The key to improving student achievement is to make sure teachers get the professional development they need to be successful.

Ed-tech tools are only as effective as the teachers who are using them—and the real key to improving student achievement is to make sure teachers get the professional development they need to be successful. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of new and noteworthy staff development services for the new school year.

Before districts can deliver staff development that is targeted and highly effective, they must identify each teacher’s areas of need. That requires a sound teacher evaluation system, something the Utah-based company Truenorthlogic knows about.

Truenorthlogic was founded in 2000 as iAssessment, which offered a customizable online program for teachers to self-rate their skills against a technology teaching rubric. The results of this self-assessment generated a recommended path for professional growth tied to teachers’ specific levels of understanding.

“We wanted to create a company that was founded on the idea of helping teachers grow in … their ability to teach in this ever-changing, fast-paced technological environment,” says co-founder Jeanette Haren.

Since then, the company has expanded its focus to include teacher evaluation, mentoring, and professional development management. The company was renamed Truenorthlogic to better reflect its expanded focus.

Truenorthlogic’s Educator Effectiveness Model encompasses a full range of professional services. It includes advising school districts on teacher induction, certification, and licensure; coaching and mentoring; growth planning and teacher assessment; professional learning management; and evaluation and appraisal.

The company recently announced new partnerships with two Arizona districts: the Phoenix Union High School District and Madison Elementary School District 38. The districts have chosen Truenorthlogic to help them deploy a new teacher evaluation system that is based on multiple measures of a teacher’s effectiveness and aligns professional growth for all staff based on these evaluation results.

“The Madison Elementary District embraces technology for both our students and our staff. We are excited to work with Truenorthlogic … in the creation of an online teaching evaluation system that we can integrate into our data warehouse, allowing us to ultimately improve student achievement,” said Superintendent Tim Ham in a press release.

Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) sells a software program for helping school administrators record their observations from classroom walkthroughs on a handheld device such as an iPhone, iPad, Pocket PC, or BlackBerry. Called eWalk, the system collects, analyzes, and stores data through web-based forms. Users can record observations using various input elements, and results are uploaded to the web for printing and analysis. eWalk can be used in conjunction with mVal, a staff evaluation and professional growth system that helps administrators complete evaluations quickly with direct input from staff.

KDS also announced that it is developing 13 online professional development courses in conjunction with Solution Tree, a provider of educational strategies and services designed to improve staff and student performance. The courses will combine KDS’ online platform for delivering staff development with the expertise of Solution Tree presenters, such as Dr. Robert Marzano and his team from the Marzano Research Lab.