- Issues and Publications
- Common Core
Last weekend I had pleasure of attending the Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City. As always, it was an inspiring event.
In reflecting on the overall themes of the weekend, one emerged very clearly: Children and schools are hurting because of the current economic climate. The economy worked its way into just about every plenary, breakout and lunchtime conversation that I was a part of.
Three other themes were nearly as ubiquitous. All three were also related to the context in which the Celebration found itself.
In conversations on all three of these rather distinct topics, a common thread emerged: The importance of professional learning.
In the many discussions on teacher evaluation, no one denied the importance of assessing teacher performance. Most did question the trend of increasingly basing evaluations on what we know to be flawed measures (standardized tests and value-added scores), particularly when those evaluations are used to make high-stakes decisions about teachers, but all recognized the need for data that can be used to help drive teacher improvement.
In looking at what the US can learn from higher-performing systems, many Celebration attendees cited systems that ensure the best and brightest in the nation enter the teaching profession – and stay there. A key aspect of those systems is professional learning. One of the most striking moments in the conference for me came during a session I attended on Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning. I participated in a small group discussion with an educator from New York City, one from another district in New York State, and two from Vancouver, Canada. I learned that the NYC teacher had less than three days dedicated to professional learning each year. The other New York educator had one day. The Canadian educators had six. The NYC teacher expressed concern that teacher voice is missing in the development of professional learning opportunities; the Canadian educators expressed shock teachers weren’t integrally involved. The Canadian educators were very cognizant of how far they had to go in developing high-quality professional learning opportunities in their schools and districts, but I was struck at how far beyond many (though certainly not all) places in the US they were, if only in the value they placed on such experiences.
The importance of professional learning was also evident in discussions on teacher morale. The MetLife survey found teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to have opportunities for professional development and time to collaborate with other teachers. Another teacher survey, Primary Sources 2012 (released at the Celebration), noted the importance of professional learning in teacher retention. In that survey, 89% of teachers ranked time to collaborate as absolutely essential or very important in retaining good teachers; 79% ranked professional development that is relevant to personal and school goals as an absolutely essential or very important.
Given the importance of professional learning to teacher retention and morale (as identified by teachers themselves), as well as the international evidence we have suggesting its importance in high-performing systems, it is unfortunate that here in the US we seem to be using assessment and evaluation data to try to shame or fire our way to good teachers, rather than using it to develop professional learning opportunities that build capacity.
It is also a shame that professional learning budgets are among the first cut in times of fiscal crisis. To truly accomplish the goals we have for our education system – high-achieving students taught by high-quality educators – it seems obvious that we should be investing more, not less, in professional learning.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Keeping It Real: Preparing Students for College and Career
A Toledo public school is helping students see an immediate connection between their school work and their career interests. Learn more...
- ASCD Inservice
- AACTE's Ed Prep Matters
- ISTE Connects
- PTA's One Voice
- PDK Blog
- The EDifier
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- Transforming Learning
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Lily's Blackboard
What Else We're Reading
- DQC's The Flashlight
- Center for Teaching Quality
- The Answer Sheet
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach