To the Editor:
Educators and policymakers have every reason to applaud American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s bold pledge to improve teacher-evaluation systems (“AFT Chief Promises Due-Process Reform,” Jan. 20, 2010). But this effort—which also calls for professional development to help ineffective teachers improve their practice—will address the needs of a very small percentage of the teaching workforce. It is time to get serious about ensuring that the 3 million other teachers in the nation’s classrooms are able to engage in regular, team-based, content-rich, and sustained professional learning, which research has shown to help improve student achievement.
It’s a good first step to take on cumbersome personnel procedures and provide support to low-performing teachers, but let’s not let those efforts stand in the way of taking on the bigger challenge. We must make sure that all teachers have both the time and the opportunities to participate in professional-learning experiences that promote collaborative work and problem-solving and strengthen teaching across grade levels and subject areas.
The experience of high-achieving countries such as Finland, Singapore, and Japan reveals that such a strategy works to improve learning in the long term, and to reduce the number of struggling teachers in the first place.
National Staff Development Council
A version of this article appeared in the February 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Professional Learning: Expand It in AFT Plan