Increasing student success through more rigorous content standards requires educators to refine and expand their practices to support deeper levels of student learning. Teachers may need to expand their content knowledge, especially if curriculum changes require them to integrate concepts new to their grade level or previously not included in their classroom or course curriculum. Common Core standards call for instructional practices that have not traditionally been mainstream in classrooms. In addition, new evaluation systems include an expectation for specific, criteria-based feedback requiring anyone who supervises educators to expand their repertoire and skill set. These are just some of the changes that require highly effective, standards-based professional learning for those educators expected to implement them.
High-priority goals require bold investments
Given this increased demand for professional learning, in a time when resources are limited, state education agency and school system leaders must make bold decisions about their current investments. One of these decisions is how to repurpose resources to achieve their high-priority goals.
Deciding whether and how to repurpose investments of funding, staffing, time, technology, and even material resources is never easy. Such decisions immediately raise fears that favorite, long-standing initiatives or programs will be discontinued. Yet in times of limited resources and major change, leaders in states, school systems, and schools must be responsible and accountable for effective, efficient, and equitable investment of human, fiscal, and material resources.
More rigorous analysis is needed
Periodic analysis of the full scope of a state’s or district’s professional learning initiatives provides multiple benefits. Regular and rigorous analysis of professional learning gives education decision makers essential information for continuous improvement of the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of professional learning. Such an analysis increases accountability for results from professional learning as well as fiscal responsibility for professional learning expenditures.
Learning Forward’s Professional Learning Initiative Analysis: A Workbook for States and Districts is designed to guide representative teams through a five-step process for understanding what professional learning is available; what is known about it; how it contributes to achieving a system’s highest-priority goals; and what actions leaders might consider to increase the overall effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of the professional learning available in their system.
Continuous improvement requires continuous data-based analysis. Regular, rigorous analysis will produce the data to make informed decisions about professional learning to increase its effectiveness, efficiency, and equity to achieve maximum benefits for students.
Senior Advisor, 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.