Vermont's ambitious overhaul of schooling for its 90,000 students--known as the Green Mountain Challenge and driven by the aim of nothing less than "very high skills for every student: no exceptions, no excuses''--fueled this intense interest in professional development.
In fact, says Richard P. Mills, the state's commissioner of education, the only way to achieve the state's goal is to make professional development an ongoing process for every teacher and principal in Vermont.
"I believe that teachers will not only shape systemic reform,'' Mr. Mills asserts, "but if we share the risk with them, teachers will drive it.''
In Vermont, teachers have been involved in redesigning the education system since the get-go. They put together, for example, the first statewide assessment that uses portfolios of students' work.
Just as notably, the state has adopted innovative policies for teacher education and relicensure that officials believe could transform the teaching profession.
Both inside and outside the state, Vermont is winning high marks for recognizing that teachers must play a central role in rethinking schools and for supporting their work and professional growth. Unfortunately, such a vision is not universally shared. Too often, teachers and their needs have been overlooked in the rush to make changes in schools.
Teachers' Learning: 'Centerpiece, Not Afterthought'
As far back as the 1840's, notes David K. Cohen, a professor of education and social policy at Michigan State University, Horace Mann wrote about the importance of providing teachers with adequate learning opportunities. The subject was also of concern to John Dewey, who organized his laboratory school at the University of Chicago with teachers' intellectual development in mind.
The current push to reform schools to foster students' problem-solving skills is placing incredible demands on the nation's 2.4 million public school teachers. Such changes are clearly no less revolutionary than those being urged for students.
But without serious attention to professional development, the reforms have little chance to take hold and succeed.
Complaints are already being voiced, for example, that the sweeping reform of Kentucky's education system hasn't provided enough learning opportunities for teachers. And in California, which has pioneered a set of curriculum frameworks, state officials acknowledge that the vast task of educating teachers has lagged behind.
Indeed, professional development suffers from a nearly universal poor image: one marked by undemanding after-school workshops attended by educators who see no connection to their daily working lives. Often, it is the first thing slashed in tight budget times.
Nothing short of a radical rethinking of the importance and role of professional development is what is needed. Opportunities to learn and experiment must be built into teachers' workdays and years. And powerful incentives must be created for teachers to pursue serious learning for the sake of their professional growth.
Attending to teachers' learning needs must be "a centerpiece, not an afterthought,'' says Marla Ucelli, a senior program adviser at the Rockefeller Foundation. "If we don't deal with the issue of ongoing training and renewal for people in the classroom, then none of the reforms we think are valuable are going to stick.''
'Learning and Unlearning'
While the reform movement has coalesced around images of students as active learners, less attention has been paid to what teachers should know and be able to do in order to support such student enterprise.
"Serious reform has to involve serious learning'' for teachers, Mr. Cohen warns. "There are relatively few people who have a sense of how enormous the learning is, and how difficult it will be to encourage it.''
In a new book, the Michigan State professor and several colleagues describe this new "teaching for understanding.''
In stark contrast to the prevailing model of transmitting knowledge and facts to passive students, teaching for understanding means actively engaging students with concepts to promote deep understanding. It would require vast changes in what most teachers know and believe, Mr. Cohen and Carol A. Barnes, a doctoral student at Michigan State, say.
"Teachers would have to revise their conception of learning, to treat it as an active process of constructing ideas rather than a passive process of absorbing information,'' the two researchers write. "They would have to rediscover knowledge as something that is constructed and contested, rather than handed down by authorities. They would have to see that learning sometimes flourishes better in groups than alone at one's desk with a worksheet. And in order to learn, teachers would have to unlearn much deeply held knowledge and many fond beliefs.''
"Such learning and unlearning would require a revolution in thought,'' they add. "Moreover, even if teachers' academic knowledge and conceptions of learning changed, they still would have to learn how to teach differently.''
Researchers and practitioners are just beginning to explore what this new kind of teaching would look like.
While the back-to-basics movement stressed that effective teachers command center stage in their classrooms, "presenting, regulating, monitoring, and evaluating instruction,'' Mr. Cohen and Ms. Barnes note, there is no neatly packaged pedagogy to match the current reforms.
"There are all kinds of dilemmas and challenges in the reinvention of schools that don't have clear, practical answers to them,'' agrees Judith Warren Little, an associate professor at the graduate school of education at the University of California at Berkeley.
Typical professional-development approaches "assume that we have a practice to put into place,'' she says, "and many of the new reforms belie that assumption.''
Creating new systems that can meaningfully support deeply intellectual work by teachers--with all of its messiness and false starts--won't be easy.
Standing in the way are two of the most formidable barriers to school improvement of any kind: a lack of time and a lack of money. An even larger barrier, perhaps, is the powerful image of didactic teaching that would have to be cast aside to make way for "teaching for understanding.''
These barriers also go a long way to explain why professional development has typically been what Ms. Little calls "a remarkably low-intensity enterprise.''
Most workshop-type offerings, she complains, place teachers in a passive role. They are treated as consumers, not producers, of knowledge.
But if the goal of schooling is to help students become critical thinkers, then their teachers must also be active, engaged learners who continually reflect on and adjust their teaching.
Just as important, Ms. Little argues, teachers must also be given chances to participate in, contribute to, and analyze the school-reform movement itself.
From a variety of disparate sources, a picture of promising approaches to professional development is emerging.
First, they break teachers' isolation by bringing them together, over extended periods of time, to struggle with meaningful issues.
The focus is shifting away from what an individual teacher knows and is able to do to creating teams or groups of teachers in a school or district.
Second, teachers are linked with people outside of schools to help them understand the applications of what they teach and how to link their classrooms to the real world.
And, through it all, teachers are given regular opportunities to practice what they are learning, receive feedback, revise their work, observe other teachers, talk about their experiences, and reflect on what they have discovered.
"The notion is to think of schools as learning communities,'' says Susan Loucks-Horsley, a senior associate at the Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands, "where adults are always asking questions, seeking answers, and investigating. If we want kids to do that, teachers have to do that.''
To accommodate this richer view of teacher learning, the definition of professional development is broadening to encourage and reward teachers' participation in school-improvement efforts, individual and group research projects, and curriculum and assessment development.
In fact, new research suggests that teachers will not be able to transform their classrooms without the support of a network of like-minded colleagues. Left in isolation, concludes a five-year study by the Center for Research on the Context of Secondary School Teaching at Stanford University, teachers tend to fall back on old practices or quit their jobs.
"Those teachers who made effective adaptations to today's students had one thing in common: Each belonged to an active professional community which encouraged and enabled them to transform their teaching,'' the study says.
Professional communities--whether an academic department, a school, a network, or a professional organization--offer "powerful opportunities'' for reform, it concludes.
Teachers Wrestle Together With 'Important, Difficult Issues'
In Vermont, the state's new assessment program for 4th and 8th graders in writing and math has fueled an intense demand for professional development that has been met in innovative ways.
"The need for training is enormous,'' says Susan Rigney, the manager of the assessment program, "which is why the assessments were undertaken in the first place: to impact instruction.'' Most of the budget for the assessment program, for example, pays for professional development.
In response to the clamor, the education department created networks of teachers for math and writing. Each of the 17 groups is led by a specially recruited and trained teacher.
Last year, the network leaders offered what Commissioner Mills calls "a takeout menu of options for training on demand.'' Teachers could choose what suited them: a series of workshops, full-day or half-day training, or short meetings. They scheduled their training after school, during release time, at faculty meetings, or during designated in-service days.
The network leaders were given long-distance calling cards and encouraged to check regularly to see how schools were faring.
"The point is, we were not just dropping a statewide test on a bunch of hapless teachers,'' says Geof Hewitt, the writing-network coordinator. "We are intent on making sure that their needs are met.''
Network leaders provided some of the training. Sometimes, they acted as brokers, linking teachers with people who could answer their questions.
"Some of the most in-demand consultants are teachers,'' says Patricia McGonegal, a Vermont middle school teacher and a writing-network leader, "because they can say, 'Yeah, this works in my classroom.' The people who can speak with authority are teachers.''
When teachers in the networks met, they examined real student work and talked about how to get their students to write and think mathematically to meet the scoring guidelines. They also discussed and debated how to reshape their teaching practice.
"The whole idea of shifting to problem-solving is a dramatic change for teachers,'' Jill Rosenblum, the math-network coordinator, says. "You can't succeed with students unless you do it yourself.''
The best professional development, Ms. Rosenblum writes, took place spontaneously during the network meetings, "over lunch at a scoring session, around the copy machine while preparing an activity, on the road while carpooling to a network meeting, in a faculty meeting when asked to report on your work with portfolios, and any time when colleagues get together to talk and think about these important, difficult issues.''
Teachers Teaching Teachers
Traditionally, in-service training and other staff-development workshops have been conducted by outside "experts'': consultants, staff developers, or college professors. Now, the emphasis is on helping teachers to discover and develop their own expertise and share it with colleagues.
