On March 29, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Rebuild America Act, a bill "designed to help restore America's middle class." The bill addresses a wide range of subjects, including education. It offers another good indication that our vision, standards, and definition of professional learning continue to resonate with policy makers as well as educators.
In its analysis of the bill, the Center for American Progress writes:
The Rebuild America Act would make a major and timely investment in the teacher workforce of our nation's schools. In today's world, students must not only graduate from high school but also graduate with increasingly complex knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce. Currently, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted and are in various stages of rolling out the Common Core state-defined college- and career-ready standards. These standards require more of students than existing standards, and they will require more of teachers to teach them. This represents a new challenge for educators nationally.
Sen. Harkin's legislation would build state-and-local capacity to train and support teachers in helping students master college- and career-ready standards. It would provide a critical bridge between the aspirations of the standards and the realities of teachers and school leaders who must translate them into effective teaching and learning. This investment is necessary to ensure our teaching force and school leaders are equipped to address this new challenge.
The College and Career Readiness Classrooms Act--the education portion of Sen. Harkin's overarching bill--requires that federal funds support effective models of professional development that are goal-driven and focused on college- and career-readiness for students, increase teacher expertise in subject areas, are embedded in the work of the classroom teacher and the school, are sustained, and are conceived and implemented through collaboration with teachers and teacher organizations.
These requirements are among the best practices for effective professional development.
Learning Forward fully supports this legislation. In a letter to Sen. Harkin, we stated: "The CCRA is just what is needed to ensure that the historic movement toward college- and career-ready standards produces results for students. The Act will strengthen the capacity of state and local education agencies to provide professional development that is aligned with college- and career-ready standards and increases the effectiveness of all educators... The Act offers a clear vision of effective professional development that is school-based, spurs collaboration among teams of educators, focuses on achieving student and educator learning goals, and rigorously evaluates for impact on teaching and student learning."
While reauthorization is probably still a long way off, it is reassuring to see that at the federal level professional development is being positioned as key to ensuring all students are able to meet career and college ready standards.
Now it is our responsibility to ensure that the systems and processes we are putting in place represent the best of what we know. This is not a time to skimp on what is most important -- building systems to ensure every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves.
Executive Director, Learning Forward