came up with this plan was our 2015/2016 scores were lower than expected to the point where we had to do an Ohio Improvement Plan for ODE. When I met with the teachers for orientation in August for the 2016-2017 school year and started discussing the scores, teachers did not want to accept any accountability and focused on everything except their teaching.  It felt like a traditional blame game – state tests, poverty, time etc were the reasons for low scores. While they made good points, how they were teaching still had to be addressed and discussed. Since they were familiar with Craig, I decided to have him work with the teachers to evaluate their data so they could focus in on closing individual student learning gaps.”

The Beginning of Personalized PD

In August 2016, I led a full-day PD session where I helped each teacher review their previous year’s’ data to determine strengths and challenges, not just in reading and math, but also in areas such as attainment of the school’s mission and personal professional learning. These self identified challenges led to each teacher creating personalized goals. Ms. James recently reflected that, “after that initial meeting, a few teachers were complaining because they viewed the PD as one more thing to do and many were quite resistant to reflecting on their own teaching.  However, after a couple of months, they all looked forward to talking to Craig on his bi-weekly visits and responded with enthusiasm. One teacher even called it her therapy.”

Iterative Design in Personalized PD

Every two weeks, I met with each of the 10 licensed staff for 25 minutes during their planning time. The teacher and I would discuss their progress toward meeting their individual ELA, Math, school mission, and personal goals. I asked probing questions, such as, how were students making progress, what types of personalized instructional activities were teachers designing to address the core area of weakness in their classrooms, and what tool(s) were being used to monitor growth. Important for success of this system – ONE goal in each area and each teacher was responsible to bring data to demonstrate their progress on each of their goals. Some weeks, we saw big gains. Some weeks, not so much. But, isn’t that life? One teacher’s personal goal was to increase the frequency of sending home positive parent communication. Together, we created a monitoring tool so she could easily track the communication throughout the week. She worked very hard to ensure this effort didn’t lose steam mid year. At the end of the year, this teacher was so proud because her Superintendent personally commended her for her follow through. Some teachers created short term (single month or grading period) goals and others, like this teacher, chose some long term goals. When a teacher achieved a goal in one area, we simply selected a new goal!

On my end, it was important that each was session fun and engaging because teachers were very fearful of this unique approach. By the end of the year, my visits became something teachers looked forward to rather than dreaded. Believe me, not everything was roses and sunshine. There would be times when a teacher would come to a meeting with minimal data for the two week period. Rather than expressing disappointment, I shared that I fully remember those weeks. We took such opportunities to talk about the instruction that was happening and how it could be strengthened. By keeping the goal attainable and focused on standards and raising achievement, the process moved fairly smoothly. After about 4 months of implementation, teachers began to also see positive connections to other areas of the day where they had to collect data such as their monthly data team meetings and the OIP process.

Each time I met with a teacher, it was, in fact, a short and very personalized PD session totally focused on that teacher’s needs. My job was to quickly evaluate where the teacher was based on our conversation, adjust my approach to accommodate, and provide a path to learning so that we could make the most of our 25 minutes.  Superintendent James made it very clear that nothing from these sessions would be used in evaluative manner. Teacher confidence grew because they could share their challenges honestly receive personalized support. Our approach is a great practical example of what Tom VanderArk shared in his  blog What Does Effective Educator PD Look Like? VanderArk stated that the most effective teacher professional development is ongoing (not a one and done), differentiated, inquiry- based, and innovative. This reaffirmed for me that our 25-minute personalized sessions with Par teachers are very effective iterative design based PD practices. Through these 1-1 sessions teachers learned new strategies to address their own goals. They then had two weeks to try out the ideas we brainstormed. During follow up sessions we continually made improvements so they could increase student success. To learn more about using iterative design, check out Design-Based Research.

