November 2011

Nov 01, 2011

Find recent news and reports about developments in professional learning, school improvement, and education policy from local, regional, national, and international news sources. The news highlighted here is selected to be of particular interest to Learning Forward members and audiences.

PD in the News is periodically compiled by Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow.

Be aware that web addresses for news stories from some sources are short-lived, and many newspapers require registration or login, often at no cost. Issues from this archive of PD in the News will likely have many out-of-date urls; web site addresses are current as of the original publication date.

Student Achievement and Professional Learning

Center, MO

"Center Elementary recently was named only the second National Blue Ribbon School in Northeast Missouri's history. Only 305 schools nationwide, including four schools in Missouri, received the prestigious educational honor this year. The award is based primarily on statewide assessment scores -- in this case, Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) scores, the state's basis for the Adequate Yearly Progress goals set by federal education law. Schools must be invited to apply based on their performance, which must be in at least the 90th percentile of schools statewide and must have hit every AYP goal for five years…[Principal Tammy Angel] cited the support of the Board of Education and the collaboration among teachers at Center and New London elementary schools. 'Our teachers collaborate a lot with the teachers at New London Elementary, especially during our PLC time,' Angel said, referring to the schools' Professional Learning Communities, a method of professional development. The Center teachers themselves exude a tenacity toward teaching that keeps them from ever giving up on a student, Angel said. 'The teachers here are very diligent, so to speak,' she said. 'They do whatever it takes to make sure the kids are learning. If they don't learn one way, the teachers use another method, or try intervention, or call the parents. ... I've never heard a teacher say, 'This kid can't get it.''

East Palo Alto, CA

"East Palo Alto's Ravenswood School District increased its standardized testing scores, according to the newly released Academic Performance Index (API), although the district also failed to make the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act. The District's API has increased 78 points over a period of three years, with every individual school's scores also increasing, according to Superintendent Maria De La Vaga…Staff development has been another contributing factor, including professional learning teams as well as professional development emphasized. '[We are] ensuring grade level teacher collaboration times to review lesson plans, student work, student data and support for each other,' De La Vaga says."

Laurel, MS

"Nora Davis Magnet School conducted its academic achievement celebration on Friday…The state Department of Education released last month the latest Quality of Distribution Index (QDI) and accountability levels based on the recent test results. QDI scores are a composite of all test data that gives schools an overall grade and label. Officials said Nora Davis has the highest elementary school QDI in Jones County with 169 QDI and receiving the level of a 'successful' school…[Principal Elaine] Read said the school set goals and utilized data to achieve those goals. 'Through effective professional development, teachers have learned how to unpack the objectives and plan lessons using effective strategies to maximize learning,' Read added. 'Our Snapshot Assessment provides teachers with the data needed to determine students' weaknesses and strengths. We have become a more goal-oriented, data-driven school.'"

Queens, NY

"The Fresh Meadows elementary school was honored for being a high performing school, earning itself the federal government's prestigious Blue Ribbon award and a brand new banner across the school. According to David Thomas, spokesperson for the United States Department of Education, the school received the award for consistently performing at high levels on New York State assessments in both reading and mathematics. The school's most recent assessment test scores place it amongst the highest in the nation… According to Principal Molly Wang, the formula for success lies in the investment of several long-term school programs, including extracurricular ballroom dancing and drama programs that take place during and after school. But the school takes greater pride in its professional development and dual-language program. Through the professional development program -- now in its fifth year -- teachers collaborate with the Columbia University Teachers College, where an on-site literacy staff works with them throughout the year. The program enables teachers to evaluate and revise classroom practices as they may become outdated. 'In the last four years, the kids have done exceptionally well in assessment testing. I believe the teachers are strong in their knowledge and in the delivery of instruction,' Wang said."

Longmont, CA

"The St. Vrain Valley School District showed improvement on the 2011 school performance framework reports, with most schools showing improvement in academic achievement and student growth. Central and Spangler elementary schools moved from turnaround plans to performance plans between 2010 and 2011…Of the possible points on the framework report, Central earned 63.8 percent, up from 36.4 percent in 2010. Most of that difference came from increasing academic growth and closing the difference in academic growth between different types of students… District officials are crediting the improvement to a renewed focus on making student achievement everyone's priority. The assistant superintendents and member of the professional development team pooled their resources to better support teachers, said assistant superintendent Connie Syferd. "We just looked differently at the people we had," Syferd said."

Lawrence, KS

"Ellen Willets, a specialist for curriculum and instruction in the Lawrence school district, reports that scores on math assessments were up during the past academic year — the first for implementation Math Expressions, the district's new math curriculum for elementary schools. At all grade levels taking assessments the rate of students meeting state standards or above increased from the previous year… Scores for 'disaggregated groups' of elementary students also recorded increases: • Students who qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches: 84.5, up from 78.7. • Students with disabilities: 72.1, up from 67. • English language learners: 84.1, up from 75.6. For those groups, the 2011 rates also were higher than those for 2008 and 2009… The increase in student performance on the assessments can be attributed to more than the curriculum itself, Willet said. Teachers participated in solid, 'reactive' professional development, with efforts designed to gain feedback, make changes and actually follow through with best practices to see that kids have the best chance to learn the most and do their best. 'We didn't just pick a good book,' Willets told members of the Lawrence school board on Monday night. 'We had people who made this happen.'"

Charlestown, MA

"One school often mentioned as an extended day success story is the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown. About 600 students are in school from 7 .a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, students have a half day and teachers have professional development the rest of the day. 'We have turned our school around. We were the lowest-performing middle school in the city. We were about to get shut down, said Amrita Sahni, director of instruction at Edwards. She said a state grant pays $1,300 per student per year for the extra time which the school added six years ago. 'Now we have one of the highest growths in achievement levels in the city. We're proud of that. We believe the time — and how we've used the time — is how we've been able to get those results,' Sahni said. The teachers at Edwards say they helped design the extended day, they can choose whether they'll stay beyond the contract-mandated 1:40 p.m., and they get paid extra if they do stay."

Phoenix, AZ

"[Twenty teachers at Mitchell Elementary School] set out to prove that they could turn around their under-performing school despite budget cuts, layoffs, and students living in poverty and crime-ridden neighborhoods...Daniela Robles achieved what is considered the gold standard for school teachers -- board certification. 'I had just achieved board certification and really found a whole renewed passion,' she says…'At the time my district was going through mandated programs, scripted curriculum, professional development that have been mandated, and I found that I didn't have control over my practice.' Robles took control and brought her fellow teachers along, and sparked a revolution at her school, Mitchell Elementary, part of the Isaac School District in Phoenix. The educational movement is the subject of the 'Mitchell 20' -- a new documentary that follows Robles and 19 other teachers at Mitchell Elementary who banded together to change their school. The goal -- chart their school's own destiny, and not let budget cuts, socioeconomic factors, or standardized requirements keep their students back. The 20 teachers all worked towards their national certification -- something that was unheard of…'Here's a story of a group of teachers in a public school who are improving their practice and doing it in an environment that may not be thought of as excellent... and there is excellence in the lowest socioeconomic schools in hardest hit areas in the valley,' says Robles. And it made a difference. Test scores improved -- attendance was up and parent participation increased. But it may have been too much of good a thing at one school. As the film shows, the Isaac school district decided to parcel out some of the now excelling teachers. It's a move that the documentary uses to highlights the complexities between the ever growing educational bureaucracy -- and what happens inside the classroom." [ See also: ]

State/National Policy and Professional Learning


"Governor Paul LePage and his commissioner of education, Steven Bowen, said Monday night that the education system in Maine is broken and efforts to fix it had failed. Students are underperforming and too many of them are dropping out, at the same time that maintaining school infrastructure for shrinking class sizes is too expensive, they said. Meanwhile employers are having difficulty finding employees with the right skill sets, and educated students are leaving the state for jobs elsewhere…We must stop lurching from one so-called improvement to another, said Bowen, 'but go to the core of the educational model and build a completely new type of system.' 'There is no more money,' said Bowen. 'As we think about it, we have to do more with less.' Bowen said regional approaches make sense, including regional service centers that would include human resources, professional development, student assessments, data analysis and special education administration."


