Learning Forward Blog
Learning Forward’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the reauthorization of ESEA have concentrated solely on professional development. If you’ve had a chance to comb through the bill, which just passed with an 81-17 vote in the Senate late last week, you may have noticed that the words “professional development” appear several times in relation to a wide range of federal and school improvement initiatives.
Teachers earn credentials at the beginning of their careers and may go on to earn a master’s degree or National Board Certification, but these degrees don’t capture or articulate the full range of skills that teachers learn every day, week, and year. Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate innovation in education through technology and research, is building a coalition of educators and partners to develop a microcredential system through which teachers can gain recognition for the skills they master throughout their careers.
The Learning Forward team had a very successful weekend in Toronto with our Academy cohorts, affiliates, institutes, and board meetings. Our Academy 2017 cohort got off to a great start, and many of the Academy 2016 members shared with us how much their learning is starting to gel. The affiliate leaders appreciated the choices of learning opportunities they had throughout the weekend, and several institute participants shared with me that the learning they experienced was both timely and impactful.
Learning Forward has been working diligently to strengthen support for effective professional learning through ESEA authorization. To date, thanks to our work with Penn Hill Group and through our membership in the Knowledge Alliance, we have had some influence on changes to Title II. Some of our key language has been added to the definition of professional learning, which should enhance the alignment between the legislation and what educators want and need most to become their very best.
A few years ago, I attended a State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting in Baltimore co-hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Learning Forward. At the meeting, principals from across the country were asked, “Is your job doable?” Their answers were both passionate and poignant.
We are lucky to work in a field with beginnings and endings, and it’s always a joy to watch our kindergartner or senior students graduate and move to the next level. While summer may mean slower days and vacation for some, it is also a valuable time for professional learning. Recently as I was planning a mini four-day vacation for my husband and me, I realized that planning for that trip and for professional learning are much the same.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I am a fan of the Common Core State Standards. I believe in their potential to increase equitable access to rigorous teaching and learning across the country. This does not mean that I am opposed to local decision making, in fact much the opposite.
Time after time, conversations with decision makers in successful organizations reveal the high value they place on the relationships they try to build among people. The focus on relationships is not to be taken lightly. Toxic relationships diminish capacity (Lewin and Regine, The Soul at Work, 1999). With multiple, increasingly complex initiatives, leaders in successful organizations generate their best work and results from the interactions they have with the people who work there. To create new solutions for challenging problems, they have to have these relationships to enlist the ability and creativity of the people in their schools.
I was in China earlier this month to present a paper on professional development for the Third US-China State/Provincial Education Leaders Dialogue. A day of school visits preceded the dialogue, providing an opportunity to see teacher learning in action. While there were many takeaways from the experience, I want to focus on four key observations.
Shirley Hord, Learning Forward’s scholar laureate, has focused her career on research about and practice of effective professional learning communities. Here she answers an educator’s question about professional learning communities.