PDS (Professional Development Schools)

The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education defines a Professional Development School as a school in which the school staff and the university faculty collaborate to (a) provide student teaching and internship experiences, and (b) support and enable the professional development of teachers in the school and the faculty in the university. Both the university faculty and the school staff share a mutual responsibility for high-quality instruction to the school's students.(1) The typical PDS is an existing elementary, middle, or high school that enters into a partnership with a college of education to improve student learning around one or more of seven basic themes:

1. Teacher education
2. Teaching and learning
3. School organization
4. Equity goals
5. Professional development
6. Inquiry
7. Collaborative alliances. (2)

Any one of these themes or several of the themes may become the focus of the partnership between the university's faculty and the school's staff. Regardless of the focus, the outcome of the partnership is to improve student learning outcomes.

As the collaboration between the school and the university begins, relationships begin to emerge, and mutual values and understandings begin to shape this partnership. It is during this beginning stage that the four main functions of the PDS begin to become integrated: preservice teacher preparation, staff development, research, and the support of student's learning. This integration merges roles, responsibilities, and relationships between the university and the school. Teachers become researchers, researchers become teachers, and educators become learners. This is the pre-threshold stage of development.

During the threshold stage of development, the relationship becomes formalized and the focus is on the commitments to which the university and the school have agreed. As the threshold stage unfolds, broad community or organizational support is required. The university, school district, and teachers' union must be committed to the concept of a PDS. Five specific conditions will form the basis of this formal commitment:

1. An agreement which commits school, school district, union/professional association, and the university to the basic mission of a PDS

2. A commitment by the partners to the critical attributes of a PDS

3. A positive working relationship and a basis for trust between partners

4. The achievement of quality standards by partner institutions as evidenced by regional, state, national, or other review

5. An institutional commitment of resources to the PDS from school and university.

To be successful in this threshold, the university and school district must be willing to look at new roles and responsibilities for teachers, principals, and university faculty. Isolationism must give way to collaboration. Power over people must give way to power with relationships.(3) In this environment leadership will become more of an influencing relationship between leaders and followers. Teachers and faculty will move away from disempowerment and move toward empowerment to bring about substantive and lasting change in one or more of the seven basic themes mentioned earlier. Faculty and staff will become supportive of each other and work collegially to achieve improved student outcomes.

In the threshold stage, PDSs must work towards five standards, each revolving around a critical attribute:

1. Learning communities characterized by norms and practices that support adult and children's learning.

2. Collaboration characterized by joint work between and among school and university faculty directed at implementing the mission.

3. Accountability and quality assurance to the public and to the profession.

4. Organization, roles, and structure processes that will systemically improve teaching, learning, and organizational life.

5. Equity characterized by norms and practices for all students and adults.

The highest stage of development for a PDS is quality attainment. This is the phase in which the critical attributes begin to be achieved and continuous progress toward the standards for each of the attributes is evident.

Each school will evolve through the three stages at its own pace. There is an expectation that each PDS will be in quality attainment by year five.

PDSs can support a culture where collegiality, creative collaboration, risk-taking, trust, collective governance, and accountability are valued by the staff and faculty. This culture has the potential to nurture sustained leadership, and to provide a clear direction for improved practice, incentives for change, centers of inquiry, strong mentor-protege programs, learning laboratories, study groups, and research-based interventions to improve student outcomes. Challenges, however, will emerge and can easily become obstacles if we take our eyes off these goals. Work demands will become intensified and hierarchical relationships will become flattened. (4) Other challenges may include a lack of time, funding, personal resources, policy constraints, and the inability of people to work together.(5)

As each PDS develops its own conceptually sound agenda, relationships will build among university faculty, partner school staffs, teacher candidates, and students. These relationships can "...provide promising support for the transformation of disparate organizations into an integrated system that benefits learners in teacher preparation programs..." (p. 29) (6)

Faculty and staff have an opportunity to become the dream keepers, weavers, and shape-shifters of PDSs- and, if we are to reimagine schooling, these metaphors provide powerful possibilities. (7)


1. The framework for the PDS described in this paper is from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. (1997). Standards, procedures, and policies for the accreditation of professional education units (2nd printing). Washington, DC: Author.


2. These themes are described in the work of Valli, L., Cooper, D., & Frankes, L. (1997). Professional development schools and equity: A critical analysis of rhetoric and research. Review of Research in Education, 22, 251-304 as cited in Pajak, E. (1999). Inquiry in professional development school contexts: Overview and framework. In Byrd, D. M. & McIntyre, D. J. (Eds.), Research on professional development schools: Teacher education yearbook VII (pp. 199-204). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


3. Lewison, M. with Holliday, S. (1999). Investing a school-university partnership through the lenses of relationship, self-determination, reciprocal influence, and expanding power. In Byrd, D. M. & McIntyre, D. J. (Eds.), Research on professional development schools: Teacher education yearbook VII (pp. 79-96). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


4. Frankes, L., Valli, L. & Cooper, D. (1998). Continuous learning for all adults in the professional development school: A review of the research. In J. McIntyre & D. Byrd (Eds.), Strategies for career-long teacher education (Teacher Education Yearbook VI, pp. 69-83). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin as cited in Larson, A. & Benson, S. (1999). Contexts for professional development schools: Overview and framework. In Byrd, D. M. & McIntyre, D. J. (Eds.), Research on professional development schools: Teacher education yearbook VII (pp. 69-78). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


5. Darling-Hammond, L. (Ed.). 1994. Professional development schools: Schools for developing a profession. New York: Teachers College Press; Ishler, R. & Edens, K. (1994). Professional development schools: What are the issues and challenges? How are they funded? How should they be evaluated? University of South Carolina, Association of Colleges and Schools of Education in State Universities and land Grant Colleges and Affiliated Private Universities; Lavaree, D. & Pallas, A. (1996). A disabling vision: Rhetoric and reality in tomorrow's schools of education. Teacher's College Record, 97(2), 166-206; Nystrand, R. (1991). Professional development: Toward a new relationship for schools and universities. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; and Yinger, R. & Hendricks, M. (1990). An overview of reform in Holmes Group institutions. Journal of Teacher Education, 41(2), 21-26 as cited in Kochan, F. K. (1999). Professional development schools: A comprehensive view. In Byrd, D. M. & McIntyre, D. J. (Eds.), Research on professional development schools: Teacher education yearbook VII (pp. 173-190). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


6. Rude, H. A. & Stockhouse, J. A. (1999). Simultaneous renewal through university and school professional development partnerships. Journal of the Center for Professional Development in Early Care & Education, 1 (1), pp. 23-30.


7. These metaphors are from the work of Simmons, J. M., Konecki, L. R., Crowell, R. A. & Gates-Duffield, P. (1999). Dream keepers, weavers, and shape-shifters: Emerging roles of PDS university coordinators in educational reform. In Byrd, D. M & McIntyre, D. J. (Eds.), Research on professional development schools: Teacher education yearbook VII (pp. 29-45). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.