Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Data-Driven Professional Development: What Makes the Biggest Difference in Improving Student Performance? It's Not the Latest Curriculum Product or Assessment Tool or Even Parental Involvement. Research Indicates That It Is Precisely What the Average Citizen Already Knows: Teachers and Quality of Teaching

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Data-Driven Professional Development: What Makes the Biggest Difference in Improving Student Performance? It's Not the Latest Curriculum Product or Assessment Tool or Even Parental Involvement. Research Indicates That It Is Precisely What the Average Citizen Already Knows: Teachers and Quality of Teaching

Article excerpt

YET, most districts do not know how to target professional development to meet the individual needs of teachers and students. The opportunities being provided are largely one-size-fits-all, with no clear indication of whether or not it is helping to achieve the end goal of improved student performance.

The need for effective professional development is critical in today's accountability-driven educational climate, amidst the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and constricting budgets.

NCLB holds states, districts, and schools accountable for making steady progress toward improving student achievement. While states have made great strides in the NCLB categories of Standards and Assessments, and Accountability, other aspects of the law, such as Teacher Quality, have not yet received the stone level of attention.

According to the July 2004 Education Commission of the States' "Report to the Nation: State Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act," few states are on track to implementing high-quality professional development for all teachers. In addition, only 10 states seem to be fully on track to ensuring that both new and veteran teachers are qualified to teach in their subject area.

Further, with tight state and district budgets, professional development dollars must be wisely spent. Districts need to realize a return on investment--not necessarily in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of outcomes.

Districts know that effective professional development is essential to reach that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow--improved student learning and higher student scores on high-stakes tests. But if professional development is one of the key features at the beginning of the rainbow and better student outcomes are at the end, what is in that "black box" between the two ends that enables educators to better target their own learning and the learning of their students?

In other words.... What kinds of professional development taken by what kinds of teachers and implemented in classrooms in what kinds of ways gets what kinds of results from what kinds of students?

Taking Data-Driven Professional Development to the Next Level

My company, Co-nect--a provider of data-driven professional development solutions to K-12 districts and schools nationwide--and a consortium of partners are working to answer this question through a new nationwide project funded by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

In October 2003, Co-nect was awarded a competitive $5 million grant to lead a consortium of school improvement providers, researchers, developers, trainers, and state/district users in a project aimed at improving the professional development of teachers and identifying the role of professional development in student achievement. The objective is to provide districts with the tools to make data-driven decisions about the types of professional development that are most effective in improving instructional practice and in raising student achievement.

For more than a decade, Co-nect has worked with districts and schools to improve the quality of instruction and accelerate student achievement through data-driven professional development. Through a rigorous, systematic program of needs analysis, professional development, assessments, and resources, the company helps educators change instructional practices to meet student achievement goals.

The ED grant takes this vision of data-driven professional development to the next level. Through the 3-year project, the Co-nect Consortium will build a professional development/instructional practice (PD/IP) support system for teachers and administrators in 60 test and control schools in 12 districts and eight states. As part of the project, the consortium will:

* Provide consulting, data, and technical services to build capacity to successfully implement the system district-wide. …

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