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Standards for Professional Development Released

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Arguing that academic standards for students will mean little unless educators are adequately prepared, the National Staff Development Council last week released a set of standards for effective professional development.

"The bottom line for staff development needs to shift from counting how many staff participate and whether they enjoyed the session, to determining whether the system is improving student achievement,'' said Dennis Sparks, the executive director of the 7,000-member organization, which is based in Oxford, Ohio.

The standards, developed by individuals and representatives of seven education groups, cover the middle school years. The council plans to set separate standards for elementary and secondary education and to award implementation grants to schools and districts.

The standards reach far beyond one-shot workshops to call for training with intensive follow-up and support, study groups, research into promising classroom practices, and peer coaching.

They also call for broadening the focus of professional development to embrace "everyone who affects student learning,'' including school board members, administrators, support staff, and parents.

'User-Friendly'

The standards document is written in the form of a study guide that encourages users to analyze their own needs.

For each standard, it suggests a level of performance for organizations to aspire to, backed up by the theory and research that validates it. Real-life examples of the application of the standard are included, along with possible results that could be expected if the standard is consistently applied. And each standard is followed by a list of discussion questions and references.

"We didn't just want to set forth standards,'' said Stephanie Hirsh, the associate director of the council. "We wanted to make it user-friendly.''

The standards call for schools and districts to align staff development with their goals for improving education, to establish priorities based on data about students, to emphasize a challenging, developmentally appropriate core curriculum, and to address the need for quality education for all children through staff development.

Development of the standards was supported by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

Copies are $12 each for members and $15 for nonmembers from the council, P.O. Box 240, Oxford, Ohio 45056; (800) 727-7288.

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