To the Editor:
I was pleased to see Pendred Noyce’s Commentary on the importance of high-quality evaluation of professional development’s impact (“Professional Development: How Do We Know If It Works?,” Sept. 13, 2006). The National Staff Development Council has had a similar concern for several years.
The council has long supported Ms. Noyce’s primary requirement, that professional development improve the learning of students. This basic tenet is reflected in every one of our Standards for Staff Development, each of which begins with the phrase “Staff development that improves the learning of all students … ” These standards are being used in more than 25 states to help schools and districts evaluate their professional-development programs, particularly through the use of the NSDC Standards Assessment Inventory.
High-quality evaluation of professional-development programs is no easy feat. In 1999, the NSDC examined nearly 500 middle school professional-development initiatives around four criteria, the most important focusing on improving student learning. We were disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to find that only 26 met all four criteria. It is hoped that, using our standards and other tools, educators can work to evaluate and improve their professional-development programs. Practitioners at all levels also must regularly integrate the evaluation of their professional-development efforts into their day-to-day work.
The writer is the deputy executive director of the Oxford, Ohio-based National Staff Development Council.