"School districts in Missouri may seek professional development services for teachers and program guidance from private vendors should the state make certain changes in 2012. Cheri Fuemmler, director of the Southeast Regional Professional Development Center on the Southeast Missouri State University campus, said the directors of the state's nine regional centers were told by representatives of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that when consolidated contracts for federal programs expire in June, professional development services may be awarded instead to private vendors who submit proposals…The centers were established by DESE and are funded through an annual grant from the department with monies generated by Senate Bill 380. The Southeast Regional center is also supported by Southeast Missouri State University and membership fees of participating school districts. It provides services to teachers and administrators that improve student achievement. The Southeast Region center serves school districts in 16 Southeast Missouri counties. The center could lose funding if a vendor's proposal were instead chosen by a district. The main services now provided by the center that could be stopped by the change include professional development in special education, professional learning communities, positive behavior support and migrant education, according to Fuemmler. Also included could be the work of special-education compliance consultants. Fuemmler said out of 15 consultants who travel out of the office to offer services, 11 are federally funded… According to Dr. Sherry Copeland, a former director of a regional professional development center in Missouri and now assistant superintendent of the Cape Girardeau School District, private vendors can charge much more money than a public center. The way the department would make the change, she said, puts school districts at the mercy of vendors. Dr. Jim Welker, superintendent of the Cape Girardeau School District, said the Southeast Missouri Superintendents Association sent a letter last month to the commissioner of education asking that the department not change the way services are provided through the centers. 'We rely on them very heavily, and we are very much in favor of them continuing to provide the services as they are, rather than it being given out to a private vendor that wouldn't be as local,' Welker said."


"Last week Rep. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, introduced legislation to eliminate the requirements that force teachers to complete additional college courses to retain the teacher certification mandated by the state. Removing such requirements would be a good idea for a number of reasons. Under current law, public school teachers have six years from the start of their teaching career in Michigan to complete the 18 semester credits necessary to advance their teaching certificate from a provisional level to a professional certificate… High-performing teachers can't be concocted in a lab by adding the right number of graduate degrees and professional development courses. Eliminating state requirements would allow teachers and local school districts to spend less time jumping through hoops and more time improving student learning."


"Students attending Colorado's full-time online education programs have typically lagged their peers on virtually every academic indicator, from state test scores to student growth measures to high school graduation rates. But an independent analysis of previously unreleased online school data…reveals new findings and an achievement gap that alarmed education officials…Colorado Virtual Academy, the state's largest online program with more than 5,000 students, has seen its poverty rate double to 19 percent and its minority population rise to 22 percent in the past five years. Those figures are still below state averages – as are COVA's test results…Timothy Booker, who chairs the charter school board overseeing COVA…described board members as 'very concerned' about the school's progress and said they discussed ending their contract with K12 Inc., the Virginia-based online provider that operates virtual schools in 27 states. In 2009-10, K12 Inc. received $22 million in public funding to operate COVA. But Booker said a one-on-one conversation with the head of K12 Inc. led to a sharper focus on professional development for COVA teachers, emphasizing the need for more student interaction.'"


"[State Superintendent of Education] Cindy Hill…has taken the Wyoming Department of Education administration away from its previous emphasis on compliance with state and federal requirements. Instead, her focus has been on instruction and creating partnerships between teachers in different school districts. The new focus puts a premium on establishing partnerships with districts and helping them work together to solve common problems, Hill said…As an example, she said she was bringing in teachers from a high-performing district to offer new ideas to teachers in a district concerned about its students' reading scores…Similar partnerships have led to the Teacher to Teacher program, which pairs teachers statewide to work on issues like literacy and math. Unlike some professional development options, the training sessions are planned so teachers don't miss classroom time, Hill said. Instead, they're set after school or on the weekends. Currently, the program is running the 3 + 8 reading workshop. 'We want our teachers working alongside our kids so our kids can get as much of that quality instruction with best practices (as possible),' Hill said. 'Substitutes are good people, but they're a substitute.'"


[Janet Barresi, state superintendent of education,] "said her department was cutting other professional development programs that she found to be 'lacking and ineffective' and using that money to help roll out the Common Core State Standards over the next four years." Arkansas "The University of Central Arkansas College of Education has received notice from the Arkansas Department of Education that UCA's Mashburn Center for Learning has been awarded $280,000 to improve academic outcomes for students at risk for school failure. The grant will be used to fund high-quality, research-based professional development to science, math, English, social studies, and special education teachers who work with adolescents. A critical part of the Mashburn mission is to build statewide capacity to provide professional development for teachers across content disciplines. The Mashburn team has developed a professional development/sustainability model designed to certify professional developers within school districts and education co-op sites."


"Using a five-year, $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education researchers with "Project ALL" (Authentic Learning for Leaders) are developing the world's first computer simulator that puts prospective administrators in the challenging role of leading a virtual middle school and then assesses their performance with those real world situations. Job candidates work through a year-in-the-life of a school principal and see hundreds of leadership-related events, opportunities, problems and possible solutions that are not always covered in textbooks or graduate lectures… "You see the problems faced by principals every day," said Project ALL Simulation Director Dale Mann, Ph.D. "You make choices and you see the immediate and vivid consequences of those choices."… The simulator also can be applied to professional development, employee assessment and graduate education. VCU already is using the simulator as a teaching, learning and assessment tool in its Master of Teaching, Post Master's and Doctor of Education in Leadership programs… A video demonstration is available at

School Systems and Professional Learning

Jenison, MI

"Superintendent Tom TenBrink said that during upcoming professional development days, teachers will participate in a simulation of what it's like to live in poverty. Approximately 70 to 80 teachers will participate. The program costs about $25 per person, and is being underwritten by a donation from a local business owner…[TenBrink said] 'nine years ago, the Jenison School community had less than 1 percent poverty, according to the standard established for families to qualify for free and reduced federal lunches. This year, our district poverty level is around 27 percent, with one of our elementary schools at 41 percent.'"

Chicago, IL

"Chicago Public Schools is hoping to secure $600,000 in private funding to launch a more rigorous Common Core curriculum at 60 schools this year. The schools will get an early start in preparing for testing that will begin in 2014-2015. Teachers at 35 schools will meet monthly and get ongoing professional development and full planning support. Another 25 schools will get to start early as well and get a chance to collaborate, but they will not receive full support from central office." Nashville, TN "After just one year of personalized, on-site professional development for teachers at Cameron Middle School, provided by Lipscomb University, 92 percent of Cameron teachers have made significant improvement in their annual teaching goals. As part of the Cameron Transformation Partnership -- a five-year plan to eliminate achievement gaps at Cameron Middle School, a challenged, diverse school in downtown Nashville -- Lipscomb was contracted by the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to develop a model, on-site professional development program to meet the specific improvement needs of each teacher during Cameron's transition to a charter school. Cameron Middle School Principal Chris Hames…said, 'Excellent professional development combined with committed teachers has paid off in terms of student learning here at Cameron,' Hames said. 'What is remarkable about this teaching staff is that they knew there would be additional professional development requirements each week, yet they chose to stay and accept the challenge, knowing that they would be supported with embedded, personalized professional development.' The Lipscomb College of Education created a year-long program that provided Cameron teachers with 1,141 hours of professional development and individualized training, far more than other [Nashville] teachers normally receive in a typical school year.
The model program at Cameron included:
  • A Lipscomb professional development liaison who works daily, on-site at Cameron;
  • Weekly sessions with doctorate-level Lipscomb professors in areas such as classroom management, family engagement, reading and math strategies and effective use of technology;
  • Customized training sessions based on the personal improvement goals identified by each teacher; and
  • Content including best practices and the latest research findings in brain function, learning and effective teaching.
… 'There has been a lot of discussion recently about getting the best people into classrooms to produce successful education reform. While teacher recruitment and selection is highly important, this program shows that consistent, targeted professional development for the committed, eager teachers we already have in the schools can make vast improvements,' said Candice McQueen, dean of the Lipscomb College of Education. Lipscomb will continue the professional development model at Cameron for two more years. In the 2011-12 school year, Lipscomb will provide a total of 1,976 hours of professional development for the Cameron teachers, provide an opportunity to have a Lipscomb faculty member as a mentor for grade level teams and focus on improving planning, classroom engagement practices and instruction with English Learner students in the classroom. In May 2010, the Metro Nashville Board of Education voted unanimously to enlist LEAD Public Schools in the transition of Cameron Middle School to a charter school and contracted with Lipscomb to reduce achievement gaps at the public school through professional development.'"

