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Save Professional Development! (Or Maybe Not ...)

In an op-ed in The Seattle Times, Stephanie Hirsh and Patricia Wasley—the Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council and a professor of education at the University of Washington, respectively—lament budget cuts targeting teacher professional development. But, in an interesting twist, they also note that professional development itself—or at least the type of professional development that's prevalent in many schools—is at least partly to blame:

For too long, professional development has been treated as something that takes place at the occasional workshop, in-service day or conference a handful of times a year. Under this model, schools are closed, substitutes are hired and results are rarely determined or reported.

Hirsh and Wasley then argue that a more cost-effective and constructive approach to PD exists and should be a priority in education policy. In contrast to the workshop model, they write, this alternative approach is infused into every school day and oriented around real-time student-peformance data and teacher collaboration.

Incidentally, we did an article last year on creating effective PD in tough economic times for which I talked to Stephanie Hirsh. I remember being surprised that she (along with other experts) didn't seem to think that possible cutbacks in funding for PD programs were necessarily all bad. They could, she said, help schools focus on things that actually work.

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