In New Mexico, 13 specially trained teachers are sharing their knowledge about educating disadvantaged students with schools throughout the state. The teachers will be released from their own classrooms for five days this year; so far, the cadre of teachers--which grew out of a leadership academy funded by the Rockefeller Foundation--has worked with 20 schools and is still receiving calls.
"These people are too valuable to just work in their own schools,'' Roberta Smith, the project's coordinator, says. "Teachers love to listen to other teachers. They feel like they are authentic and have something important to say.''
The American Federation of Teachers' well-regarded Thinking Mathematics project also uses teachers to help others learn new ways of teaching math.
The project is part of the union's educational research and dissemination program, which is designed to help teachers understand and make use of educational research on generic classroom techniques.
The project uses a teacher network in each of its 38 sites to train teachers and provide them with support. To participate, districts must guarantee to free the leaders from their other duties for two days a month. The project also tries to train groups of teachers from the same school--rather than individuals from many schools--so teachers can work together as they change the way they teach.
Teachers also worked closely with researchers to develop the curricula for the project.
"We go in, not to give teachers a bunch of activities,'' Alice Gill, the project's coordinator, says, "but to help them understand how kids learn math, so that they have a real good understanding of why kids ought to be doing this sort of thing.''
'As Challenged as Kids'
One of the best ways for teachers to learn, says Keith Yocam, the professional-development manager for Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, is for them to plunge right in to a new situation under the watchful eye of another teacher.
The ACOT project, using a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is setting up three teacher-development centers in schools in Nashville, Cupertino, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio. Seven hundred teachers are expected to receive training at the schools.
In weeklong practicums throughout the school year and in summer institutes, the teachers will use technology under the tutelage of other teachers and will interact with students who are learning with computers. As teachers return to their classrooms, they will be supported by coordinators who visit them and help them reflect on the changes they are making. Like the Thinking Mathematics teachers, they will attend the sessions in teams.
Mr. Yocam hopes that the approach--which he calls "situated teacher development''--will be a model for further professional-development activities.
A preliminary study from ACOT's Nashville site, Mr. Yocam says, indicated that teachers left the program with an increased sense of their own efficacy and with a view of themselves as learners, capable of handling challenging material.
"Every day that a teacher goes into a classroom,'' he says, "they should be as challenged as they want their kids to be.''
A 'Continuous Flow of Interaction'
Building on teachers' sense of themselves as learners and producers of knowledge is essential if they are to cultivate the same attitudes in their students. One of the best ways to accomplish that aim, many argue, is for teachers to grapple with the fundamental questions of what students and teachers should know and be able to do.
In districts working with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, for example, teachers are discussing and debating the board's vision of accomplished teaching. The board, a private organization governed by a teacher-majority board, is developing a voluntary national system to certify highly accomplished teachers. It is scheduled to begin testing its assessment system this fall.
With the board's standards in mind, teachers in South Brunswick, N.J., have analyzed videos of each others' classrooms. They are also designing portfolios to document their teaching.
Willa Spicer, the director of instruction for the South Brunswick township schools, calls the sessions "self-reflection as a method of staff development.''
"Groups of teachers are coming together to design portfolios, to say, 'What's important enough to assess, and how do we know if we're doing it?' and to ask about accomplished teaching,'' she explains.
Similarly, teachers involved with the New Standards Project, a privately funded effort to develop what could become a national system of standards and assessments, are grappling with such questions for students.
Teachers in 17 states--including Vermont--and six districts are involved with the project and have created "performance tasks'' for students and scored pilot assessments.
The project is drawing in as many teachers as possible, says Lauren Resnick, its co-director, because "the whole goal of this is to spread knowledge of and commitment to the standards throughout the whole education community.''
Ms. McGonegal, the Vermont teacher, traveled to Dallas last November to help write performance tasks. Because New Standards has sparked so much teacher engagement, she describes the effort as a "reform project disguised as an assessment project.''
"Teachers are showing each other some fabulous pieces of classroom practice,'' she says. "Good teachers are going to pick that up and say, 'I can do something like this.' ''
As the work moves forward, the project plans to create teams of teachers in each subject in every participating school. These "assessment leaders'' will be responsible for scoring and for helping their colleagues organize portfolios to be scored.
The lead teachers will, in turn, be part of a professional-development network coordinated by "senior leaders'' responsible for about 10 schools, Ms. Resnick says. The senior leaders will be in charge of creating professional-development opportunities and for running the scoring in their regions.
