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Professional Development Overview

Professional development is not just something that is important for teachers. It is important for all those involved in education from the support staff right up to the administrators. Professional development that includes participants from support, teaching and administration at the same time can help to bridge the divisions between groups. When differing groups work together, there is a greater chance for understanding each others work and also for forging bonds between the groups to work towards a common purpose. Developing a culture of continuous learning and modeling the use of personal learning networks will be key to engaging students and the community. Below we focus on professional development for teachers; on the page following, we talk about professional development for administrators.

Professional Development for Teachers

Quality teachers can be one of the greatest determinants of student achievement. Teacher’s education, ability, and experience account for more variation in student achievement than all other factors. Studies have found that 40 to 90 percent of the difference in student test scores can be attributed to teacher quality (Darling-Hammond and Ball, Teaching for High Standards: What Policymakers Need to Know and Be Able to Do). What’s more, teachers are under more pressure than ever to perform, help students produce high test scores, and demonstrate effectiveness in the classroom. Knowing the subject matter, understanding how students learn, and practicing effective teaching methods translate into greater student achievement. Therefore, it is vitally important that teachers be well prepared when they begin teaching and that they continue to improve their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.

NCLB requires all students to meet specific standards. As a result, teachers, districts and schools are being held accountable for student’s performance. If all students are to have a chance at success, then they must have teachers who know how to help them meet these standards. Unfortunately, many teachers are not properly trained, skilled or equipped to confront some of the challenges that are presented in the 21st century classroom. Teachers are often given new technologies or new initiatives but never given the time or resources to utilize and implement them into their classrooms. Accountability measures are requiring more of teachers. Teachers, therefore, need more support to meet the demands of the new system and they need tools to meet higher expectations. It is vital for all 21st century teachers to receive proper and quality professional development.

Additionally, NCLB is asking for a higher percentage of teachers to receive quality professional development.The law encourages partnerships between districts and schools of education and defines high quality professional development programs as those that are “sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused…and are not one-day or short-term workshops or conferences” (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). While NCLB says these characteristics are required “in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction and the teacher’s performance in the classroom” (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) information on how to make that happen is hard to find.

Yet, despite the difficulty of finding specific methods for professional development; There are several resources that can help districts, schools and educators take the correct steps toward better and more effective professional development.

Characteristics of Quality Professional Development


Professional Development Roles

Federal Government
  • Provides guidelines for boosting teacher quality
  • Holds states accountable
  • Adopt standards
  • Require district, school, and teacher plans
  • Allocate resources
  • Approve professional development providers
  • Require evaluations
  • Provide statewide training programs and academies
  • Develop state plan
  • Adopt standards
  • Develop a district plan
  • Train principals and teacher leaders
  • Evaluate professional development
  • Provide support for teachers
  • Deliver professional development
  • Manage federal and state requirements
  • Access online information and activities
  • Attend conferences
  • Participate in curriculum planning
  • Work collaboratively
  • Pursue National Board Certification


Professional Development Resources


Next up, see Professional Development for Administrators