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State Case Studies Offer Professional-Development Insights

Four states with above-average participation in professional development share common structures and strategies for teachers' on-the-job training, concludes a new report released by Learning Forward.

Written by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond and other researchers, the paper notes that there's no causal data to link the approaches to professional development in Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey, and Vermont to their higher student achievement. But the insights could spur better practices in districts across the nation, it says.

The report is the final entry in a three-part study of professional development. (Read this story and this blog item for EdWeek coverage of parts one and two, respectively.)

The authors selected those states because they had gains in student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and showed high levels of teacher participation in professional development, according to federal data collections. The states, the report says, shared features, including:

• Common standards for professional development that are integrated into licensure and certification systems;

• Emerging efforts to audit and monitor the quality of professional development;

• Mentoring and induction requirements for new teachers, some of which are enforced;

• A network and infrastructure that offer support for site-based professional development; and

• Stability of resources, even during the economic downturn.

Although dozens of states have adopted Learning Forward's PD standards, it's sometimes hard to know the extent to which those standards have "penetrated" the K-12 system. The report lists some interesting initiatives for each state studied that suggests the message has gotten through in those places.

Did you know, for instance, that schools in Vermont that miss adequate yearly progress for four years must implement the professional learning community model of PD—something that's not in the federal No Child Left Behind Act—or that Missouri has a state-run network of regional PD centers that review districts' school improvement plans?

Hard data on some of the new initiatives, like New Jersey's move toward professional-learning communities, are still scarce. We'll look forward to seeing more.

Many more examples in the report, so check it out.

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