Over the past year, the National Staff Development Council, a nonprofit devoted to improving teacher learning, has been pushing Congress to adopt a new, expanded definition of professional development.
If you weren’t aware there was a federal definition of PD, you can probably be forgiven. The current definition resides in a little-noticed No Child Left Behind provision. But, according to the NSDC, it has a far-reaching impact on teacher-quality and -support programs in many schools.
The existing definition manages, at least in theory, to restrict the use of one-shot workshops for teacher-training, but the NSDC believes it does not do enough to ensure in-depth learning for teachers.
The organization’s rewrite thus goes to a new level, stipulating that teacher PD should: foster collective responsibility among educators for student performance; employ team-based methods facilitated by in-school leaders; take place several times per week in a “continuous cycle of improvement”; define clear teacher-learning goals based on data analysis; and inform ongoing improvements in student learning.
Some educators have reacted to the proposed definition with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism that it could ever be implemented effectively given the current constraints on teachers’ time.
Even so, it has met with some success. According to the NSDC, both national teachers’ unions have voiced their support for the new definition, and versions of it have been included in legislation proposed in both houses of Congress.
A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2010 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook