Training Educators & Professional Development

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will require training for educators. Not only must the actual standards be taught to educators, but the CCSS will require teachers to employ new instructional strategies. Because the standards are more rigorous and students will be asked to demonstrate their proficiency in new ways, the use of more traditional instructional practices will not be sufficient. At the same time, because both consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) are building assessment systems that include formative components, teachers will have the data they need to help identify student deficiencies and make modifications to their instructional practice for individual students. Training opportunities to help teachers use the data to guide instruction should be offered to teachers and, just as importantly, their instructional leaders.

Generally, studies of professional development indicate that teachers do not find the professional development they are offered helpful. Of the thousands of studies done to assess the impact of professional development on teaching practice, only a few have examined the impact of teacher professional development on student achievement. Those that have studied this aspect indicate that by and large professional development does not help improve student outcomes—and that while some professional development alters instructional practice, such alterations do not translate into achievement gains for students.

While professional development is largely a local issue, states should be concerned about the quality and design of professional development overall, but particularly as it relates to the CCSS. Because most states designed performance management systems that are intended to help teachers improve their practice by providing teachers with targeted professional development based on the results of their evaluations, states should assume a more proactive role in ensuring that the investments made by SEAs and school districts relative to professional development are sound ones. Failure to do so will not only compromise the intentions of performance management, but will also compromise CCSS implementation.

Professional development must be provided to teachers already licensed and practicing in classrooms, but the CCSS have implications for pre-service teachers and teacher training institutions as well. One important aspect of CCSS implementation will be the extent to which teacher preparation programs are integrating both the actual CCSS into their curriculum and preparing teachers to teach the standards with innovative instructional practices that go beyond teaching content to students. While content coverage is important, helping students learn the critical thinking skills the standards require is essential. 

Because a large majority of state boards of education are responsible for licensing educators, state boards should consider requiring CCSS professional development for the re-licensure of educators for the next three years. State boards should also consider requiring educators applying for initial licensure to demonstrate proficiency on the standards and make proficiency a requirement for initial licensure. If state boards are responsible for the accreditation or program approval of educator preparation programs operating within their state, future program approval should be contingent on the inclusion of CCSS in preparation program curriculum for both teachers and principals. To ensure that appropriate and effective changes are made, it is critical to engage the leaders of the preparation institutions, the state higher education executive officers, and the professional licensing boards within your state. Engaging each of these leaders will also minimize the opportunity for misconceptions and myths about the standards to take hold.

For the next few years, state boards of education should require LEAs to offer a wide range of professional development that is CCSS-centered and that such professional development focus on the CCSS themselves as well as the instructional strategies teachers should use to teach them. State boards should consider implementing or partnering with the SEA to implement a system to collect data on the professional development offered as a way to improve the quality of professional development. The SEA could then attempt to draw data-based conclusions about how effective the professional development provided is in terms of its ability to help educators improve their effectiveness and improve student outcomes. Over time, the data should be used to discontinue the use of minimally or less effective professional development, and additional investments in professional development should be focused on those that actually improve educator effectiveness. The data required to conduct this kind of analysis should be more readily available as states increase their use of unique student and teacher identifiers and professional development is targeted to teachers based on their evaluation results.

State boards may also want to consider using teacher voice and input data collected by an organization that is dedicated to giving teachers an opportunity to share the perceptions of their professional development experiences, particularly those focused on CCSS. Educator associations also can provide this type of information. State boards should consider this approach because teachers will be relying heavily on professional development moving forward, due to training needed to teach new, more rigorous content and because of the role professional development plays in performance management systems. If the professional development offered to educators is not sufficient, state boards should examine ways action can be taken through board policy to help ensure educators get the professional development they need to be effective.

  • Click here for information on how to track professional development statewide.
  • Click here and here information on evaluating professional development.
  • Click here for more information on relevant licensure issues


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