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By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine.

I heard that sentiment over and over again last week during the American Federation of Teachers' biennial TEACH conference, one of the largest professional development conferences for educators in the nation. That's right, a conference on teaching and learning, sponsored by the union.

The conference included sessions on a wide range of topics, as well as a daylong summit with an organization called EdSurge, where educators had the opportunity to give feedback on classroom technology products, and a town hall meeting with the AFT's three officers, where members could ask or share anything.

Two-thousand educators descended on Washington, D.C., to learn from experts and one another, and once there, the theme was resounding: The voices of educators matter ...

Updated July 30, 2015

Last week, the United States Senate passed a sweeping rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s federal K-12 law, providing a rare example of bipartisan governance in an increasingly polarized political climate. An overwhelming majority of the Senate voted for the bill under the leadership of its co-authors, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

This marks the first time since 2001 the Senate has taken such action, and it is an important step in freeing states from the demands of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the current iteration of ESEA that is widely acknowledged to be broken.

If enacted, this legislation – known as the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) – would significantly roll back the role of the federal government in public education and give states more flexibility in how they provide it. For example, the bill would eliminate the nation’s current accountability system, known as adequate yearly progress, and instead allow states to create their own systems. It would require states to identify low-performing schools, but would not be specific about how many schools states need to target or what interventions should look like ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

As another ambitious teacher preparation innovation captures national attention, I invite you to join me in taking stock of how widespread creative change has become in this field. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced the launch of their brand-new research laboratory and graduate program to prepare teachers and school leaders. The educator preparation field, already rife with innovation, welcomes the new Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning as the latest partner in a robust entrepreneurial environment.

While I do not embrace the negative rhetoric that accompanied the new program’s announcement, I am keenly interested in the work. In fact, the Academy’s goals are quite aligned with those being addressed by many other educator preparation providers and organizations. Foundation President Arthur Levine and his partners at MIT will find themselves in good company as they pursue their particular reform interests and share their findings.

Like any other field preparing professionals, educator preparation continually develops its knowledge base, adjusts to changes in policy demands and market conditions, seeks evidence of its impact, and collaborates with practitioners in schools—all in the interest of continuous improvement. The spirit of innovation pervades all that we do ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Professional advocacy organizations support their members by helping them advance a collective voice. By articulating a field’s consensus positions, associations empower their members to speak clearly about what they know, identify priorities, invest their energy strategically, and communicate confidently with internal and external audiences.

These unified understandings, which we adjust as research and best practices evolve, help us fulfill our obligation to correct misinformation and to respond to critics—a frequent need in the field of educator preparation. More importantly, though, they provide a foundation for action by the profession and help us recognize areas of need. In educator preparation, we’ve instituted a variety of reforms in recent years that have prompted us to develop new resources to increase our capacity, assess our progress, and inform our knowledge base.

First and foremost, we needed a common measure to allow us to document candidates’ abilities after they completed their preparation program. Without a valid and reliable performance assessment, the field was unable to commonly identify what teacher candidates could actually do ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

When I was a local school board member, parents frequently asked for my advice on how to ensure their child got a particular teacher in a school. I knew how the game would be played after I reminded them this wasn't the role of the school board: They would write the principal with their requests for the next year. The principal would respond to assure the parents that no matter which classroom their child was assigned to, he or she would have a great year.

However, in some cases, the principal knew that wasn't entirely accurate. Some teachers were stronger than others in his or her school, and there was no mechanism to give all students access to the best ...

Donna Staten, an elementary art teacher in Round Rock, Texas, has earned the title "Pinterest Queen" because she has shared thousands of lessons and amassed nearly 100,000 followers on the social media site Pinterest. Staten, who also serves on an advisory committee for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says Pinterest has recharged her 30-year teaching career. She recently spoke about her strategies for using Pinterest  and other social media in an e-mail interview.

LFA: How did you get started on Pinterest? How long have you been “pinning,” and how much time does it take you each day or each week to share projects and lesson plans?

I remember exactly when I started pinning. It was a rainy, dreary Saturday morning in January, 2012. I had heard of Pinterest, but mostly in reference to recipes, shoes, hair styles, etc. I had not heard of anyone using it for educational purposes ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: National Teacher Day. For those of us who work year round to set teachers up for success, it’s a special treat to spotlight their work to do the same for students.

How do great teachers set students up for success?

Just last week, we celebrated 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples and the state teachers of the year, whose profiles are brimming with inspiring stories of student-centered teaching. Peeples, who teaches high school English in Amarillo, Texas, described the critical importance of building confidence and of getting to know each student’s individual context and interests. “Every student has greatness in them, and it is the work of the teacher to help them discover it,” she said ...

By Jodie Pozo-Olano, Chief Communications Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Last week, the education stars aligned as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP) passed, with bi-partisan support, a bill that would reauthorize the nation’s education law of the land – the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Although the path to final passage will surely be filled with lots of twists and turns, the action by the committee last week was a huge positive step forward.

What’s significant about this proposed bill?

Well, for starters, it contains a dedicated digital learning program. Many schools across the country still struggle with adequate connectivity (which has been addressed through additional E-Rate funding), access to devices and digital resources. These same school communities also often lack adequate funding to provide ongoing and varied professional learning opportunities for educators.

I-TECH is a step toward closing this gap ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Many states have recertification or relicensure rules that require educators to earn 100 to 200 professional development hours over a specified period of time. In my view, educator relicensure and recertification processes are a missed opportunity when it comes to ensuring that educators have access to the professional learning they want and need to help students succeed. Why? Here are several reasons.

  • Educators see little connection between these requirements and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
  • Educators receive little guidance about the choices or resources to support them in meeting this requirement. As a result, convenience and price heavily influence the decisions educators make.
  • Attendance is often the only criteria for educators to earn credits toward relicensure.

Too few states and districts have systems in place for awarding credit for the professional development educators value most: job-embedded, team-based, and collaborative learning ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

News Flash: The interest of students and their opportunity to learn is not better or even well served by a strategy of constant and high demand of inexperienced teachers. Retention matters not just to teachers but, most critically, to students.

Recent studies showing that teacher effectiveness continues to develop over time reinforce this imperative to do right by our students. First, in a working paper completed last year for the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, researchers at Duke University found that middle school teachers’ effect on student test scores as well as attendance rates improves over at least several years. A subsequent study out of Brown University found improvement in teacher effectiveness is indeed steepest in the early years in the classroom but continues for many more years, challenging the common perception that teacher quality is a fixed characteristic after just a couple of years of experience ...

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