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NCSL Foundation Launches Teacher Effectiveness Project

Learning Forward has decided to contribute to the National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) Foundation for State Legislators Partners Project on Educator Effectiveness. The foundation has chosen to support a Partners Project focusing on "Ensuring Effective Teachers and Principals for All Students." With many state legislators eager to move forward with education reform, NCSL wants to ensure that they do so with the best resources and information at their disposal.

This yearlong Partners Project will match foundation members who choose to join the partnership with state legislators and legislative staff to provide information, resources and tools to legislators as they address teacher and principal quality and effectiveness. The end product will be an NCSL Educator Effectiveness State Policy Toolkit for legislators and staff.

From the conversation at the project's inaugural meeting last month, it was evident that everyone involved has a sincere desire to identify policy options that are supportive of effective teaching. Where many states already have education effectiveness efforts in motion, it has been considerable time since NCSL has made the topic a priority. I am optimistic about our decision to make our involvement in this effort a priority for the coming year. I know we have valuable information to share over the course of the partnership, and I'm hopeful that the partnership will yield sound recommendations, relationships, and road maps for influencing state policy into the future.

At the December NCSL meeting, David Spence of the Southern Regional Education Board indicated that while many students are taking courses recommended as college preparatory, they are not getting the right skills and knowledge to be successful. His advice for states included developing one set of standards, and providing effective teacher development to ensure that educators know these standards.

This recognition of the importance of teacher professional development was contrasted by a presentation from Corporate Voices for Working Families. Its concern is driven by the statistic that for every 100 students who start ninth grade, only 18 complete four years of college. And those who never go to or complete college are not prepared for entry-level jobs. This group offered ten recommendations to state legislatures, but did not address the teacher development that is critical for the successful implementation of the recommendations. This serves as a reminder that anyone who has ideas about how we need to improve schools needs to understand that changing the system requires change in the people who will deliver the reforms, and that requires professional development. These improvements will not happen without it; and it must be addressed in all these conversations.

So I return to the purpose for joining the partnership. One way we will measure our success is when major reform initiatives and plans for actions no longer minimize the level of professional development and support that will be required to achieve success. We will carry that message and look for opportunities to institutionalize higher quality professional development for all educators into state policy. If you have suggestions for us to consider, do not hesitate to share them.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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