Sioux Falls, SD

"Another big piece of the district's updated technology plan is an emphasis on teacher training. A survey will identify who's technologically competent and who isn't, so the district can make professional development more meaningful. 'If our teachers and staff don't know how to use the technology, then it's basically worthless,' board member Doug Morrison said."

Napa, CA

"Beginning this school year, the Napa Valley Unified School District is implementing a four-year learning plan aimed at closing a student achievement gap and meeting state standards. Napa Valley Unified has been under Program Improvement status since 2006-07 for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress…The Learning Plan costs $11.1 million for the four-year rollout. Of that, $6.2 million will go toward professional development for the district's teachers, and $4.9 million will go toward technology costs… Professional development is the first phase of the rollout. More than 500 district teachers will be trained and coached in project-based learning — an in-depth learning process in which students respond to complex questions by using information technology to complete rigorous projects, with the goal of learning key academic content and practicing the 'four C's' [critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity]."

Hendersonville, TN

"Union University is partnering with Sumner County Schools to create two leadership academies for teachers and administrators designed to help better manage ever-evolving challenges in education. The university has launched a pilot program aimed at grooming emerging leaders and helping existing leaders sharpen skills. The program will consist of five full-day sessions to begin in June 2012, according to Charles Lea, executive director of Union University's Hendersonville campus… There is no cost to the school system or for the approximately 40 educators chosen to participate in the program's pilot year... Leadership Institute for Administrators (LIA) will focus on giving existing leaders tools to create goals for their schools, making difficult decisions and how to manage changes set forth in new education mandates. For teachers and assistant principals hoping to one day take over leadership of their schools, the Leadership Institute for Teachers (LIT) will offer practical advice and training about curriculum expectations, using test data for good decision-making and tailoring the best lesson design for students…[The] estimated the total cost of the program is about $70,000 for the first year. Union will cover about half the cost and raise the rest through donations."

Laurel, MD

"Brenda Chapman has had a few months to settle into her new position as principal at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School…One of the building blocks Chapman has introduced is the teacher accountability notebook, a kind of portfolio, she said, for professional development, self-reflection and goals. 'In order to improve student performance, you have to improve teacher performance,' she said. 'I want to build the capacity of teachers. (In this notebook) there's a self-reflection assessment; goals for student improvement and professional growth; formal and informal observations, so teachers can always reflect on where they are, what the administration sees, what practices they can put in place to improve their performance. You can walk around the school and see the classroom goals teachers have posted outside their rooms.'"

Vancouver, WA

"The Vancouver school board approved a new two-year contract Tuesday with the Vancouver Education Association… The contract was negotiated following a state budget reduction that forced a 1.9 percent cut in Washington's salary allocation plan for teachers…The district also will temporarily eliminate professional development for the two-year contract."

Danbury / New Haven / Norwalk CT

"As part of its efforts to reshape public education in New England and provide more learners with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college, work and life, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) has awarded the Danbury, New Haven and Norwalk, CT school districts grants of $250,000 to support the professional development of teachers, administrators and district leaders. NMEF recognizes that professional development is critical to successfully implementing learning approaches that place students at the center of the educational experience and provide the deeper learning experiences that prepare students for college and careers. NMEF believes that student-centered approaches can create more adaptive learning engagements that help students master the academic knowledge, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills they need to thrive beyond high school. The three grants represent NMEF's Building a Collaborative Culture grant program. The program is intended to support urban districts in providing high-quality professional development and creating environments where student-centered approaches can succeed."

Burley, ID

"A decision to release students one hour early on Fridays has caused little ruckus in the Cassia County School District. It's not only provided teachers time for planning and professional development, but may also allow the district's elementary, junior and senior high schools to better-align their curriculum…Steve Copmann, principal at Burley Junior High School, said the hour is gained by shortening all of the day's 68-minute class periods by about eight minutes each. Despite concerns that attendance might drop those days, students haven't started treating the day lightly, he said. 'Students and parents know that it is still a regular day of school,' Copmann said. 'Our teachers treat it the same way. I believe it has been made clear that it is business as usual, not a holiday release.' Educators have capitalized so far on the extra hour for professional development. At Copmann's school, they break into teams to talk over data, curriculum and general practices. Each teacher team at his school must have an agenda, minutes and sign-in sheet submitted weekly, he said. He and Vice Principal Deana Christensen sit in on a different meeting each week. Some of his staff have also asked to meet with Burley High School and Mountain View Elementary School staff to align the three school's lessons with each other. 'It is truly amazing to see the work that is happening,' Copmann said."

Cincinnati, OH

"A new website…is a partnership between Cincinnati, Newport and Covington schools, designated – Together We Educate -- to serve as a far-reaching collection of local innovations and opportunities… One section of the site... called PD with Impact, offers a menu of teacher professional development options that have proven records of raising student achievement levels. The clearinghouse offers professional development alternatives with measurable outcomes. 'That's revolutionary in this country,' says education consultant Jan Leslie, who worked to help develop the site. 'We are all about data.'"

Huntsville, AL

"New principals in Huntsville this year may be put through a 124-hour training program designed to ensure they have the tools they need to succeed. The school board is considering a contract with the SUPES Academy, a national non-profit organization that offers leadership development programs for school system leaders. The academy is a subsidiary of PROACT Search, the Illinois-based executive search firm the board hired last month to help recruit quality teachers and administrators…The first academy, expected for the spring of 2012, would have 20 participants -- 12 principals put into place this academic year and eight potential principals. A second class would be held the following spring. Participants would have 124 hours of professional development, including 64 hours face to face and 60 hours of independent study work...The research-based curriculum would be divided, with 40 percent focusing on personalized professional development and 60 percent based on district-wide objectives. [Superintendent Casey] Wardynski said a lot of the program's work would be done on Saturdays…After completing the academy, participants would each be provided with a SUPES mentor for a year. The mentor would make quarterly site visits, conduct twice-monthly video conferences and provide daily phone and email support."

St. Paul, MN

"Mary Cathryn Ricker…the now-six-year president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers…is working to address the question 'What do you do with a good teacher?' She said with the help of grant money from the American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers is developing a preparation program called CareerTeacher that includes an aggressive recruitment strategy and clear opportunities for professional development for beginning and tenured teachers. The program calls for peer-to-peer evaluations and in-school leadership opportunities. Ricker said teacher evaluations should not be about picking out bad seeds but turning good teachers into great teachers. 'No one has ever approached our veteran teachers from an asset-based model,' she said. 'There are people who have had so little feedback in 20 years of teaching that when they are faced with an evaluation form after 17 years they get physically sick.' She said peer-to-peer teacher evaluations will not only give both strong and struggling teachers feedback, but will also provide now-lacking opportunities for leadership. Minnesota House Rep. Carlos Mariani agreed that lack of support for teacher leaders is a problem. He described a teacher friend who moved from district to district searching for a school that would support his outreach efforts to students and parents. 'We always say that teachers got to improve,' he said. 'They don't exist in a vacuum.'"

