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Close on the heels of federal efforts to prod states to build new systems for collecting longitudinal data on students, the Spencer Foundation is rolling out a grant program that is designed to ask hard questions about what exactly educators are going to do with all the data they collect.
The Chicago-based foundation says it’s seeking research that will probe the factors that affect how educators use data, and, it hopes, advance theory on the use of data for improvement purposes.
This initiative comes not a moment too soon. The latest report from the Data Quality Campaign says all states are now on track to have data systems in place by 2011 that can track students’ progress from year to year. What’s unclear is whether states will know how to use that data in effective, and responsible, ways. —Debra Viadero
The National Staff Development Council is putting a lot of effort into getting a new definition of professional development into the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The NSDC’s proposed rewrite stipulates that professional development should: foster collective responsibility for student performance; be team-based and led by school-based leaders; take place several times per week in a “continuous cycle of improvement”; define clear teacher-learning goals based on data analysis; and inform ongoing improvements in student learning.
The proposal is now supported by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and versions of it have been included in legislation proposed in both houses of Congress. But in a recent talk, NSDC Federal Policy Adviser Rene Islas cited an increasing emphasis in Washington on professional development “as a remediation tool [for underperforming teachers], as opposed to a necessary ingredient to effective schools.” That’s not at all what the NSDC had in mind. —Anthony Rebora
Vol. 29, Issue 15, Page 10