Seven standards for effective professional development

Teacher B says she’s noticed another problem in her class that’s similar and is interested in trying Teacher A’s method, which might work in her class as well. Teacher B asks if Teacher A wouldn’t mind co-teaching a few classes to help.

The group then collectively moves on to larger goals for the long term, such as weekly exams and unit objectives, as well as end-of-year assessments and state exams. The meeting continues with more teachers sharing their problems and ideas, and some even volunteer to design teacher projects for the upcoming year.

“Not only do students benefit,” says the principal, “but teachers say they’re more professionally satisfied as well.”

“Research says that teachers plateau after four years,” Hirsch explained, “and that’s because they don’t have access to new information or their peers.”

North Dakota and Michigan have adopted Learning Forward’s updated teacher professional development standards at the state board level, and one Kansas school district has, too.

However, Hirsch recognized that implementing new standards isn’t easy.

“Schools have limited resources, including time, as well as … differing levels of expertise. Documenting the impact of investments is also hard, and there are competing priorities,” she said. “Yet, by looking over the standards and planning to adopt them, you’re already taking the first step forward.”

Learning Forward also is urging Congress to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Title IX, Section 9101(34), to include components of this new definition of teacher professional development, such as:

• A comprehensive, sustained, intensive approach—aligned with state and district standards—in which teachers take collective responsibility for student learning; and

• Conducted several times per week, using a cycle of continuous improvement, in teams facilitated by well-prepared principals, mentors, coaches, and teacher leaders.

“If teachers had this kind of professional learning community, I bet most would stay in their career for the long haul, feeling supported and knowing they’re doing the best for their students,” concluded Hirsch.

Meris Stansbury

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