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Announcing the Release of "A New Vision for Teacher Professional Growth & Support: Six Steps to a More Powerful School System Strategy"

The introduction of Common Core Standards across the nation—combined with the spread of more rigorous teacher evaluation systems—are creating enormous new demands on teachers. At the same time, these developments provide huge opportunities to invest in teaching effectiveness.  Leading edge school systems, charter management organizations, and others are changing how they support teachers in response. But some school systems are still slow to change—and if they do not, we will have missed an opportunity to systematically provide an excellent teacher for every child.

In order to address this opportunity, Education Resource Strategies (ERS) has produced a new report, “A New Vision for Teacher Professional Growth and Support: Six Steps to a More Powerful School System Strategy”  which challenges school system leaders to rethink the traditional definition of teacher professional development. In this paper, ERS expands the concept to Professional Growth & Support, which includes any use of people, time, and money that supports improvement of teaching. This ranges from the time devoted to teacher evaluation debriefs, to the cost of required planning blocks, to salary increments for education credits. We hope to support educational leaders to create a more holistic approach to building teaching effectiveness—one which moves beyond “training” and is instead integrated into the larger school improvement strategy.

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ERS combined research, past experience with urban districts, and deep analysis of three different school systems—Duval County, Florida; Washington, DC; and charter network Achievement First—to identify six steps school system leaders can take to re-envision their professional growth strategy. This includes ideas on how to shift resources from sometimes outdated models to promising practices, without necessarily adding expensive new programs. These six steps include:

1. Quantify current spending on the universe of teacher Professional Growth & Support.

2. Capitalize on mandates and growing investments in Common Core standards, student assessment systems, and teacher evaluation to create integrated systems for teacher growth.

3. Leverage expert support to guide teacher teams who share instructional content.

4. Support growth throughout a teacher’s career by restructuring compensation and career path.

5. Add and optimize time to address organizational priorities as well as individual needs.

6. Overhaul legacy policies and make strategic tradeoffs.

These recommendations stem from a wealth of findings from ERS case studies and research, including:

  • School systems often spend more than they realize on supporting teacher growth, up to nearly 15% of the budget when taking into account items such as salary increases for educational credentials.
  • School systems can maximize their investment in teacher growth by connecting it to new academic standards, results of student assessments, and the teacher evaluation process.
  • Coaching represents the third largest professional growth investment for all three school systems studied. But much of that coaching is general and school-wide—not team focused or content specific.
  • School systems often spend a significant amount on “salary lanes”—compensating teachers for a graduate degree or other credentialing. But the research shows that extra education is not always correlated with student achievement gains.
  • All three school systems studied invest in non-instructional time for teachers, but one school system has 40% more defined work hours, and teachers spend more of this time in structured growth activities.
  • School systems must consider overhauling legacy practices if they want to free the resources necessary to truly improve teaching.

The report is accompanied by a series of tools to help districts assess their use of professional development dollars and consider ways to allocate them more effectively:

The reform rhetoric and literature is filled with discussion of the urgent need to build individual teacher expertise. Here ERS tackles the next and critical step: building collective teaching capacity so that every student can count on having effective teaching every year, in all subjects.

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