The directors of the New Standards Project are also exploring the possibility of offering senior leaders some type of certificate that would be based on their proven ability to perform various functions.
The National Alliance for Restructuring Education--made up of a subset of New Standards partners and other groups--is also developing a network-type model for professional development. Curriculum associations and researchers will be part of the networks, Ms. Resnick says.
"There is a kind of continuous flow of interaction in both directions,'' she explains. "The model of teacher training we have had mirrors the model of one-way information flow and expertise.''
"The idea that somebody else comes in and tells you what to do just has to go--it's not going to work,'' she asserts. "On the other hand, the notion that everybody has to make it up all alone, over and over again, without the jump-starting and stimulation of a community, is just a counsel of despair.''
Working Together Over Time
Embracing a broad view of professional development, some reform projects are forging national communities to share what they have learned about the difficult process of remaking schools. They recognize that focusing on teachers alone is unlikely to get the job done.
"The need to build capacity applies also to principals, central offices, boards, state departments of education, and even policymakers,'' Jane L. David, the director of the Bay Area Research Group, says. "The kinds of new thinking that teachers need in classrooms to reach ambitious outcomes for all students is paralleled in what administrators and policymakers need as well.''
The National Re:Learning Faculty, created by the Coalition of Essential Schools, includes principals and other administrators. Its 150 members are trained to help coalition schools solve problems.
Teacher members of the faculty receive four weeks of intensive training in the summer in Providence, R.I., the coalition's headquarters, paid for by CitiBank. They learn how to observe other teachers' classes and make constructive suggestions, as well as how to help schools plan for change and solve conflicts.
They also teach summer school, putting into practice the coalition's "less is more'' philosophy with integrated, cross-disciplinary courses.
The coalition then pairs the members of the national faculty with schools. Over the course of a school year, they offer seven full days of assistance, helping the schools develop strategies for change.
"That still isn't very much,'' says Paula Evans, the director of the National Re:Learning Faculty, "but it's a considerable commitment, and it's quite different from traditional professional development.''
"This is practitioners working with practitioners over time,'' Ms. Evans says. "It's people who are really trying to understand what a school is all about and trying to help those in the school to define and come up with strategies to address their problems or their roadblocks or to celebrate their successes.''
'Pure Learning Experiences'
In addition to opportunities to solve problems together, teachers need professional-development activities that both broaden their own knowledge and help them improve their instruction.
One of the most powerful strategies is to link teachers with their real-world counterparts: English teachers with playwrights, social-studies teachers with museum curators, science teachers with scientists.
Introducing teachers to people who work in their disciplines, says Ron Thorpe, a program officer at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, gives them a sense of participation in a broader, discipline-based community. In turn, they can expose their students to the real-world applications and methods of these fields.
"Teachers have not felt that these people were their colleagues,'' Mr. Thorpe says. "They have felt removed, lesser; yet they have to work symbiotically.''
The Collaborative for Humanities and Arts Teaching, known as CHART, links teachers in 14 locations with the arts and humanities communities. The goal of the program, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, is to provide students with more diverse, multicultural arts and humanities curricula and experiences.
The projects vary from site to site, but many are interdisciplinary, and all stress writing, says Judith Renyi, the director of CHART.
The programs begin with summer institutes that plunge teachers into intensive study of their subjects and create a sense of community. Teachers are encouraged to work in teams, so that lone teachers aren't left in isolation in their schools.
They work closely with museum curators, artists, playwrights, and the like to write curricula. During the school year, students regularly visit museums and theaters.
"There is a constant dialogue going back and forth between teachers and the collaborating resource people,'' Ms. Renyi says. "What a museum curator can do is say, 'Here's this wonderful collection of Chinese pots, right down the road from the school, and it teaches us something about world history.' But he can't tell the teacher what to do in the classroom; they need to figure that out for themselves.''
After the "pure learning experience'' of the summer, Ms. Renyi says, the sites try hard to sustain the energy and intellectual engagement by arranging for meetings of participating teachers.
By meeting on Saturdays, after school, during common preparation periods for teachers in the same buildings, or on districtwide in-service days, the teachers have managed to keep the sense of community alive despite the press of everyday school life, she says.
"It's very hard. Creating curriculum like that is very time-consuming and exceedingly difficult,'' she says. "The teachers who managed to do good stuff donated a huge number of hours.''
Building Capacities of Schools
As interest grows in freeing schools to develop their own distinctive approaches, so does the need for involving entire faculties in professional-development activities. School-based management, in particular, is creating a demand to build the capacities of school-level people.