Bergen, NY

"With resources scarce and expectations increasing, administrators in small school districts across New York state are struggling to maintain necessary professional development activities for their teachers…During this month's Superintendent's Conference Day, educators from the Byron-Bergen, Elba, and Oakfield-Alabama School Districts worked together with specialists from the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership to translate information on the New York State Core Curriculum Content Standards into their daily practice. 'One of the benefits of working together on the new state standards is the ability of a high school teacher to talk to someone else who teaches what he or she teaches,' Elba Superintendent Jerry Piwko said. 'Our three districts have only one chemistry teacher each, for example, so this was a chance for them to work as a team.'

Brooksville, FL

"Hernando County school officials are now rolling out the first part of a two-piece system that will revolutionize how teachers are evaluated and paid…Fifty-one percent of a teacher's overall evaluation will be based on the student data, 44 percent on the Charlotte Danielson framework and 5 percent on the progress teachers make toward goals outlined in their professional development plans."

Los Angeles, CA

"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced the successful resolution of the first proactive civil rights enforcement action taken by the Department of Education under the Obama Administration. 'Today's agreement will go a long way toward ensuring that Los Angeles' English Learner and African-American students are performing to their fullest potential,' Duncan said… For English Learner students, the District will revamp in almost its entirety, the ELL program. LAUSD will:.. * Do meaningful professional development geared specifically at strengthening the delivery of instruction to EL students… For African-American students, the District will:.. * Develop a plan to enhance the capacity of teachers to address the needs of African-American students."

Spencer, IA

"At Spencer's middle and high school levels, professional development focuses on departments and what is happening in each. The departmental approach, which happened locally last spring, is aligned to bring in Iowa Core standards -- which all schools are required to fully implement in grades nine through 12 by July 1, 2012, and in grades kindergarten through eight by the 2014-15 school year -- as well as implementation of new textbooks and curriculum revisions...The district's professional development sessions also have universal learnings which thread through content areas. 'For our professional development specifically, those universal learnings include literacy in the content areas, promoting reflective practice by teachers and development of what we're calling anchor tasks, which are summative assessments, preferably performance in nature, that assess the big ideas and concepts of a unit,' [said Ellie Wiemers, interim director of school improvement]. 'Everybody 7-12 is working on those three things.' An important piece of Spencer's professional development puzzle is secondary-level instructors continuing to teach content-specific literacy skills. The district's system of educational professionals are also incorporating the common language of Authentic Intellectual Work, which helps in accomplishing this task."

Scarborough, ME

[Dr. George Entwistle III, the new superintendent of schools, said that a community forum in his] "last district, in Belmont, Mass., uncovered teacher dissatisfaction with their professional development program. 'Both young and experienced teachers said that, despite our best efforts, development days were really a waste of time,' Entwistle said. And so, out went the age-old parade of motivational speakers, replaced by yearlong research projects by small teams into various teaching methods."

Toledo, OH

"Teachers in Toledo Public Schools scored on average below their Ohio peers on a new measurement tool being developed by the state that will impact how public school teachers are paid and evaluated. The metric, called value added, shows how much students' test scores grew year over year and attempts to measure the impact that individual teachers have on student academic achievement…TPS officials, value-added proponents, did not dismiss the results. 'It's definitely a conversation starter,' TPS Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault said. The district is implementing reforms that officials believe will improve teacher effectiveness. Each school is developing teacher-based teams, where teachers meet regularly to analyze their students' test results and to create techniques to improve academic performance. Mr. Gault also said the district needs to better train teachers by providing professional development to improve their skills."

Notus, ID

"In an effort to save money, the Notus School District implemented a four-day school week this year. District Superintendent Craig Woods said the new schedule has provided several unintended benefits to teachers and students, and the response has been mostly positive. 'One of the biggest benefits is we're starting to see more professional development and collaboration for the staff,' Woods said. With students out of school on Fridays, teachers have formed teams to improve the curriculum, ensuring that students learn the skills and knowledge they need as they pass from class to class. Teachers also use Fridays to meet with parents and to tutor individual students, he said."

Jackson, TN

"Members of the Jackson-Madison County School Board received a draft of the district's five-year strategic plan, which included more specifics and budgetary estimates… Another component in the plan involves offering professional development to early learning programs offered through local churches. [Superintendent Buddy] White told board members that such an initiative would ensure student readiness for school."

Atlanta, GA

"[Monica] Groves spent two years teaching at Jean Childs Young middle school in Atlanta before she went to Harvard University to pursue a Master's degree in teaching and curriculum. The hard-earned lessons she picked up along the way helped prepare her for her new role as a curriculum specialist for KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, a network of free public charter schools…But rather than teaching in a classroom, she now guides more than 80 teachers in five schools…'Collaboration makes a difference,' Groves said, 'when you're not just an island, when you're not just in the classroom figuring it out by yourself and you only have your lens as the only lens to kind of check your reality and see what's going on.' And she's offering exactly what so many teachers [say] they need: professional development and curriculum support."

What People are Saying About Professional Learning

Mentor, OH

[Jacqueline Hoynes, superintendent:] "Our teachers are all on board on accountability. The teachers in Mentor use value-added data during their Professional Learning Community time. Teachers of like disciplines, or by grade level, meet on a regular basis to collaborate, share data, and discuss instructional strategies. Sharing data, including test scores and value-added, is a critical part of their work."

Covina, CA

[Catherine Nichols, superintendent of the Covina-Valley Unified School District:] "Good teachers embrace continuous improvement and constantly reflect on their teaching practices to make changes in order for all students to reach the highest possible levels of learning. They are constantly researching, collaborating and talking to colleagues about what is working in their classrooms to help the students experience academic success. They are enthusiastic about teaching and learning and instill a love of learning in their students."

United States

[U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee):] "So it is very tempting just to pass a law in Washington to say: Let's order it. Let's just do it. Well, that is not the way things work in the United States of America. We did that with professional development. The law now says, with all that $2.5 billion: Do it. Have professional development programs. I do not know what the Senator from Colorado thinks, but my view — and I do not think Secretary Duncan would mind my repeating his comments often — that is the biggest waste of money we have in the Federal education program. It is not well used. We say: Do it, and so they have all these programs. Teachers know it is a waste of time, and everybody knows it is a waste of time. We are not spending that money wisely."

Athens, GA

[Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County School District, and Arthur Horne, dean of the University of Georgia College of Education:] "University of Georgia courses are currently being taught on site at six Clarke County schools, with plans to offer courses at one or more additional schools beginning in January. Five locations are known as a Model 4 PDS and house a professor-in-residence, in addition to hosting student teachers and on-site courses. Each professor-in-residence is a full-time UGA faculty member who spends half of his or her time on-site. This individual, in partnership with the school's principal and leadership team, facilitates professional development related to the schools' individual needs. The professor-in-residence also brokers resources that enable schools to take advantage of a wide variety of educational experiences for both students and teachers. At each site, UGA faculty, professors-in-residence and UGA students work with school teachers and administrators to implement the educational innovations specific to that school."


[Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council:] "The education community knows what works: professional development, consistent and thorough classroom observation and using results to help good educators become great."

New York City

[Monica Berry, principal of P.S. 87, responding to a question about what she would do if she were "chancellor for a day":] "When I first started teaching, we would have professional development once a month. I would re-institute that once a month for schools, to be able to do all of the work that they're asking us to do, to have the time for the training and planning of it."

Abington, IL

[Tim Black, superintendent, speaking in favor of the Common Core State Standards:] "For years, we spent professional development time trying to figure out a way to either cram in the ridiculous amount of Illinois State standards or trying to figure out which state standards were most important because there was not enough time in the school year to possibly teach them all. [Now, we have] contracted with Two Rivers Professional Development center to have a Common Core expert on-site to help lead us through this process. Our plan for this year is to align with Common Core and align our curriculum across grade levels and across the district. This is not a quick fix. It will take at least three years to complete. However, rather than just being a band-aid for the problem, it will be a solution that will endure over the long term."

