Recent Research and Reports

Learning Forward Reports



Evidence of Effectiveness
by Nancy Ames Slabine

Explore the impact of Learning Forward's work. The organization has accumulated a body of evidence that its programs and services are linked to improved professional development policy and practice at state, district, and school levels. The organization also has found evidence that implementing these policies and practices can lead to improved school climate, curriculum, assessment, instruction, and student achievement. Read about Learning Forward's theory of action and products and services, and understand the organization's in-depth work through case studies at the state and district levels.

Building Professional Development to Support New Student Assessment Systems
by Stephanie Hirsh

Authored by Stephanie Hirsh, this white paper for Arabella Philanthropic Advisors is one of several on school reform topics by noted authors. New assessment systems will provide teachers with significant new opportunities to guide all students toward college and career readiness. To benefit from such assessments, states will need to be more thoughtful than they have been in the past about conceiving, organizing, managing, implementing, and evaluating effective professional development. The paper offers eight recommendations to help rebuild professional development infrastructure to support these systems.

Status of Professional Learning

by Learning Forward and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

Launched in 2008 by NSDC and a team of researchers from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), the three-part Status of Professional Learning research study aims to measure the effectiveness of professional learning in the United States. Funding for the multiyear research effort comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.



Why Professional Development Matters

by Hayes Mizell

Written for parents, community members, and policy makers by Learning Forward's senior distinguished fellow, this booklet explains in fundamental terms what professional development is and why it is an important school improvement strategy.

This series of Q-and-As is useful for helping audiences outside of education to understand this critical topic. Download the publication to share at board meetings or community gatherings. Share copies with local, state, and federal policy makers in your advocacy work.

Purchase a printed copy through our online bookstore. Bulk discounts available.

Advancing High-Quality Professional Learning through Collective Bargaining and State Policy
by NSDC, NEA, AFT, and CCSSO

Through collective bargaining agreements and state policies, local school districts and states establish the conditions, resources, and processes for professional learning that strengthen teaching and student learning. Learning Forward, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the National Education Association (NEA) formed a national partnership to share collective bargaining agreements and state policies that support high-quality professional learning for every teacher. Read this report to explore specific policies and recommendations for future actions.


Job-Embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well
by Andrew Croft, Jane G. Coggshall, Megan Dolan, Elizabeth Powers, with Joellen Killion

Prepared collaboratively by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center, and NSDC, this issue brief strives to define job-embedded professional development, identify who is responsible for it, and describe how to implement it.

The brief includes research base, practical examples, and recommendations for districts, schools, and other education agencies either implementing or advocating for this powerful form of professional learning.

Teacher Professional Development Evaluation Guide
by M. Bruce Haslam of Policy Studies Associates

This guide offers succinct recommendations for more frequent and more rigorous evaluation of teacher professional development to improve both the quality of professional learning and its results. Developed originally under contracts with Harford County Public Schools and the Maryland State Department of Education, this report assists schools and districts to evaluate the impact of teacher professional development on teaching practice and student learning. Learning Forward supported modifications to the resource guide to make it useful for schools and districts in all states and beyond.

Reports from the Field



Beyond Classroom Walls: Developing Innovative Work Roles for Teachers
Center for American Progress, April 2011

A small charter school network in California and a large school district in Virginia serve as case studies for this report on alternative approaches to school staffing that provide more flexible work roles and advancement opportunities for highly effective teachers. The authors interview teachers and staff, review data on results, and discuss the challenges in design, systems, and policy that such changes bring. The report concludes with lessons for national and local leaders.


Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning: Insights From Generation Y Teachers
American Federation of Teachers and American Institutes for Research, April 2011

Generation Y public school teachers -- those born between 1977 and 1995 -- represent an increasingly large proportion of the teaching workforce. The AFT partnered with the Ford Foundation and American Institutes for Research to conduct a study of the workplace needs of Gen Y teachers. Through an analytic review of 11 existing, nationally representative teacher surveys, seven scenario-based focus groups with Gen Y teachers around the country, and three case studies of local AFT affiliates, researchers identified five key insights that together can transform schools into high-performing workplaces. Among the insights are the importance of supporting peer learning and shared practice and the need to give teachers regular feedback on their effectiveness.


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform
National Center on Education and the Economy, May 2011

This report ponders what U.S. education policy might look like if it was based on the experiences of higher-performing countries: Canada, China, Finland, Japan, and Singapore. The author compares strategies driving policy agendas in those countries with the U.S. and finds little common ground. Recommended actions include providing a one-year induction period for new teachers; constructing multiple career pathways; identifying teachers ready for advancement; and exploring ways to increase class size and student performance at the same time.


Forging a New Framework for Professional Development: A Report on the Science of Professional Development in Early Childhood Education: A National Summit
Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, February 2011

In December 2009, a national summit convened to identify emerging and critical gaps in knowledge and to present research on -- and policy opportunities for -- effective professional development for early childhood educators. The summit, which was supported by scientists, practitioners, and policymakers, assessed the current status of professional development research and practice, and set an agenda for future policy initiatives to move this work forward.


The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color
College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, 2011

This report synthesizes the available literature, data, and case studies relating to minority male achievement in order to identify factors that contribute either to the persistence or to the attrition of young men of color from high school to higher education. Recommended actions include increasing community, business, and school partnerships to provide mentoring and support, improving teacher education programs, and providing professional development that includes cultural- and gender-responsiveness training.


The Changing Face of Professional Development
Phi Delta Kappa International, May/June 2011

Learning Forward Deputy Executive Director Joellen Killion weighs technology's effects on professional learning in this EDge magazine report available to PDK members only. While technology has potential to produce significant results, Killion stresses it must be designed appropriately, meet stringent standards for effective professional learning, and meet the identified needs of learners, with a focus on changing practice and improving student achievement.

The Wallace Foundation-sponsored Research


The Wallace Foundation's work in the areas of educational leadership, arts education, and out-of-school time learning offers Learning Forward members valuable insights into effective practices. Here we highlight a few relevant reports. Visit The Wallace Foundation's Knowledge Center to find much more.



Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children's learning
RAND Corporation, June 2011

This study confirms that students who attend summer programs can disrupt the educational loss and do better in school than peers who do not attend the same programs. The loss of knowledge and educational skills during the summer months is cumulative over the course of a student's career and further widens the achievement gap between low- and upper-income students. The study was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and conducted by RAND Education.

Districts developing leaders: Lessons on consumer actions and program approaches from eight urban districts
Education Development Center, October 2010

This report, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, examines efforts in eight districts (supported by Wallace grants) to revamp university leader preparation programs and offers insights on effective leadership preparation practices for aspiring principals. Among the findings was the concept that districts exercised their influence as consumers of leadership preparation programs in different ways -- as a discerning customer, as a competitor, and as a collaborator. The report also found that evolving state policies influenced leadership development programs.

Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning
Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement/University of Minnesota and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, July 2010

This study offers new evidence affirming the strong connection between what school leaders do and student achievement and sheds new light on what effective leadership involves. Principals exert the most influence by improving teachers' motivation and working conditions. The study shows that leadership makes its mark largely by strengthening a school's professional community, an environment where teachers work together to improve classroom instruction.