Florida’s Professional Development Alternatives (PDA) project was developed in response to the following contemporary forces influencing education today:
- The National Challenge of No Child Left Behind legislation
- The statewide critical shortage of ESE teachers and the need to increase the number of certified teachers
- The need to provide quality professional development alternatives correlated to new ESE competencies
- The need to reduce development and implementation costs through collaboration
- The need to encourage the utilization of distance learning as a cost saver for districts.
Design of the PDA Program
PDA initially consisted of seven individual, yet related, modules that correlated to seven State developed ESE Competencies. Each PDA module, is designed to provide access to research, practical applications, varied instructional techniques, self-paced learning, assessment tasks and facilitator feedback, all through the medium of online instruction. The collaborating partners who developed the PDA Initiative were: Bureau of Educator Certification, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS), North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC), Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM), Steering Committee Members, Writers from FDLRS, Districts, FIN, FDLRS HRD Coordinating Unit, Universities, Agencies, and other ESE, educational and technology professionals.
Development of the PDA Program
To develop the PDA project as a statewide resource, a program administrator was hired and a steering committee was established to provide leadership, guidance and oversight to the process. Seven individual writing/development teams were identified to create the specific content of each of the seven program modules. These writing teams used the State developed ESE Competencies, Council for Exceptional Children Core and Specialized Competencies, previously identified standards from Florida’s Alternative Training Initiative (ATI), and the standards established by the steering committee to develop seven draft modules, which were submitted for content review, initial and final editing, before being subsequently approved by the DOE.
The first module, "Foundations of ESE," was successfully field tested and based on this module, all modules were prepared for online delivery to participants statewide. A communications mechanism for local PDA Coordinators/Facilitators and Technical Support personnel was established, and in mid October 2003, a statewide conference was held to introduce the new PDA online training program, orient local coordinators and facilitators to the program and to explain the procedures for use by individuals and districts. The program went on-line in late October 2003.
In the spring of 2004 the PDA project was subsumed under the auspices of the newly formed statewide FDLRS HRD Coordinating Unit. A Coordinator of ESE Special Projects was hired in April 2004 to assist with support and management of the PDA Project and other HRD Coordinating Unit assignments as needed.
In May of 2004 a statewide conference was held to update local coordinators, facilitators and technical support personnel and to provide training in navigation of the Desire to Learn (D2L) system, a system utilized to deliver the modules on line. A PDA Facilitator’s Guide was developed to provide assistance with implementation of the PDA modules on a local level and to assist with navigation of the D2L system. The conference also provided orientation opportunities for new coordinators and facilitators. Conference participants provided feedback and suggestions for streamlining and refining PDA processes and modules. PDA staff currently communicates with facilitators, coordinators, tech support personnel and participants around the state who are involved with the PDA project on a daily basis.
In June 2006, an eighth module, Differentiating Reading Instruction: Making It Explicit, was made available. This module was approved by Just Read, Florida to satisfy competencies 4 and 5 of the Florida Reading Endorsement. In January 2010, the Introduction to Differentiating Instruction, PDA’s first mini-module worth 12 inservice credits, was made available. This module is facilitated by the FDLRS and Fin networks. In May 2010, Differentiating Mathematics Instruction and Differentiating Science Instruction, both worth 30 points, was added to the PDA online professional development opportunities. During the 2010-2011 school year, Assessment in the Differentiated Classroom and Assistive Technology/Instructional Technology are being developed.
As of July 2010, the PDA Program has offered 826 modules statewide, with 5931 participants representing Florida's 67 school districts. These participants have utilized the PDA resource to learn and better prepare themselves to be responsive to the needs of all students, to better meet their job responsibilities, for ESE certification, and/or to meet competencies 4 and 5 of the Reading Endorsement.
As new avenues are sought to assist with meeting the challenges faced by Florida’s educators of students with disabilities, PDA provides a unique and innovative solution. This project is not static; it is an ever-growing option to provide staff development opportunities to ESE educators in a consistent fashion in all reaches of the vast demographics of Florida.