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Most Professional Development 'Sporadic, Short Term, and Divorced from Teaching and Student Achievement'

Professional development should provide teachers with continuous feedback and opportunities to collaborate and coach each other, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

The report, "High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers," found that most professional development (PD) programs for teachers are "sporadic, short term, and divorced from teaching and student achievement." It recommends changes to professional development programs to produce improvements in teaching practices and student learning outcomes.

According to the report, there needs to be a stronger connection between teacher evaluations and professional learning. Evaluations themselves should be used as a professional development tool, and new evaluation systems should include provisions that require teachers and evaluators to discuss results and use the information to help teachers continually improve.

The report also recommends providing professional development opportunities for teachers as part of the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. "Without adequate training and continued professional development and support, the teacher’s ability to improve classroom instruction and student achievement is significantly hindered, thus making the Common Core State Standards an obtuse policy initiative," according to information released by the Center for American Progress.

Other key recommendations from the report include:

  • Replacing single-event professional development interventions with regular, sustained activities to improve teacher instruction;
  • Requiring that teachers and evaluators meet to discuss evaluations and collectively personalize feedback to foster continual improvement;
  • Establishing a strong evaluation system that identifies strengths and weaknesses in teaching practices;
  • Encouraging administrators in schools, districts, and state education agencies to take steps to become experts in changing standards;
  • Supporting administrators in schools, districts, and state education agencies in the creation and collection of resources about new standards and assessments; and
  • Adapting staffing, the organization of the school day, and other basic structures of schools to support better teaching.

The full report, "High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers," can be found on the Center for American Progress site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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