While all licensing is of necessity a regulatory function, we believe the desired result of educator re-licensing is also self-directed, transformational, continuous improvement on the part of each educator. This result can only happen through the promotion of a process requiring continuous self-assessment, reflection, and professional growth in relation to standards for what educators and their students should know and be able to do. In Vermont, the self-assessment, reflection and professional growth of the Level II re-licensing process must be documented through a portfolio. While some have looked at the portfolio as just a product, or a collection of artifacts from professional development activities, we see great potential for meaningful professional development in the process of portfolio creation.
What we know about adult learning tells us that this may be one of the most useful ways for us to not only transition to new ideas, but also to undergo transformations in our personal and professional lives.
Vermont’s re-licensing process requires the development of a portfolio that documents the educator’s continuous professional growth through self-assessment, reflection, and professional development. This handbook will support you as you design your unique re-licensure IPDP and portfolio based upon classroom data, The Five Standards for Vermont Educators, your endorsement competencies, and your school’s action plan.
The portfolio is far more than documentation of professional development activities. More importantly, it is a reflective process of ongoing professional growth. The portfolio process also informs future efforts toward continuous improvement. Therefore, we begin with the following principles, which are based on current literature and best practice.
The Vermont Re-licensing Process: A Reflection of Ongoing Professional Growth: A Handbook for Educators p. 6
The Vermont IPDP and portfolio processes have been structured to promote conditions that promote self-directed adult learning as defined in a compilation of research
Achieving Your Vision of Professional Development: How to Assess Your Needs and Get What You Want (Collins, 2000)
The portfolio process links an educator’s professional development to prior and current experiences and emphasizes reflection on transitions and transformations in professional practice. The portfolio’s strong connection with how adults learn makes it a good process for documenting and encouraging that learning
With the creation of the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators (VSBPE) in 1991, Vermont initiated a unique process for the licensing of educators. Prior to this time, the superintendent of school for each local district made re-licensing decisions. The VSBPE is a twenty-three-member, teacher majority board, appointed by the Vermont State Board of Education. As integral parts of this system, Local Standards Boards (LSB), representing non-administrative educators in each of the state’s school supervisory units, and Regional Standards Boards (RSB), representing administrators in the five geographic regions were formed. These boards oversee the approval of individual professional development plans and portfolios, leading to the re-licensing of experienced educators in their jurisdictions.
During the years since the inception of this process, educators have enlarged the vision of what constitutes effective professional development. A combination of factors, including the knowledge explosion of the information age, the expectation of continuous improvement, the increasing necessity of collaboration, and the need to respond to society’s needs by “creating what has never existed before,” has had an obvious effect on educator professional development. We now know that improved student learning requires that all members of the system continuously grow and develop. Effective staff development is now necessarily dynamic, job-embedded and ongoing. It requires acquisition of new skills and knowledge, applications to new situations, and constant reflection, analysis and adjusting. Quality courses and workshops still have an important place in the professional development continuum. In addition, the need for focused, specific, job-embedded opportunities for educator growth requires that we examine other delivery models as well.
During the early 1990’s, at the same time Vermont’s re-licensing system was being developed, little was written about the use of teacher portfolios for professional development. Student portfolios were, however, slowly becoming accepted as an authentic assessment alternative for reading and writing in elementary schools, and for writing across the curriculum in secondary schools.
Teacher educators at colleges and universities initiated the idea of using portfolios for reflective self-assessment for their students. Teacher portfolios were initially conceived to address the development of undergraduate and graduate students working toward professional licensing as classroom teachers.
In 1994, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards began to examine “What Teachers Should Know and be Able to Do” They suggested the use of portfolios as a methodology for gathering evidence of what accomplished teachers know and are able to do.
The ability to teach well began to be seen more as a journey than destination. The portfolio gradually evolved from being a folder of collected documentation to a reflective professional development tool. It is now considered a process of continuous improvement rather than as a product.
In Vermont, regulations, policy and best practice have lead to the requirement of focused professional development. This professional development must support local school improvement efforts, impact student learning, and reflect Vermont School Quality Standards, The Vermont Standards and Learning Opportunities, and The Five Standards for Professional Educators. It must be documented through an individual educator portfolio.
Vermont’s re-licensing process focuses on the professional development of educators. Now, more than ever before, we must align re-licensing with effective professional development.
The important work of the Local and Regional Standards Boards has given us much information which, if intentionally aligned with current state, regional and local professional development initiatives, will make even more powerful differences in the quality of our educational system.