Chicago ACTS is a busy provider of professional development, having hosted more than 16 PD sessions, many based on AFT’s popular Strategies for Student Success (SSS).
The unique appeal of the Chicago ACTS’ training sessions is their local provenance. Classes are offered by seven Chicago charter school teachers and union members, among them Laura McMahon-Ryan and Christine Poczik, who flew to Baltimore last summer for intensive training in an immersion setting. There, surrounded by portraits of ships and submarines at the colorful Maritime Institute, they spent nine days in learning the SSS modules and offering them in practice presentations. “It’s not enough to know the theory,” says Rosalind LaRocque, an associate director in the AFT educational issues department. “You must know how to implement it in the classroom. That’s what SSS focuses on.” The nine-day training is rigorous, because when AFT trainers hit the ground, they have to deliver those training sessions in just three hours.
SSS is a research-based program of distinct modules that address teaching and learning. It is targeted to both new and veteran teachers. The AFT promise of “research-based” training means the techniques and materials used have been tried in numerous settings—beyond the controlled setting in the original rollout—and have achieved the same results. This comes as good news to AFT members who often comment on overexposure to fads and experiments that have been taken up and then dropped by school districts. This year, McMahon-Ryan already has offered a PD session in Chicago titled “Differentiation: Choice Boards.” The charter school teacher and trainer says, “It was so exciting to see how many teachers at my school were using Choice Boards after we presented the SSS module.” Teachers are trained to offer choices tailored to each student’s ability level. “Our students love being able to pick activities that appeal to them, and the quality of their work has improved.” trainer Pozick adds. “Being a part of the SSS program has given me two things I am most passionate about: leadership in my building and quality teaching.”
The AFT will offer training in Strategies for Student Success again this summer. If you would like to become a trainer, visit the AFT TEACH Academy at go.aft.org/TEACHacademy and discuss your interest with your local union office.