Professional Learning Policies Promote Equity
Across the nation, new state legislation is weaving together educator evaluation, student assessments, and continuous professional learning for educators. New evaluation systems for educators commonly define levels of effective performance, require preparation for those responsible for conducting the evaluations, and call for support systems for educators' continual professional growth and development. Too often these evaluation systems fail to include the essential policy components to support effective educator professional learning necessary for continuous growth, which reinforces an already deeply embedded practice of inequity in students' opportunity to learn.
Some educators are fortunate enough to work in school systems and states with sound professional learning policies that define effectiveness; hold school systems, third-party providers, and others accountable for effective professional learning practices; and make the necessary resources available for continuous learning. When other educators do not benefit from such policies, students' opportunities to learn are impacted.
Learning Forward and Council of Chief State Schools Officers joined together to recommend six essential components for statewide professional learning policies. These policy components establish the parameters and conditions that ensure that all educators experience effective professional learning as a part of an ongoing educator growth system:
- A vision and purpose for professional learning that links it with educator effectiveness and student success;
- A definition of professional learning that establishes a common understanding of research-based practice, including collaborative, job-embedded learning experiences aligned with student content standards and educator performance standards;
- Standards for professional learning that establish quality indicators;
- Ongoing assessment and evaluation of professional learning to measure its quality and results;
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders, including teachers, principals, central office staff, and state education agencies; and
- Adequate funding to support high-quality professional learning.
These professional learning policy components provide a check on inequity that exists across and within states and districts in regard to educator supports for effectiveness. The components establish a foundation for equity in professional learning, a primary support for educator effectiveness.
Without emphasis on professional learning, the policies for educator evaluation will fall short in meeting both students' and educators' needs.
Senior Advisor, Learning Forward