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Professional Learning the Recipe for Student Success

There is no argument that quality teaching makes a difference in student learning. Teacher Professional Learning in the United States: Case Studies of State Policies and Strategies, the third report in Learning Forward's study on the state of professional learning in the United States, notes that in the last decade, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners have come to the same conclusion: Teacher effectiveness is a key factor in improving academic outcomes for students.

Teachers have often told me they know which students come from a particular teacher's class because they are so well-prepared. They also whisper to me that I should check out another teacher's class scores because year after year his students are falling behind.

Many readers agree that professional learning is the single most important strategy for extending and refining their knowledge, skills, dispositions, and practices. It is troubling that in many ongoing discussions, professional learning is viewed as remediation.

Denver Public Schools seems to understand that educator effectiveness is more than a recipe. Its new system "is an opportunity to elevate the teaching profession," says Tracy Dorland, executive director for educator effectiveness. "...This is about thinking of the profession differently, in a way that respects teaching as a complicated craft, requiring teacher leadership, strong collaboration with colleagues, reflection about practice, and constant efforts to improve instruction for the students whose lives we impact every day." I hope more and more systems will come to share this perspective.

Teachers need many skills for their complex profession. It is through learning -- that is, experimentation, making mistakes, reflecting with colleagues, embracing new learning opportunities, getting feedback, reading books -- that the members of any profession, and particularly educators, become most effective.

Mark Diaz
Past president, Learning Forward

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward's PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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