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Priorities for Professional Learning

Earlier this month, at Learning Forward's 2010 Annual Conference in Atlanta, we updated attendees on the status of our efforts to achieve the priorities outlined in our organization's five-year strategic plan. Here is where we stand with what I view as our most significant accomplishments to date, and one final goal I hope we can accomplish before our attention shifts to a 2011-2016 plan.

Priority 1: Affecting the Policy Context. Learning Forward works to impact professional development policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels. Our definition of professional development was introduced in Congress and endorsed by a large coalition of national membership as well as reform organizations. While ESEA was not authorized, we engendered national and state understanding of the definition. With the support of the MetLife Foundation, we have initiated revision of our national standards for professional development. Next up: Because ESEA reauthorization has stalled, we have turned our attention to the states, as well as local school boards. We have entered into a partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures and look forward to coproducing a road map for teacher quality state policy.

Priority 2: Examining the Evidence. We are also committed to examining the evidence on the impact of professional development on educator practice and student learning. At the conference, we released the last of three reports that constituted the first-ever national study on the state of professional learning: "Professional Learning in the Learning Profession." In the final report, four states (Vermont, Colorado, Missouri, and New Jersey) with increasing student achievement and indications of strong professional development systems were examined for lessons learned and transferable to other states. Next up: Get more tools in the hands of educators to help them to make better use of this research.

Priority 3:Narrowing the Achievement Gap. With support from The Wallace Foundation, we expanded our efforts to connect and serve the chief professional development officers in the nation's largest 35 school systems. Later this winter, we will co-convene with Council of the Great City Schools a meeting for PD Directors and HR Directors to further their district collaboration. Next Up: Continuing conversations with groups including the NEA Foundation, NEA, Council of the Great City Schools, Big 35 and others to serve those districts with the highest percentages of children living in poverty.

Priority 4: Developing School Leaders. Learning Forward is equally dedicated to supporting and developing strong and responsive school leaders. We serve school leaders through our conferences, through the Learning School Alliance, the Learning Forward Academy, and our latest e-learning initiatives. New PD communities are being launched this spring. Next Up: We are seeking financial support and school systems to become co-creators of a new principal support model.

Finally, Priority 5: Engaging Thought Leaders. These leaders reside in every community. They are often the go-to individuals when policymakers, newspapers, or others seek answers to PD questions. To help influence how they think and talk about professional development we published "Why Professional Development Matters." Next Up: We are in the final phase of planning a Professional Learning Summit that will convene chief learning officers from business and industry with selected educational leaders to talk about the role business can play in advocating for professional learning for every educator every day.
We have our work cut out for us. And we will continue to post ways that you can help. And if you have any immediate ideas feel free to contact us whenever it is convenient for you.

In the meantime, have safe and restful holidays.

—Stephanie Hirsh,
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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