What is a PDS?


What is a Professional Development School?

Northern Illinois University believes that an essential component of our teacher licensure programs' objective for a richer and fuller experiential educator program involves the deep integration of all parties -- from university faculty to P-12 students -- in order to provide a quality education. The purpose of a partnership relationship is to improve the clinical preparation of beginning teachers, enhance educator professional development, and utilize practice-based research to improve instruction.


Each partnership begins with an agreement that is designated between the university and school districts for the purpose of enhancing teacher preparation through field-based sites for teacher candidates, both clinical and student teaching. In addition, partnerships engage in exchange of ideas and opportunities for professional development. Partnership districts can advance their relationship into a Professional Development School District.

NIU Professional Development School Mission Statement

This mission is: To prepare and develop high quality teacher leaders and improve student learning through the shared commitment to a culture characterized by engagement in reciprocal professional development and intentional collaboration across the across the school, university, and community.

Professional Development School Goals

We have four major goals for our school-university cooperation, which are the foundation for all experiences that take place under the aegis of the partnerships.

  1. Enhance the educational experiences of all children in the district
  2. Ensuring high quality induction into the profession for teacher candidates
  3. Engage in furthering our own professional growth as school and university-based teachers and teacher educators
  4. Prepare the next generation of teacher educators who will go on to create, sustain and renew school university partnerships that are committed to excellence in teacher preparation and professional development through inquiry

Professional Development School Definitions

We believe that a PDS site is one in which:

  • the school engages in a strong collaborative partnership
  • the relationship is developed and sustained over a period of time
  • faculty to faculty partnerships improve teaching and learning for both institutions
    • improve the quality of academics
    • improve clinical preparation of teacher candidates
    • provide professional development for school personnel and candidates
    • collaborative field-based research directed at the improvement of teaching in the district and at NIU
  • school sites evolve as models of excellence
  • centers of inquiry through collaboration
  • evolves over time
  • opportunities for course work to take place in the district
    • dedicated classroom for NIU’s use
    • share responsibility for equipping the classroom with technology and materials
    • collaborate on the development and delivery of course content for the teacher certification candidates
  • liaisons will be identified
    • liaison will work with the school or district
    • school district may identify a liaison who will work closely with the university liaison

PDS Standards

At NIU, we embrace the PDS standards of two national organizations, the National Association of Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).  To that end, we believe that a PDS is not only a model of excellence but also a model that will ensure the future success of our programs.

NAPDS Standards 

  • Standard I:  Learning Community The partnership is a learning-centered community that supports the integrated learning and development of P-12 students, candidates, and partners through inquiry-based practice.  The partners share a common vision of teaching and learning grounded in research and practitioner knowledge.
  • Standard II:   Accountability and Quality Assurance  The partners are accountable to themselves and to the public for upholding professional standards for teaching and learning.
  • Standard III:  Collaboration  Partner institutions systematically move from independent to interdependent practice by committing themselves and making a commitment to each other to engage in joint work focused on implementing the partnership mission.
  • Standard IV:  Diversity and Equity  Professional educators and candidates develop and demonstrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions resulting in learning for all P-12 students.
  • Standard V:  Structures, Resources, and Roles  The partnership uses its authority and resources to articulate its mission and establish governing structures that support the learning and development of P-12 students, candidates, faculty, and other professionals.  The partner institutions ensure that structures, programs, and resource decisions support

Source: NAPDS Home, accessed August 19, 2012.

NCATE Definition of a PDS

PDSs are “Specially structured schools in which the P-12 school and higher education faculty collaborate to (1) provide practicum, student teaching, and internship experiences; (2) support and enable the professional development of school and higher education faculty; (3) support and enable inquiry directed at the improvement of practice; and (4) support and enhance student achievement. PDSs require the institutional commitment of colleges and universities, school districts, and teachers' organizations.”

Source: NCATE, accessed 8-17-2011.

PDS Development and Partners

At NIU, the PDS relationship between the university and schools is a very selective one, only entered into when both the school (and district) and university are able to engage in the tri-lateral exchange of ideas, practices, and policies to the benefit of all students.

There are several unique characteristics of NIU's PDS relationships:

  1. On-site, university-level instruction of methods and content courses.
  2. Year-long co-teaching for student teaching
  3. A commitment to university-school faculty exchange in planning, teaching, content development, pedagogy, and research.

At NIU we have dedicated significant institutional resources to the pursuit of a model PDS program, including elevating the PDS program to a university-level of support through the office of the Associate Vice Provost of Educator Licensure and Preparation, the hiring of a Associate Director of Professional Development Schools, and committing financial support for materials, technology, professional development, and outreach. In addition to this, the university also provides well in excess of 1,000 hours of tuition vouchers for teachers who participate in the programs through their school or district.