In Dallas, the district increased its budget this year by nearly $1 million to pay for "staff-development associates'' in each school. These teachers will be responsible for identifying their schools' needs, arranging staff-development opportunities, and training two teachers as coaches for new teachers.
"For so long, because staff development was planned centrally, the principals and the entire staff just waited for somebody else to do it,'' says Pam Spruiell, the district's executive director of professional training and development. "It's been a slow process to get them to think, 'We're in charge of this now, and need to do what's best for the campus.' ''
To take charge, however, people in schools need to be able to determine what kind of training or study would help them reach their goals.
Providing schools with the money and flexibility to meet their own needs is a central recommendation of an independent commission that suggested ways to improve the federal Chapter 1 compensatory-education program.
The commission suggested that schools be allowed to set aside 5 percent of their Chapter 1 money, increasing to 20 percent over a period of years, for professional development.
The money could pay for release time for teachers so that they could visit effective programs or for teachers to engage in common planning, explains Robert Slavin, a member of the commission and the director of the elementary school program at the Center for Research on Effective Schooling for Disadvantaged Students at Johns Hopkins University.
Just as important, the panel recommended that schools be able to buy training or assistance from any source. And the entire school faculty, not just Chapter 1 teachers, would be eligible to participate.
The panel, which offered its recommendations in anticipation of Congress's reauthorization of the program next year, suggested giving schools increased amounts of money over time in order to allow them to learn new practices, Mr. Slavin said. It also called for setting aside 1 percent of the Chapter 1 money for research and development of promising approaches.
Today, he notes, schools that receive Chapter 1 money feel compelled to spend it on people, not on the information and training that could improve instruction.
"It isn't going to happen unless we give teachers, principals, and staff more effective strategies,'' he asserts. "We are not going to make big changes by having teachers teach harder--they've got to teach better. And that's not going to happen without major a investment.''
Finding Time and Money: Innovation With 'Stolen Hours'
Educators complain that successful businesses, recognizing the value of investing in their employees, don't scrimp on their training and retraining.
While districts typically spend one-half to 1 percent of their total budgets on professional development, the American Society for Training and Development estimates that businesses spend about 1.4 percent of their payrolls on formal training and development.
Perhaps more important, private firms build time to learn into the salaried workday, rather than expecting employees to undergo training after hours.
Albert Shanker, the president of the A.F.T., asserts in a recent column that the key to General Motors' successful new Saturn line lies in its "impressive training program,'' offering 400 hours of initial training to members of the work teams that make the cars and a menu of 600 courses for further study.
"Imagine trying to change things as basic as the culture of a school and the way people teach with a couple of days of in-service training a year and some hours stolen from class-preparation periods,'' he writes. "But that's about what most teams that are trying to restructure their schools have in terms of time and resources.''
Dodging the 'Budget Ax'
Even districts that have made significant investments in teachers' learning have difficulty sustaining programs.
Some of the most innovative and promising practices are only possible because of grants from businesses and foundations. Typically, staff-development money is one of the first things to go--because its importance hasn't been recognized and because political realities make it an easy mark.
In Dade County, Fla., for example, the Dade Academy for the Teaching Arts, which gives teachers the chance for a nine-week sabbatical, has seen its funding cut in half. At one time, the district paid for 22 teachers to cycle through the academy each grading period; now, only 12 get the chance.
"The budget ax has been constantly over us,'' says Evelyn Campbell, the director of the academy.
The Pittsburgh school board eliminated that city's three teacher centers, mostly because paying for substitute teachers to replace those on leave was too expensive.
"The first thing they look at is what cuts the public wouldn't be aware of,'' says Albert Fondy, the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. "If they eliminate the teacher center at a school, the school itself is still there, and the only people aware it's gone are teachers or administrators.''
In Louisville, Ky., however, the Jefferson County Public Schools/Gheens Professional Development Academy has thrived, thanks to the district's decision to use professional development as "the instrument of school reform,'' according to a recent report on its impact.
The academy, which merged with the district's traditional in-service unit, now has a budget of more than $10 million, the report says, due to a "major reallocation of school district funds.''
Making Serious Learning 'Count'
Although districts and states could undoubtedly make better or more creative use of existing time and money for professional development, many agree that the agenda for teachers' learning is likely to go unfulfilled unless new incentives are created.
The college and university courses that count for advancement on the salary schedule--and more pay--for teachers "do not seem to have appreciably advanced teachers' knowledge of pedagogy or academic subjects,'' Mr. Cohen and Ms. Barnes, the Michigan State researchers, say.
