Well-designed PD still scarce in USA

A new report on the status of professional development in the United States was released by the National Staff Development Council last week, with new Ed Secretary Arne Duncan lending his tacit endorsement by his attendance at the Washington press conference.

The study, co-authored by teaching quality expert Linda Darling-Hammond, describes the condition of teacher learning in America as generally fragmented, often isolated, and largely passive — with little sustained commitment to create ongoing school-based professional learning environments that draw on teachers’ collective knowledge and skills.

In the United States, say the report’s authors, “We found that well-designed professional development is still relatively rare, and few of the nation’s teachers have access to regular opportunities for intensive learning.”

Titled Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad, the 36-page document includes “snapshots of the various ways in which professional learning is being redesigned in the rest of the industrialized world” and points to “strategies that we might consider adopting or expanding in this country.”

“Most states and districts are still not providing the kind of professional learning that research suggests improves teaching practice and student outcomes,” said Darling-Hammond, who wrote the report with a team of researchers from Stanford University’s School Redesign Network. “The research tells us that teachers need to learn the way other professionals do—continually, collaboratively, and on the job. The good news is that we can learn from what some states and most high-performing nations are doing.”

NSDC executive director Stephanie Hirsh said the report is part of a multi-year effort that will track states’ progress over time and identify model policies and practices. “This first installment provides a baseline assessment of what works and what is happening in states and other nations,” she said. The project is begin funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and The Wallace Foundation.

This page at the NSDC website provides access to the report and to a presentation by the authors, which highlights PD differences between the U.S. and more high-achieving countries. There’s also a link to the full technical report.