Improving Adequacy: Where to Invest First
For years, state departments of education and courts have struggled with educational adequacy. A report summarized in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research's Fall 2010 WCER Research Highlights compares the cost of educational adequacy across all 50 states, something researchers and economists have striven to accomplish for many years. The variations in state funding for education have made this task challenging until now.
In the report, Allan Odden, Lawrence Picus, and Michael Goetz define adequacy as the provision of resources to schools to make "substantial improvements in student performance." They further explain that, while individual school performance expectations may vary based on current performance, substantial improvement means raising the percentage of students who achieve proficiency and advanced proficiency standards.
What is important to note is the recommendation about where to begin implementation. The report urges states to consider multi-year plans for increasing funding over time. Furthermore, it urges states to begin with investments that will directly impact instruction, primarily the professional development components of instructional coaches, added resources for teacher development, and additional days for teacher professional development.
By calling first for investments in professional development, and especially professional development closest to classroom practice, Odden and his colleagues acknowledge that ongoing professional learning for educators is a priority investment for improving student performance. By investing in instructional coaches, opportunities for learning, and additional time for learning, school systems will invest directly in improving the quality of teaching students experience each day. Investments in professional development establish a foundation of effective teaching that will outlast any short-term initiatives for improvement.
If investments in professional learning are aligned with Learning Forward's definition of and standards for professional development, the result will be schools that build collective responsibility for student achievement, while strengthening teaching and increasing student academic success.
Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward