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Survey Indicates Need for High-Quality Professional Learning

Today's release of the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership provides valuable information about teacher and principal needs, highlighting the increasing importance of high-quality professional learning.

With the challenges teachers face right now, including implementing Common Core standards and new assessments along with the creation of new teacher evaluation systems, I am disappointed by indications of declining resources for professional learning. And, at the same time, the increase in teachers assuming leadership roles of all kinds tells me we have an opportunity to leverage practitioner expertise and shared responsibility.

In 2009, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher highlighted how much teachers valued collaboration for learning and problem solving. When teachers indicate in this year's survey that their most valuable resources in schools are other teachers, they affirm the ongoing need for collaborative time and structures.

Unfortunately, more than 60% of teachers surveyed report that their opportunities to collaborate either declined or stayed the same. The continuing decline in teacher satisfaction is also tied to the decline in opportunities to collaborate; those teachers reporting lower rates of satisfaction are in schools with decreasing time and opportunities for collaboration.

In considering the quality of school leadership, those teachers who say their principals are doing an excellent job are more likely to report that their time for collaboration and professional learning has increased, emphasizing the critical role principals have in ensuring high-quality adult learning opportunities.

The most fascinating findings to me relate to the Common Core standards. The majority of teachers (92%) responding to this survey say they are knowledgeable about the Common Core State Standards. Ninety-three percent say they have the knowledge and skills to implement them. Yet far fewer are confident that the standards will improve student achievement. However, those teachers who have already been engaged in implementing Common Core report greater confidence that the standards will have a real impact on students.

Teachers need to experience professional learning that replicates the kinds of learning experiences Common Core outlines for students, and I believe this professional learning is what will bridge the gap we see in teachers' confidence about the impact of the standards in spite of their belief that they already have the knowledge and skills to implement them. Without an immersion in rigorous content, an emphasis on real-world application, and opportunities for authentic problem-solving, teachers won't be prepared to help schools realize the vision of the Common Core standards.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

(Editors' Note: The MetLife Foundation provides funding to Education Week Teacher to support its capacity to engage teachers interactively in professional community).

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