Report: The major problems with U.S. professional development

Two reports detail how top-performing education systems use professional development each day

Two new reports reveal that in many top education systems, teacher professional development is built into their daily work as a means for school improvement and teacher quality.

The reports from the National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB) suggest that the traditional U.S. model of professional development far underperforms key competitor countries.

“When teachers have strong incentives to get better and better at their work, and they are given the opportunity to work together every day in teams to improve student achievement, they never stop seeking and finding information that can help them do a better job,” said NCEE President and CEO Marc Tucker. “Professional development in the top performing systems is built directly into the way teachers do that work every day; it is not something that happens in workshops. Teachers in these systems want to improve their practice because their progression through the system’s well-defined career pathways is dependent upon their effectiveness as professionals.

“Like attorneys, engineers, architects and other professionals in the United States, they want the added compensation, responsibility, authority and, most of all, esteem and status that comes with the recognition of greater expertise. Professional development is the way they get that expertise.”

Australian researcher Ben Jensen’s report, Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems, analyzed the professional learning systems in four high-performing systems. Shanghai, British Columbia, Singapore, and Hong Kong all score near the top of those tested in mathematics, reading and science on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Next page: How differences greatly impact professional development

Laura Ascione

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