"As things now stand,'' they continue, "serious learning only counts professionally for teachers if they individually choose to make it count.''
Because teachers need a much deeper knowledge of subject matter than many now possess, the A.F.T. has advocated modifying salary schedules so that teachers would only receive salary differentials for coursework in their subject, not for methodology courses.
At the same time, many people suggest that the range of activities that "count'' for relicensure and salary-schedule advancement must be broadened to include work on school-improvement projects, study groups, reform networks, curriculum and assessment development, and standards-setting efforts.
Teachers in the Adams County (Colo.) 5 Star School District, for example, can receive credit for participating in school-improvement projects and for classroom research. They must demonstrate, however, that their coursework or project is directly linked to their work and the district's long-term plan.
From 'Deficit' to 'Growth' Model
New providers of professional development and new kinds of schools also could meet teachers' needs.
Some local teachers' unions, for example, are assuming greater responsibility for teachers' development. Members of the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers Association have approved a dues increase to pay for such activities.
In addition, the burgeoning movement to create professional-development schools holds out the promise that teachers' learning could become a more integral part of their workdays. In these schools, teachers and their college or university counterparts collaborate on research, work with new teachers, and investigate promising teaching practices.
In the process, says Ann Lieberman, the co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, the idea of professional development shifts from a "deficit'' model concentrating on teachers' weaknesses to a "growth and practice'' model that produces new knowledge.
To help teachers wrestle with larger educational issues, Mr. Cohen and Ms. Barnes propose that education policy be made "truly educational'' for teachers through the creation of special curricula that would parallel efforts to establish standards, frameworks, curricula, and assessments for students.
"The aim would be to undertake framework design such that it also presented a rich set of occasions for educators to learn,'' they explain.
The researchers suggest that an independent, nongovernmental body--perhaps the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or the New Standards Project--could undertake such ventures.
'More Time Without Kids'
Despite the slim resources devoted to professional development, many suggest that districts could make better use of their money and teachers' time.
Categorial programs, for example, contain money for professional development that might be combined for more impact.
"There are a lot of scattered ways that money is spent,'' says Ms. Ucelli of the Rockefeller Foundation, "and not a comprehensive sense of what it is all leading to.''
Ms. Renyi of the CHART program recommends that districts bunch in-service days together to give teachers a chance to delve more deeply into curriculum projects and discussions. Others suggest that teams of teachers in a school be given common preparation periods.
Developing a cadre of trained, long-term substitutes can also relieve teachers' concerns about leaving their classrooms.
To allow for "alternative'' forms of professional development, Ms. Little of the University of California at Berkeley advises that districts shouldn't spend all their staff-development money on packaged approaches.
But eventually, she says, the public is going to have to invest in more salaried work time for teachers to learn new methods. That's not likely, she notes, as long as teachers are only considered to be working when they are with children.
Such an approach might mean lengthening the school year for some teachers to allow them to be paid for participating in summer institutes or for developing curricula.
"Long term, we have to change our calendar,'' Mr. Mills, the Vermont commissioner, says. "We have to add more time without the kids.''
New policies are also needed that recognize and value teachers' learning during their entire careers.
In Vermont, the state Standards Board for Professional Educators created local standards boards to make decisions on teachers' continuing education and relicensure.
Each teacher presents an individual plan for professional growth to a standards board. Teachers can receive credit for a broad array of activities, including participating in reform networks and teaching courses, instead of just formal coursework.
The plans also emphasize the need for teachers to reflect on their current practice and consider their future learning needs, Vermont officials say.
"The whole thing is a shift to really looking at a teacher's needs and finding the appropriate professional development,'' says Betty Carvellas, the chairwoman of the state standards board. "In the past, you took three courses that were related sometimes, and sometimes weren't, or were at a convenient time.''
The state also has created a consortium that plans to establish a data base of professional-development offerings and help teachers who are interested in learning the same things get together.
Eventually, the system should create "focused demand'' for high-quality professional development, Commissioner Mills says. In turn, colleges and universities will have to respond to the demands expressed by teachers.
Finally, Vermont has adopted a new "results oriented'' process for accrediting teacher education programs that calls for institutions to develop portfolios.
Students in the programs also will have portfolios that document what they know and can do, rather than emphasizing what courses they have taken.
For Amy Moore, a math-network leader who has been teaching just five years, Vermont's emphasis on professional development has been a welcome one.
"As a teacher,'' she says, "that's what I want to see: for all educators to be continuously learning.''