Every Wednesday morning at Holt Senior High School, the school's sixty staff members can be found discussing issues like adolescent development, reviewing the research they've done, or planning how to improve the school.
Thanks to a modified schedule and extended calendar, teachers have these three hours each week away from their classroom duties to concentrate on professional development. "The kinds of discussions we have are different than those at most schools," explains Dean Manikas, assistant principal at Holt. "Most teachers talk about questions such as, 'What lesson plans are we going to choose?' We focus on questioning why we do what we do."
Holt's commitment to ongoing self-improvement is a key reason they were selected to be a Professional Development School for Michigan State University's College of Education (MSU). Professional Development Schools are partnerships between teacher education programs and schools that serve as laboratories where educators from the two arenas work together to improve both institutions.
Each year, a group of MSU students is placed at Holt for teaching internships. The interns are supervised by both school and university faculty and participate in Holt's professional development efforts. Faculty from both schools also collaborate to conduct research and teach classes.
Charles Thompson, MSU's co-director of Professional Development Schools, sums up the appeal of the partnership: "The kind of concerns about serving the needs of students that Holt has makes it a good place for our education students to learn to teach," he says. "Ideally, we not only want them in classrooms with different approaches to curriculum and instruction but in a whole different kind of school environment. Holt has created that."