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Foundation Hopes To Fix Professional Development

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After concluding that adequate professional-development programs are few and far between, an education foundation has awarded 10 grants to help conceive better ways to prepare, support, and train teachers.

The National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, which is endowed by the National Education Association, awarded the grants to groups designing model programs that accomplish one of four goals: allowing teachers to evaluate and assist each other; tailoring ongoing professional development to schools' individual needs; urging veteran teachers to mentor new ones; and linking teacher training to the demands of new technology.

"For the most part, the overwhelming majority of professional development [consists of] one-day workshops put on by a consultant who makes a presentation," said Arthur E. Wise, the chairman of the NFIE board of directors and the president of the Washington-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. "From what we know about adult learning, that's not the way to go."

Fleshing Out Findings

The NFIE recommended elements of successful professional-development programs last year in its report "Teachers Take Charge of Their Learning: Transforming Professional Development for Student Success." Following a two-year study, the group found that the best programs were teacher-driven, ongoing, and tailored to the specific needs of educators. ("Teachers Need 2 Weeks a Year for Their Own Learning," Aug. 7, 1997.)

The grantees named last week were among some 200 education groups that submitted proposals. Each of the winners, which are required to raise some matching funds, will receive a total of $17,000 over three years from the foundation.

"They're putting flesh on the bones of the report," Judith Reyni, the NFIE executive director, said.

In Rhode Island, for example, a partnership that includes the state affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers and the NEA, along with the state education department, is using its grant to plan a new mid-career training program in the Central Falls district.

"It boils down to finding a way to create a professional-practice school where expert veteran teachers can share their expertise with other teachers," said Colleen Bielecki, the director of professional issues at the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers.

Ms. Reyni said grants will be awarded each year "until we fix professional development."

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