Teacher Professional Learning Diagnostic Assessment
Does your school system have the the conditions and practices in place to support Connected Professional Learning?

This tool allows you to compare your current teacher professional learning model against the strategic practices profiled in our paper, Igniting the Learning Engine [pdf]. We studied four school systems that redefined their professional learning and have seen improved student outcomes. In these systems, professional learning activities are tightly connected with each other and supported by the school system through resources, policies, and practices. Most importantly, what we call “Connected Professional Learning” is strongly connected to the every day work of teaching. Though each system took a different approach, we found that Connected Professional Learning had these three elements in common:

Rigorous Curricula

System leaders provide school leaders and teachers with rigorous and coherent curricula, instructional resources, and assessments aligned to College- and Career-Ready Standards.

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Expert-Led Collaboration

Teachers are organized into teams, led by content experts, that have adequate time, support, and culture of learning to collaborate effectively on instruction.

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Growth-Oriented Feedback

Teacher leaders and other content experts provide frequent, growth-oriented feedback to teachers to improve instructional practice.

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The Challenge

For decades, education leaders have struggled to improve the quality of teacher professional development (PD) and its impact on student learning. The problems with teacher PD are no secret: one-off workshops, university classes, conferences, and online modules that are disconnected from real-life practice; teacher evaluation systems that do not lead to continuous improvement; and dilution of even promising practices, like Professional Learning Communities, to include virtually any type of teacher meeting.

The introduction of more rigorous College- and Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) makes the challenge of teacher PD even more urgent. Faced with standards that differ significantly from anything they have experienced before—either as teachers or students—teachers are asked to adapt rapidly and radically.

The Transformation

Fortunately, some school systems are rising to the challenge and significantly improving instruction. With the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ERS identified four case study systems—Achievement First, District of Columbia Public Schools, Duval County Public Schools and Sanger Unified School District—who serve a relatively high-needs population, faced rising academic standards, and are seeing impressive growth in student learning. These systems changed their practices to foster a more strategic and “connected” approach to teacher professional learning.

While leaders in each of these systems know there is no magic formula and that the work continues to evolve, they also highlighted several themes about what has made each professional learning strategy successful—themes that match academic research findings as well as ERS’ twelve years of experience working closely with large urban school systems across the country. The lessons learned from these case study systems helped inform the development of this tool.
For more information, read our whitepaper: Igniting the Learning Engine [pdf].

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