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Gates Column Highlights Importance of Effective PD

In a Washington Post piece published last week, Gates wrote that to "flip the curve" in the performance of public elementary and secondary schools, we need to "flip the curve" in how we improve teaching effectiveness. Gates calls for the nation to invest in identifying great teachers, discovering effective practices, and transferring effective practices to all teachers within our nation's education system.

Over the past 42 years, Learning Forward has documented that students learn more when teachers learn and work together. Effective professional development -- teachers meeting to analyze student performance data, identify students' and teachers learning needs, and invest in gaining new strategies - is the most powerful strategy to improve student performance.

We have evidence that this works. Studies funded by the Gates Foundation found that when states invest heavily in high quality professional development, they obtain greater increases in student achievement than other states. Exemplary states make it a priority to build an infrastructure that provides all teachers with access to effective professional development. Another study shows us that countries that routinely out-perform the United States have teachers who regularly collaborate throughout their careers to solve complex problems. They learn, teach, and assess student performance together every day.

Answers to increasing student achievement exist in many schools, and through collaborative professional learning, those answers spread from classroom to classroom. When educators share responsibility for the success of every student, we shift from fixing one teacher and classroom at a time to improving teaching across classrooms, schools, and school systems.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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