Effective professional development is essential to improving adult and student performance. There are multitudes of studies that confirm the power of professional learning on improving school performance and student achievement (visit our Evidence Database for examples). Yet despite years of studies that confirm what we intuitively know about the importance of professional learning, we continue to see skepticism in the field, with many claiming that the research on the positive impact of professional development is inconclusive.
Decision makers from the White House to state houses across the country have declared the nation’s investment in professional development (totaling more than $3 billion) a waste of money. They point to a lack of evidence of impact on instruction and achievement. And in many ways, their views merely represent the information they receive. We need to do a better job of highlighting cases where effective professional learning has impacted teacher practice and student achievement.
Time and time again, we are so busy doing the actual work that we fail to share our own results. For example, Florida has had in place for many years a powerful statewide system of professional development review that shows a strong connection between its approach to professional learning and student achievement. Unfortunately, few people know about it. A major study was conducted in Georgia that demonstrated the link between its professional development approach and results for students, but again, few people know about that effort. Last year, a major study of Title I schools found that grade-level teams working in stable school-based settings, with distributed leadership and explicit protocols, produced improved test scores and greater achievement growth over a three-year period. Again, we must point to these success stories as reminders that investing in professional development is key to the success we want for every child.
Today it is not acceptable for only education researchers to discuss the findings related to the link between professional learning and student results. We must all be armed with stories of its success and how, if professional development support is eliminated, our results will stagnate or even backslide. Please begin today to identify 2-3 powerful examples of how professional development has made a significant difference for a school, a team, and students. Share these stories with key decision makers in your community, ans then send them on to your state and federal representatives. They need to hear from you that any reduction in our nation’s or its states’ investment in professional development will assuredly harm our education system. I believe it, and I know you do too. So let them know it.
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.