The vision of the Association is to serve as an advocate for the educational community that is dedicated to promoting the continuous development of collaborative school/higher education/ community relationships and to create and sustain genuine collaborative partnerships between P-12 and higher education through:

  • Equal representation of, and access for, all educators invested in improving education;
  • The dissemination and exchange of best practice found in P-12/higher education partnerships;
  • The diversity of its members, partnerships, and the global society in which we live;
  • The complex relationships between P-12 and higher education partners, and the wider diversity inherent in those communities;
  • Continuing advocacy centered around the P-12/higher education professional development relationship; and
  • Supporting teacher leadership in the P-12/higher education community through an agile and responsive organization.


The Association shall serve as a means for validating P-12/higher education partnerships and the processes and work of these collaborative ventures. These purposes are expressed through the vision and mission statements.

A Brief History

The University of South Carolina began sponsoring a PDS National Conference in March 2000. That initial event, held in Columbia, South Carolina, attracted approximately six hundred educators and was such a success that the university continued sponsoring similar conferences on an annual basis for the next five years.

In 2002 the conference moved from South Carolina to Orlando, Florida, and by 2005 had begun to attract close to eight hundred PDS educators from nearly every state in the nation. Individuals who attended the conferences repeatedly expressed appreciation for the hands-on and practical nature of the conference presentations and pointed out time and again two aspects which they believed were unique to the event: (1) a near-equal balance of university and preK-12 educators and (2) an exclusive focus on issues relevant to Professional Development Schools. Nowhere else, participants noted, had they found the opportunity to share ideas with such a wide breadth of P-20 educators and been able to focus solely on PDS concerns unencumbered by other admittedly important, yet non-PDS specific, educational issues.

The desire to discuss PDS-specific concerns with other educators who shared an interest in and passion for PDS work led to a conversation at the 2003 National Conference about the feasibility of creating a professional association that would encourage year-round PDS dialogue. The seventy-five individuals who participated in that conversation immediately agreed that such an association was much needed, and so a handful of volunteers met in Columbia, South Carolina, in November 2003, to begin the process of making the association a reality. They shared their initial efforts with participants at the March 2004 National Conference and encouraged others to join them in the planning process. That call produced a Founding Organizational Committee, eventually consisting of eighteen educators from eleven states, who met throughout the next year to revise a mission statement drafted at the first meeting and to design both a constitutional structure and a list of goals for the association. As they did so, they kept in mind that the primary goal was to create a professional association that, in the words of one of the group members, “would enhance the capacity of PDS educators to do their work.” With that overall goal in mind, the group agreed to: (1) establish a leadership structure that would represent a balance across the educational continuum; (2) develop a website to allow members access to resources and a venue for on-going dialogue; (3) circulate a newsletter to disseminate best practices, pertinent news, and PDS-related announcements; (4) produce a periodic journal to circulate evaluative research, successful programmatic models, and naturalistic inquiry in the PDS community; and (5) join with the University of South Carolina in co-sponsoring the annual PDS National Conference and, in doing so, continue the commitment to balanced participation and focused presentations.

By the time of the March 2005 National Conference, the volunteer planners had appointed an Interim Executive Council that worked throughout 2004 and early 2005 to put into place the nuts and bolts of a working association. That group obtained start-up funds from individual and institutional founders and benefactors and, through the respective generosity of Towson University and the University of Missouri, began work on the inaugural newsletter and the creation of an association website. The Interim Executive Council decided that the initial membership of the association would be comprised of those individuals who attended the 2005 Conference, and so it drafted an association constitution that was subsequently approved by that membership at an NAPDS Celebration on the afternoon of Friday, March 18, 2005. The membership at that time also approved the removal of the “interim” label from the Executive Council, approved a Fall 2005 election process for new officers to be installed at the 2006 National Conference, and in taking these actions officially launched an association that had been two years in the making.

The National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) garnered the support of other national education organizations, including the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) and the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), and worked with individuals from these and other groups in drafting the Association’s first position paper titled “What It Means to Be a Professional Development School.” That document, released in April 2008, identified what the Association believes are the Nine Essentials of Professional Development School work and laid the groundwork for the August 2008 National Leadership Forum on the Nine Essentials of PDS Work, where teams of PDS educators gathered to examine how the Essentials could enhance the quality of their work.

In 2009, the Association awarded its first “NAPDS Award for Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement” The Nine Essentials are the central criteria for selecting recipients. To date, more than 20 PDS partnerships have been recognized. A new award, the “Doctoral Dissertation Award” was established in 2014 with the first possible recipient to be recognized in March 2015.

This last conference marked the end of a decade of partnership between NAPDS and the University of South Carolina. We are so thankful for USC’s support over the past 10 years as we have grown so that we can now stand on our own as an association. Their management of the conference and incubation of our NAPDS organization has helped us learn and built our confidence. Over the remainder of 2015, we, as an association, will “spread our wings” and work hard to provide you as members with the support and information that will help you to continue to develop and nurture innovative and progressive programming that positively benefits P20 student learning.

In March 2016, we hosted the official 1st NAPDS Annual Conference in Washington D.C. We were excited to have these conversations in our nation’s capital as we continued to build our reputation as the leaders and advocates of this important work that not only prepares better teachers but also positively impact P12 student learning.

To promote and share the work of professional development schools, the NAPDS publishes the magazine, “PDS Partners”, three times a year, and the blind-refereed journal, School-University Partnerships, twice a year. Additionally, the Association’s website serves the membership and the greater community.

The work of the NAPDS has been driven by the dedication of its members, comprised of almost 5,500 PDS professionals from 50 states and 9 countries. The focus of the Association is to promote and advocate for the collaborative relationship of school-university partnerships while supporting a membership of those committed to the work of professional development schools.