Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

Answering the $2.5 Billion Challenge

By Learning Forward — October 03, 2012 2 min read

It is upsetting to me any time I hear a policymaker talk about what a waste of money professional development is. For example, Arne Duncan cites the $2.5 billion a year in federal funds for professional development and mentions that when teachers hear that figure, they either laugh or cry.

While Duncan’s stance has recently shifted to emphasize that professional development can be better and that we need more of it, staff in the Department of Education reference conversations with educators who complain that much of their professional development has failed to address the real challenges they face in schools. Policymakers also point to research studies that indicate particular professional development didn’t achieve its intended outcomes and thus declare it a failure.

While we know intuitively that professional learning is important, we know it can work, and we know we need more, all of our professional learning efforts are not consistently effective. Getting the Data standard right can help us understand when and how we are successful and where we need to improve. Let’s begin with the end in mind, clarify the outcomes we expect, and, most importantly, outline how we will measure whether we achieved our goals.

This takes work at many levels. For each professional learning effort a teacher is involved in, the source of classroom data to document its impact may be different. For example, the work a teacher does with a coach to strengthen her higher-order questioning skills may be documented through different strategies than what a schoolwide team does to measure its learning to support a new literacy curriculum.

While we know so much about meaningful data collection and use, we still have a lot of work to do in this field, and I’d start with these action steps:

Let’s build consensus on what we mean by generally acceptable evidence of impact of professional learning.

Next, let’s identify or build tools and resources that ensure the data collection process is a seamless part of the teacher, coach, and principal workday.

As part of this work, we must ensure that all data collected advances educator and student performance.

Finally, we need to ensure the data collection process is viewed as helpful rather than a compliance activity.

There are many tools and processes already developed and in use that take these steps. However, these occur in isolated situations. If all educators don’t have access to this data and the knowledge to use it well, how can they demand the professional learning that drives the results we all want for students?

Once our systematic use of data helps us communicate with compelling information about the value of professional learning, I know we’ll hear a different response from our policymakers. I can just hear Secretary Duncan saying, “We are fortunate that we have billions of dollars allocated by Congress annually to support the continuous improvement of our educators. We must ensure that we use those funds in a way that supports the day-to-day problems of our educators. Professional learning is the improvement strategy that builds both individual and collective capacity for results, and we must ensure we get everything possible from it.”

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read