Baraboo, MI

[Ed Mortimer, school board member:] "I am against the early release every Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. First, the public was told it was the parents who wanted the early release. Next, we were told it was the teachers who wanted the early release. My phone calls say it was neither. This release means the students miss out on at least eight hours of instructional educational learning per month, plus classes are shortened every Wednesday. What are the students going to learn academically with a 15-minute early start? What are the students that have extracurricular activities that start at 3:15 p.m. going to do from 1:15 until 3:15 p.m.? If students remain in the schools, who is supervising them? It will be interesting to see how many complaints will be called in to law enforcement. As far as the professional development, how much learning will be going on when teachers have to drive from North Freedom to Baraboo for meetings?"


[Janet Barresi, state superintendent of education:] "Our reading sufficiency program, in which we invested more than $6 million this year, will allow school administrators to decide what best fits for their teachers in terms of professional development to ensure their students are reading at grade level."

United States

[Andrea Beesley, a senior director at McREL (Midcontinent Research for Education and Learning):] "Teachers in rural schools need the professional development that will enable them to help their students achieve. However, small rural schools often do not have access to the content expertise that high-quality professional development requires. Therefore, rural schools often find it difficult to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. When vacancies do occur in rural schools, they impact the school more than in larger urban and suburban schools because faculties are smaller in rural schools to begin with. If a science teacher leaves, for example, there may be no science department until another teacher is hired… Online options for course delivery and professional development seem like obvious solutions to some of the challenges of the rural education environment. The online environment makes it possible for schools to access courses that they otherwise could not offer. In small schools where teachers have no subject-matter or grade-level colleagues, teachers can join in virtual communities of practice with distant colleagues. Online also presents opportunities for matching new teachers with appropriate mentors."


[Ron Tomalis, state secretary of education, referring to the Pennsylvania voluntary pilot program to evaluate teachers and principals:] "I am encouraged by the number of willing superintendents, administrators and teachers who have stepped forward to participate in this program. This new system would allow us to recognize that outstanding teaching is taking place in countless classrooms across Pennsylvania and to identify those individuals who may need additional professional development."

Amherst, VA

[Brian Ratliff, superintendent, speaking to his school board:] "Leadership is not a solo act, it's a team performance. The best strategy for improving school divisions is developing the collective capacity of educators to function as members of a professional learning community."

Oswego, NY

[Cathy Chamberlin, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum for the Oswego City School District, speaking to the school board:] "Everything I've been going to, every workshop, every conference, everything I'm reading, all points to if you want your district to get better and improve — and I know that is what we all want — if you want your district to have better student achievement, everyone is talking about how teachers need to get together and talk about their curriculum. I know you talk about teachers being away from their students. I want to see the quality of instruction that those students see and have every single day, be the very best it can be." [Response from Kathleen Allen, school board vice-president, reiterating a point made earlier by two other board members:] "We're doing more pullouts than we have in the past. … I think honestly, the administration needs to know that this board wants to see this stopped. The pullouts have got to stop."

Mesa, AZ

[Sabine Wauson, one of the master teachers who leads the Teacher Advancement Program at Carson Junior High School:] "As a master teacher, I provide professional development for the teachers on our campus. That means I teach an instructional or a learning strategy during an hour-long meeting once a week to small groups of teachers throughout the day. We then follow up by observing teachers and provide them with feedback As a master teacher, I coach teachers, provide demonstration lessons and field test new learning strategies by teaching students. In addition I try to keep my own instructional practices honed so I teach an algebra and a reading class."

Nashville, TN

[Jesse Register, superintendent of the Nashville Metro schools:] "For the past two years, Metro schools' principals have been through numerous trainings that help them become excellent instructional leaders. For example, our "Skillful Observation and Coaching Laboratory" focuses on becoming expert observers and instructional coaches for our teachers. They are learning to focus on strengths, identify best practices, and work to build a learning system that is continuously getting better — all key components of the new evaluation system. I think that this is the most important work our principals can do."


[Matthew Joseph, former executive director of Advocates for Children and Youth in Maryland:] "Several studies of Maryland education spending have found that school systems spent almost all of the infusion of new money for across-the-board salary increases for teachers. Little or no money went to additional services for students or professional development for teachers… For teachers to improve their instructional practices requires much more than a one- or two-hour off-site workshop. Teachers need intensive, in-classroom coaching by people who know what they are doing. New teachers need even more assistance. In no other profession are people with hardly any practical experience asked to provide direct services completely on their own. That is a formula for malpractice. New teachers need to be treated as apprentices for at least their first year, working hand in hand with skilled teachers until mastery is demonstrated. Strong support will also reduce the very high attrition rate of new teachers."

United States

[Andrew Rotherham, Time magazine columnist:] "Teachers themselves have the most to gain from an honest appraisal about their profession. Over the long run, better pay, improved working conditions, better training and professional development, and greater respect is politically conditional on creating a professional culture more in line with other fields."

Los Angeles, CA

[John Deasy, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District:] "The overwhelming responsibility of the evaluation system is to do two things…One is to say to folks, 'this is where you're struggling quite specifically, and here's how we provide you support.' Until this point, there really has not been the ability to do that—the ability to personalize and make highly specific and non-generalized professional development support is one of the byproducts of this system. But the second piece—as we were looking at student achievement data—is that we now are able to identify astonishing performance in classrooms and in schools. So one of the things about our evaluation system is to point out our high performers so that we can learn from them. And those pieces I really welcome. We're not going to get tremendous professional development from outside experts. We're going to learn the best ways of teaching leadership from within. We're bigger than some states. There is vast talent—heretofore often hidden or at least not looked for very well—which becomes really apparent and becomes our learning lives."

Business and Professional Learning

United States

"Raytheon Company is expanding its commitment to math and science education through a $1 million gift that will help extend the national impact of the Museum of Science, Boston's Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program. The latest gift from Raytheon, part of the company's MathMovesU initiative, will support the training of elementary school teachers implementing the EiE program's successful engineering and technology curriculum. The funds are designated to expand EiE training hubs beyond Boston, establishing new professional development centers in Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Ariz., and Huntsville, Ala., in order to facilitate the adoption of EiE by more classrooms throughout the country. To date, teachers have mainly relied upon the Museum of Science's Boston-based staff and some existing local infrastructure for training and development associated with the program."

Lake City, SC

"The Verizon Foundation awarded an $8,000 grant to Florence School District 3 in September to educate teachers using the educational website, The site has tens of thousands of free materials for teachers and students and will provide resources to enhance programs for science, technology, engineering and math across the school district. District technology coaches Joe Woodbury and Cindy Powell plan to train teachers how to best use the website. The district will use the grant money to purchase data storage units and to provide stipends for more training…The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, awarded nearly $67 million to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad in 2010."

United States

"Twenty-six U.S. teachers have been selected to travel to Costa Rica through the Toyota International Teacher Program. Taking place November 19 – December 3, 2011, the program will provide educators with unique learning experiences to help them encourage and inspire their own students to become more involved in environmental, cultural and world studies. Now in its 13th year, the program has sent more than 650 educators from across the country to Costa Rica, Galapagos, Japan and South Africa to complete a two-week study tour during which they learn about the environmental challenges each country faces. The program's aim is to provide a unique and enriching experience for teachers and librarians, and equip them with learnings that will help them develop interdisciplinary, hands-on and solution-oriented educational approaches in their classrooms."

Research / Reports

State of the States: Trends and Early Lessons on Teacher Evaluation and Effectiveness Policies
[October 2011]
National Council on Teacher Quality

59 pages – "Each year, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) publishes the State Teacher Policy Yearbook, a comprehensive examination of the state laws, rules and regulations that govern the teaching profession, measured against a realistic set of reform goals… In advance of the next Yearbook, to be released in January 2012, we offer a closer look at trends on teacher evaluation and effectiveness policies... Across the U.S., 32 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools have made some change to their state teacher evaluation policy in the last three years. Just two years ago, only 15 states required annual evaluations of all teachers, with some states permitting teachers to go five years or more between evaluations. As of this year, 24 states and DCPS require annual evaluations for all teachers."

