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Standards for Professional Learning Q&A

Yesterday I had an opportunity to appear on Blog Talk Radio to discuss Learning Forward's newly revised Standards for Professional Learning, which we released at our summer conference last month. During the course of the interview, which you can listen to here, I was asked a number of questions about the standards, and I want to share my answers to some of those questions here.

Q: What are the Standards for Professional Learning, and why are they important?

A: The standards define effective professional development. They provide direction for planning, executing and evaluating it, and they describe what it looks like and what it produces.

Our country invests incredible resources, including time and dollars, on professional development. It is important that we "get it right." In other words, we need to implement professional learning in the way that guarantees it produces its intended results.

These standards offer a more powerful vision of professional learning, one where educators are active participants in their own learning, where professional learning defines what is necessary every day of every school year, and where best ideas spread from classroom to classroom and school to school.

Q: Who needs to pay attention to these standards? How will different audiences use them?

A: Educators around the world can access them free on our web site. In addition to the standards there are countless resources on how to use them.

Every educator and every policy maker who understands the importance of professional development needs to pay attention to them.

Policy makers will use them to impact policy; to legislate higher quality professional development; as measures of effectiveness; and to ensure more educators have access to effective professional learning.

District staff will use them to guide the development of a system to ensure that effective professional development takes place in all schools.

Teachers and principals will use them to guide their own school-based planning; to identify where to invest; to advocate for access to effective professional learning; and to call out professional development that does not meet the standards and is a waste of their time and their students' time.

Parents will use them to better understand what to expect when their school is reserving time for professional development and what to ask for so their children's teachers get the support they need to be their very best.

Q: How will these standards impact laws and policies at various levels?

A: Policy makers should ensure that the professional development they support adheres to the standards. They can do this by adopting them into policy at the federal, state, and local levels; by asking that funding for professional development only goes to programs that meet the standards; and by asking that all federally or state funded professional development is evaluated according to the standards.

Local school boards can endorse standards and send a message to their teachers that they know what effective professional learning is and they expect the district to deliver it. They can ask that teachers be surveyed each year to determine whether they are able to access professional development that meets the standards.

Q: What is the responsibility of educators in schools when it comes to using these standards?

A: Educators need to understand that effective professional learning is the most powerful and accessible support they have to improve their performance and that of their students. They can do this by becoming active learners.

I urge each of you to study the standards deeply. Be an expert in their content. Hold yourself and others accountable for planning professional learning that meets the standards. Most important, use them to make yourself a strong advocate for professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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