Personalized PD Gets Results

Did the year-long emphasis on personalized professional development yield higher student performance and academic success? (Drum roll, please)! Let’s let Gisele James, Superintendent, answer that question. “I noticed teacher lesson plans improved and their conversations about data for student learning became increasingly more thoughtful. I also witnessed tremendous increase in staff morale – this spring it was at an all time high and positive energy was flowing”. But, the true determinant would be student achievement.  When Ohio Report Cards were released this summer, Gisele called me and said “Our scores were very good! We saw 20% – 40% gains in every subject. One of our 4th grade classrooms reported 100% proficiency on Social Studies AIR assessments. Our GAP closing was a “B” 89.9% as close to an A as you can get! Overall, we got a C and were in the top 8 community schools in Ohio! I am so pleased with the PD EnvisionEdPlus developed. It worked exceptionally well. We have the data to prove it and I always tell my staff…Data doesn’t lie and good teaching matters!”

If you would like to visit Par Excellence Academy or learn more about how these strategies are impacting achievement and school culture, contact us – or just email me:

~ Craig Lautenschleger

Vice President ( or 614.348.8628)

Our Courses

Image Course Description Price Created On Last Updated On categories_ID
Supporting Families (Level 1) Consider the differences between engaging and supporting eight types of parents or family members you might encounter. Reflect on your past experiences with each of those types. Create and implement an action plan to improve your support for families who need it. 0.00 2020/07/17 2022/03/24 6
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 1) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of STEAM integration (design thinking) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. Two “office hours” will be available to chat with the instructor and others enrolled in this course. 0.00 2021/01/09 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 1) The brain is constantly changing and molding in response to the environment. These changes impact student learning. This is especially true in terms of trauma. This training is designed to help participants learn what goes on in the brain and how they can set up a learning environment for each of the students in their class. 0.00 2021/01/30 2022/03/24 4
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 2) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of Problem Based Learning(PBL) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
High Quality Literacy Instruction (Level 1 & 2) Core content includes an overview of Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, evidence-based literacy practices, and resources and tools for literacy instruction. Participants will create, implement and improve two classroom-based literacy strategies (in-person, blended or remote). 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
Supporting Families (Level 2) In Engaging Families Through Support - Level 1, you learned about eight types of parents/caregivers and reflected on your past experiences with each type, culminating in a plan to better engage specific types as partners in their children's education. During this 8-hour asynchronous course you will delve deeper in your understanding of the eight types of parents/caregivers by speaking with individual family members you work with, discovering what they need from you and your program, and implementing an action plan informed by the actual families you serve. Doing so will give you sustainable skills and strategies to build stronger family engagement year after year. 0.00 2021/03/07 2022/03/30 6
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 1) Differentiation is effective instruction that is responsive to the learner’s preferences, interests and their readiness. It could be explained as a framework for thinking about your teaching and your student’s learning. This course discusses differentiation as an effective teaching tool. Included are many resources and strategies to help meet the learning needs of each student. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies and resources to adapt lessons to meet the needs of each student in their classrooms. 0.00 2021/03/18 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 2) This course gives an advanced understanding of the brain. including differences between “active” and “relational” based brains, trauma-related behaviors, and strategies to reach and teach trauma-impacted students so that they can re-engage in learning. Participants will learn about the range of thinking that a brain does, explore how students fit into the range of thinking, and discover healthy ways of engaging the full range of thinking. 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 4
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 2) This 8-hour, self-paced course is facilitated by Laurie Trotter, an EnvisionEdPlus Instructional Specialist. The course explores advanced differentiation as an effective instructional method that is responsive to the learner’s preferences and interests. Create, implement, and improve a lesson plan to engage all learners. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies, and resources to be able to be proficient in starting to adapt lessons to meet all needs of students in their classroom. Prerequisite: Differentiated and Engaged Instruction (Bronze Badge). 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 5
Creativity Belongs in the Classroom (Level 1) Encourage lifelong learning, improve focus, reduce anxiety and enhance thinking in your classroom or program. Creativity is a learned and trained process for getting the most out of higher level thinking and problem solving of your students. Learn how to embed creativity easily into your lessons, using strategies that will help unlock your students ability to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. This course is appropriate for anyone who works with youth and also satisfies the HQPD Gifted competencies of A, B, and D. 0.00 2022/01/14 2022/04/10 5

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