[p. 25] "Beyond specifying improvement and dismissal policies, there are a variety of ways that states are making linkages between teacher evaluation results and teacher effectiveness strategies. These include eliminating tenure and tying effectiveness to tenure, revising "last in, first out" policies, and providing principals with more discretion to hire staff. These broader teacher effectiveness strategies also include tying professional development and compensation to evaluation results…"

[p. 26] "Providing timely feedback and aligning professional development with effectiveness ratings: Developing improvement plans for teachers who receive poor evaluations, providing timely feedback [p. 27] and designing professional development to be aligned with evaluation results are key functions of performance-based teacher evaluation systems. This requires more than just giving teachers a copy of their evaluation forms. Michigan requires that annual performance evaluations provide teachers with "timely and constructive feedback." In addition, the state requires that evaluations be used to inform relevant coaching, instructional support, and professional development. Delaware requires that teachers receive feedback from their evaluations during an end-of-year conference. The state also specifies that findings shared during the conference should be used to inform a teacher's future professional development activities. For teachers on improvement plans, required professional development activities must be aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations. Rhode Island requires that all teachers receive written, detailed feedback that informs recommendations for professional growth. The state also specifies that evaluation systems be designed to provide "agreement between the evaluation analysis and the identified goals and improvement expectations that inform professional development."

[p. 35] "Early Lessons - 11. Teacher evaluation policy should reflect the purpose of helping all teachers improve, not just low-performers. Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad. Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers and if done right, should help design professional development plans for all teachers – not just those who receive poor ratings."

Educational Reform in Virginia: Blueprint for the Future of Public Education
[October 2011]
Virginia Association of School Superintendents

42 pages – "The Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) is a professional organization dedicated to the mission of providing leadership and advocacy for public school education throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. The "Blueprint for the Future of Public Education" is a pro-active education reform plan developed by VASS."

[p. 14] "Human Capital – Goal: Develop Virginia's human capital for the provision of high-quality 21st century public education…
[p. 15] Objectives and Strategies: …
Objective 3: Build local and state capacity to provide professional development support for teachers, administrators, and classified staff.
Strategy 3A: Provide funding for teacher, administrator and classified staff professional development.
Strategy 3B: Create virtual resources for professional development to support instructional delivery/assessment practices.
Strategy 3C: Emphasize professional development using instructional technology to improve student achievement.

At the Edge: A Survey of New York State Superintendents on Fiscal Matters
[October 2011]
The Council of School Superintendents

26 pages – "The New York State Council of School Superintendents conducted a survey of its members to understand the budgeting choices made by school districts over the past three years, as well as their consequences. The survey also asked questions about future financial prospects…283 superintendents (42%) responded."

[p. 13] "Our survey also allowed superintendents to check-off an assortment of miscellaneous budget cutting strategies. Majorities of districts reported cutting funding for staff travel and professional development for all categories of staff…

[p. 23] "If your district were to receive an increase in funding beyond what would be needed to fund state mandates and your current level of services, what would be your top three priorities for the use of that funding? …

High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California
[October 2011]
The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd

76 pages - "This report addresses how well California is doing to prepare its young people for the evolving economy and societal challenges. Specifically, it describes the status of science teaching and learning in California public elementary schools. This study was conducted in support of Strengthening Science Education in California, a research, policy and communications initiative that explores the strength of science teaching and learning and offers recommendations for improving science education in California…The report synthesizes findings from multiple sources of data collected during 2010–11: surveys of district administrators, elementary school principals, and elementary school teachers; case studies of elementary schools; and data available through existing statewide datasets."

[p. 22] "Elementary school teachers rarely have an undergraduate or graduate major, minor, or concentration in science disciplines. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, only 1.4% of all individuals who hold an elementary school credential (multiple-subject credential) have a bachelor's or master's degree in science…"

[p. 23] "We asked elementary school teachers to rate their preparedness to undertake specific activities within science instruction. Only between 20 and 30% described themselves as very prepared to engage in teaching practices expected of California elementary school teachers."

[p. 26] "Over 85% of elementary teachers have not received any science-related professional development in the last 3 years. Of the less than 15% who did, two thirds received 8 hours or less over the 3-year period; 59% of those who received professional development indicated that their district provided it. One third of those who received professional development reported that it was on the use of new instructional materials. As one teacher said, 'The only training that has been offered was done by the publisher with the new textbook adoption.' Elementary teachers, principals, and district administrators all acknowledged that this lack of professional development is a challenge to providing science instruction in elementary schools."

[p. 27] "In addition to the general lack of professional development opportunities, elementary school teachers pointed to specific areas where they received little or no support. Sixty-eight percent reported that they received little or no support at all in assessing their own level of science content knowledge or their effectiveness in teaching science. Teachers in elementary schools serving higher percentages of students in poverty were more likely to report receiving little or no support in these two areas than teachers in schools serving students with lower percentages of students in poverty (Exhibit 3-4). For example, almost 80% of elementary teachers (78%) in schools serving the highest percentages of students in poverty reported receiving little or no support for assessing their effectiveness in teaching science as compared with 55% of elementary teachers in schools serving the lowest percentages of students in poverty."

One Unshakable Vision: World-Class Schools for Iowa
[October 2011]
Office of Governor Terry E. Branstad

17 pages - "This blueprint is not a list of options to be cherry-picked based on special interests, ideology, political affiliation, or whether one is within or outside of the education profession. It is a set of changes designed to work together to create an "all-systems-go" approach. Lasting and meaningful change requires this sort of commitment and transformation. The whole system must change to improve. Our efforts must be focused and sustained. This blueprint details a comprehensive vision that can put Iowa's schools on par with the top schools in the world."

[p. 5] Creating Educator Leadership Roles
  • Establish Mentor teachers in every building in the state to coach student-teachers, new teachers, and veteran teachers toward improvement.
  • Establish Master teachers in every building in the state to help in peer evaluation and to serve as instructional leaders along with principals.
  • Selection into Mentor and Master teacher roles occurs through a competitive process, and the positions are "at-will." Mentor and Master teachers removed from these leadership roles go back to being Career teachers.
  • Require all teachers in Iowa to meet weekly in small groups to plan and collaborate exclusively on teaching, student learning, and student results.
  • Establish a teacher-led curriculum committee in each district to have teacher voices included in curricular decisions.
  • Create Apprentice principals who receive coaching and other training from more experienced leaders from districts and Area Education Agencies.
  • Create Career principals for school administrators who demonstrate strong leadership and success in running buildings.
  • Establish Mentor principals who would help coach Apprentice principals."

Strategies to Promote Third Grade Reading Performance in Virginia
[September 2011]
Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission

201 pages - "Senate Joint Resolution 31 from the 2010 General Assembly directed JLARC to study ways to promote early reading proficiency and comprehension among third grade students in Virginia… Teachers are the critical factor in determining the effectiveness of a classroom reading program and need to be both well trained and well supported. Key supports include literacy coaches, reading specialists, and additional staff to assist in the classroom…"

[p. 75] Outstanding teachers were observed by JLARC staff in both higher-performing and lower-performing school divisions in Virginia, but it appeared that lower-performing divisions had "pockets of expertise" with expert teachers not as widespread throughout the division. Ongoing professional development helps lead to highly effective, well-trained teachers. Teachers in lower performing divisions tended to receive less training on how to teach reading, and fewer of these divisions reported frequent use of best practices for reading instruction…

[p. 82] However, the goal of school divisions should be to develop their teachers so that every teacher is maximizing his or her potential for teaching reading. Research shows that providing high-quality, ongoing professional development is key in helping teachers with this endeavor. Further, strong professional development goes beyond single session workshops and offers repeated exposures in which new teaching behaviors are learned over time in the classroom. Areas in which professional development for early elementary school teachers is particularly important include the foundations of teaching reading, differentiated instruction, and classroom management…

[p. 91] Teachers in schools that have or have had access to literacy coaches found them to be quite useful. In schools without access to literacy coaches, teachers often indicated [p. 92] that the coaches would be helpful and they wished they had greater access to literacy coaches…

[p. 93] Despite the benefit literacy coaches could have in improving reading performance, only one-third of divisions in Virginia reported having staff devoted exclusively to this role. (A number of divisions reported having reading specialists who also acted as literacy coaches. However, based on research showing that literacy coaches who spent the most time working directly with teachers had the greatest positive effect, only those positions dedicated solely to literacy coaching are included in this discussion.) Lower performing divisions were as likely to have literacy coaches as higher performing divisions. However, for those divisions that have literacy coaches, their availability appears to be greater in higher performing divisions…

[p. 94] Based on the potential for literacy coaches to improve early reading instruction in Virginia, Chapter 7 [beginning on page 117] includes options to increase the number of coaches in Virginia's schools.

[p. 94 ] Recommendation (4). The General Assembly may wish to direct the Department of Education to establish a definition for literacy coaches, including guidelines on how their time should be allocated for various coaching activities. The General Assembly may also wish to direct the Department of Education to establish a credential or endorsement for literacy coaches, or consider amending the higher education regulations leading to a reading specialist endorsement, to ensure that literacy coaches have adequate training and skills to maximize their effectiveness."

Toward a New Grand Bargain: Collaborative Approaches to Labor-Management Reform in Massachusetts
[October 2011]
The Boston Foundation

40 pages - "For a number of years the Boston Foundation has focused on improving K-12 education in the Commonwealth, especially for inner-city children…The passage and implementation of An Act to Close the Achievement Gap in 2010, the most significant education reform legislation in decades, involved considerable conflict between Massachusetts' teachers unions and those advocating for change, including the Boston Foundation. But must this be so?... we asked two leading labor relations experts in the Commonwealth—Professor Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University and Professor Tom Kochan of MIT—to lay out a potential roadmap engendering a fresh approach to labor-management relations in Massachusetts…We believe that if we can move toward the new Grand Bargain envisioned here, our schools will be made even better, our public services can become more efficient and more effective, and our public sector agencies can become even better places to work." [Important: See page 25 for Figure 13, referred to below.]

[p. 24] "The professional development provisions in innovating districts reinforce the performance evaluation, as illustrated in the summaries included in Figure 13. A number of districts and unions have taken the further step of linking professional development to compensation incentives. Some of the common features seen in these examples include:
  • Joint teacher union-management development, ownership, and oversight of the professional development processes.
  • Reliance on expert teachers as coaches, mentors or consultants.
  • Clear pathways for advancement and for moving into leadership positions.
  • Development plans jointly developed by the supervisor and the individual teacher."

Making a Difference in Education Reform: ProComp External Evaluation Report 2006-2010
[October 2011]
University of Colorado – Denver

348 pages - "ProComp is an ambitious alternative teacher compensation system developed by Denver Public Schools (DPS) in cooperation with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). This report summarizes a summative evaluation of ProComp conducted collaboratively by The Evaluation Center and the Buechner Institute for Governance at the University of Colorado Denver and the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. This report describes the implementation of various elements of ProComp and results of the analyses of the association of ProComp with student achievement and changes in the composition of the DPS workforce." [The professional development section of the report is on pages 58-71].

[p. 58] "As part of ProComp, Denver Public Schools (DPS) sought to redesign their professional development based on research-based practices. The result of these endeavors was the ProComp element called the Professional Development Unit (PDU). In

the theory of change model outlined below, it is hypothesized that if teachers are offered an incentive (PDUs) to participate in quality professional growth opportunities that provide them with new skills and knowledge their instructional practice will improve. Improved instructional practice should ultimately result in increased student achievement…"

[p. 68] "Teachers working with data in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) at their schools were very positive about this process, and other teachers spoke positively about data teams and the benefit of 'getting credit for work I am already doing'. Teachers also appreciated the convenience of not having to travel to attend a class. Teachers reported they liked having the ability to participate in PDU courses at their schools because they felt the content was relevant. One teacher in an instructional leader focus group remarked, 'The [PDU] we've done were was much better because we talked about it and could go back and forth about what we learned. It makes you apply what you learned more.' Another teacher commented on a PDU course based on a Regie Routman book on writing instruction, '[We had] a chance to talk about kids in relation to what [we were] learning', saying that they valued it as a 'vertical part of planning' and wished the 'whole school would get in on it.' One teacher made a distinction between professional development courses and school-based PDU courses, remarking: 'I like that you can tailor them to what you need. That is more helpful than in a professional development course. [The professional development courses] tell you to differentiate for your students, but they don't differentiate for the teachers. We have our own PDUs tailored and [they are] much more beneficial.' Most principals who had experienced school---based PDU courses felt they had a positive potential for improving instruction…"

[p. 70] "For the 2010-2011 school year, DPS revamped the PDU element; there are now three options for earning a PDU: 1) school sponsored courses, [p. 71] 2) personal/small group studies, and 3) a central office department PDU course. The Office of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership staff developed Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) Intensives that are designed to provide 100 schools with support in sponsoring a school-wide pre-approved PDU courses. Although there is central support for PCK intensives, these are school-based PDU courses. Another change to the PDU element is minimizing the importance of district-based PDU courses except in content areas such as visual/performing arts, library science, physical education, and Student Services (DPS Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, 2010). These changes may build on the potential value many principals saw in school-based PDU courses while preserving the positive benefits that specialized content area teachers valued in centrally sponsored PDU courses. The fact that the PCK intensives and central PDU courses are pre-approved should also reduce the paper work which has been required in the past. Preserving the personal/small group PDU as an option honors those who value this type of learning opportunity. To ensure maximum rigor and quality of PDU learning experiences, DPS should consider reviewing the approval process for PDU courses and engage in on-going data collection regarding their usefulness, rigor, and quality from the perspective of teacher participants. As part of this, it may be useful to assess sometime in the future whether the changes to the PDU element that occurred in 2010-11 have increased quality, rigor, and consistency, changed perceptions, and impacted student achievement in a positive manner."

The Transformation of a School System: Principal, Teacher, and Parent Perceptions of Charter and Traditional Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans
[October 2011]
RAND Corporation

138 pages - "Tulane University's Scott S. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives asked RAND to partner with it in using a U.S. Department of Education grant to understand the differences in policies and practices between traditional and charter schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. This two-year study, conducted between October 2008 and September 2010, examined several aspects of school policies and practices in the city, including governance and operations, educational contexts, educator quality and mobility, and parental choice and involvement. This study includes the results of surveys administered to principals, teachers, and parents in both traditional and charter schools in New Orleans during the 2008–09 academic year." [The professional development section of the report, including tables, is on pages 45-48.]

[p. 45] "Overall, teachers reported receiving the greatest amount of professional development in instructional strategies or content knowledge for English/language arts, mathematics, and other subjects; in analyzing student achievement data; and in using technology to improve instruction. During the summer and school year combined, charter school teachers reported receiving fewer hours of professional development than traditional school teachers did in every topic area, and particularly with regard to state test preparation, student discipline, and technology training…Charter school and traditional school teachers also provided similar ratings of the usefulness of each type of professional development. On a scale of 1 to 3 (with 1 indicating little learning from the professional development experience, and 3 indicating not only learning but applying that learning to their teaching), teachers gave the highest usefulness ratings—between 2.5 and 2.8 on average—to instructional strategies and content knowledge in mathematics and English/language arts, preparing students for assessments, implementing student discipline, analyzing student achievement data, and using technology to improve instruction. The largest differences in usefulness ratings between charter and traditional school teachers lay in professional development for [p. 46] technology usage, where charter school teachers provided an average rating of 2.8, as opposed to the average rating of 2.5 provided by traditional school teachers, and in instructional strategies for students with IEPs, where the average ratings were 2.3 and 2.0, respectively…[p. 48-49] Teachers in charter and traditional schools reported similar levels of satisfaction with the support available for improving instructional skills and preparing lesson plans. However, respondents from traditional schools were reportedly less satisfied than charter school respondents with the support available for helping students who were falling behind, for using assessment data to identify areas of instruction or individual students in need of more attention, for supporting students with disabilities, and for maintaining classroom discipline."

A System Approach to Building a World-Class Teaching Profession: The Role of Induction
[October 2011]
Alliance for Excellent Education

19 pages - [p. 7] "Induction that is not part of a more systemic approach to professional learning may be insufficient to reduce the high levels of teacher turnover found in many urban, low-income public schools. Myriad evaluations chronicle the shortcomings in the general quality and duration of professional development offered to teachers in the United States…[p. 8] Overall, the quality of professional development has failed to keep pace with the enormous changes in the student population and the diversity of their learning needs…[p. 16] Policy Recommendations…Support staff selection and professional growth systems that foster collegial collaboration in pursuit of high-impact, evidence-based practices consistent with state and district learning goals. High-performing districts should communicate core expectations for professional practice, invest in adult learning, and create the organizational conditions conducive to meaningful staff collaboration and development."

Redefining Curriculum Integration and Professional Development: In-service Teachers as Agents of Change
[September 2011]
Current Issues in Education

13 pages - This paper by Sharon Price Schleigh, Michael J. Bossé, and Tammy Lee " examines the characteristics of the professional development standards of [K-12 mathematics and science]; considers inherent hindrances to the implementation of integrated curriculum; generates a novel definition for integrated curriculum; argues that the most effective change agent is in-service professional development; and provides guiding notions for effective in-service professional development."

[p. 9] General Recommendations for All In-Service Professional Development
  • Professional development should utilize teachers' classroom experiences in school settings while developing a community of learning among the participants.
  • Professional development should be student-centric, teacher-centric, program- centric, and community-centric. It should not simply consider how it affects classroom teachers, it should consider how the students and community are affected through the professional development and consider the effectiveness of the professional development as a whole.
  • Professional development should attempt to affect the teaching cycle. Whenever possible, experienced teachers should be partnered with pre-service teachers in authentic instructional and practicum scenarios. [p. 10] This assists in molding the next generations of teachers and showing them the best instructional models as understood through the eyes of the classroom teacher.
  • Professional development should occur after teachers are no longer novices and before they become professionally unalterable.
    Recommendations for Professional Development in Respect to Integrated Curriculum
  • Professional development should focus on problem posing and problem solving in both areas of study.
  • Investigations should not always begin in one field and be solved in the other.
  • Problem scenarios should be posed in either subject, pass through either subject in investigatory phases, and find a resolution in either subject.
  • Problem scenarios should ensure that neither subject is subservient to the other.
  • The level of content and conceptual coverage in both areas should be at least commensurate with that which would be covered in standalone subject matter courses.
  • Mathematics and science must be understood as both separate and interconnected fields. Professional development must help teachers develop PCK in both fields.
  • Employing the definition for curriculum integration previously espoused, professional development should:
  • recognize the strengths, weaknesses, commonalities, and distinctiveness among two or more fields of study;
  • use each field in the experiential learning of the other, and
  • allow the teachers and their respective students to simultaneously experience these fields of study in such a manner that they both do and learn important content and concepts in each of the respective subjects and glean further understanding from the gestalt formed among the subject matters.

A Curriculum Management Audit of the Humble (TX) Independent School District
[June 2011]
International Curriculum Management Audit Center. Phi Delta Kappa International

217 pages - "This document constitutes the final report of a Curriculum Management Audit of the Humble Independent School District. The audit was commissioned by the Board of Trustees of the Humble Independent School District within the scope of its policy-making authority. It was conducted during the time period of February 14-18, 2011…Humble Independent School District is located in the City of Humble, Texas, and includes the surrounding communities of Atascocita, Kingwood, Fall Creek, and Eagle Springs. The school district encompasses over 90 square miles. The district is located about 17 miles from downtown Houston and is largely a residential community. Humble ISD serves the area with 26 elementary schools, eight middle schools, five comprehensive high schools, one early college high school, and a career and technology education center." [Pages 116-122 of the report address professional development issues.]

[p. 116] "The auditors found no evidence of a comprehensive, centralized professional development program, and board policies do not provide a clear framework for a coordinated plan that guides the district and provides a process to effectively evaluate its necessity or impact on teaching and learning. The district has developed and encouraged a practice of site-based or decentralized staff development. This system allows building principals to provide staff development that may or may not be aligned with district needs or goals. No formal plan was presented to the auditors that was centrally coordinated and provided guidance on how professional development needs are prioritized, initiated, implemented, or evaluated. Therefore, board policies do not provide sufficient direction for a comprehensive, coordinated staff development program."

[p. 118] "The auditors also found no evidence that upon completion of staff development an analysis of student data was disaggregated to determine the effect of the training upon student achievement."

[p. 119] "The auditors found no criteria for how trainers are chosen, monitored, or evaluated. Selection of trainers and staff development is primarily site-based, and the delivery of the training is left to the presenter. Training does not follow a district-approved framework of best practices that have proven to be successful in improving student achievement."

[p. 120] "The auditors found no systematic approach to monitoring and evaluating the implementation of staff development. No evaluation procedure is in place to determine the effectiveness of new knowledge and/or skills acquired on student learning."

Curriculum Audit for Bibb County School District Macon, GA
[July 2011]
Synesi Associates

Selected excerpts from Power Point slides:
Teaching and Learning – Concerns
  • Literacy Coaches: evaluated by principal; often not used for intended purposes
  • Literacy Coaches can only make suggestions
… Professional Learning – Concerns
  • No accountability or fidelity of professional development delivery across the District
  • Teaching and Learning does not lead professional development
  • Lack of focus on literacy in grades 6 – 12
  • Low-performing schools have too much flexibility
… School Visits – Concerns
  • "Coaches in all schools but with inconsistencies in general practices and procedures
  • Insufficient training and implementation of RTI

Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Springfield, Massachusetts
[October 2011]
National Council on Teacher Quality

65 pages - "This study is done in partnership with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), committed to a high quality public education system that will prepare all students to engage successfully in a global economy and society. MBAE was supported by Springfield Business Leaders for Education whose goal is to improve educational attainment to ensure a skilled workforce and economic opportunity for all in the Springfield community. Additional funding for this study was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation"

[p. 53] "Finding: Springfield teachers have fewer non-student work days (professional development days) than their peers average, nationally… While the length of the school year in Springfield is longer relative to many districts in the nation, the district schedules relatively few days for teachers to work without students present. There are five days scheduled throughout the year, while the average number of work days for TR3 districts is eight. All of the teacher non-student work days occur before the start of the student school year, which may not serve as the optimum time for the district to provide all of its formal professional development. Firstly, it is a time that teachers are likely distracted, anxious to set up their own classrooms. Secondly, "one-shot" professional development has not been found to be all that helpful because teachers are not brought back to troubleshoot subsequent problems or share insights from actual classroom experience. The benefits of dispersing professional development days include the ability to space out the content and implementation of different professional development, and the ability to use knowledge of that year's students to drive professional support. For these reasons, many districts commonly distribute some work days throughout the school year. Springfield may want to increase and better distribute non-student work days if only to reduce the high number of teacher absences (relative to other districts we have studied) who leave their students to participate in professional development. Districts need to ensure that teachers are absent from their classrooms as seldom as possible during instructional days, no matter how valuable the reason."

[p. 54] "Improving teacher collaboration is one of the key goals of the district and union partnership addressing leadership and work culture among Springfield teachers. Union leadership and district teachers report that the Meline Kasparian Professional Development Center, in its heyday, was an excellent resource for teachers to get assistance with their lesson plans from accomplished, master teachers. When the district was in a tight financial position, the building had to be converted into a school, and the services available to teachers have been scaled back. Since then, professional development has become more campus-based, informed by teachers' needs and directed by campus instructional leaders."

[p. 58] "Recommendations for Springfield Public Schools: … 4. Give teachers more non-student work days so that professional development can be scheduled when school is not in session and distributed throughout the year. Springfield teachers spend a significant amount of time absent for professional development. Increasing the number of work days and distributing them through the school year will allow for needed professional growth, without costing students instruction."