A report last fall found that the majority of professional development—80 percent—doesn't align with the new federal definition of high-quality training. So, what is working?
The fourth and final installment of a report series by the Frontline Research & Learning Institute, released last week, highlighted district best practices on high-quality PD. The institute is a division of Frontline Education, which is a K-12 software company. For this report series, researchers examined a nationally representative sample of 203 school districts, which included data from over 107,000 teachers who participated in almost 377,000 activities over a five-year span (between 2011 and 2016).
The federal K-12 law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, defines high-quality PD as meeting six criteria: sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused. Sarah Silverman, the vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, an education policy research firm, and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview that there wasn't a clear framework of what these criteria mean, so the report defined key metrics for each category:
- Sustained: taking place over an extended period that's longer than one day. Only 13 percent of PD activities that teachers enrolled in consisted of more than three meetings.
- Intensive: focusing on a discrete concept, practice, or program. The average length of PD activities was 4.5 hours.
- Job-embedded: taking place in real time in the classroom. Sixty-three percent of PD activities studied were offered within the school system.
- Collaborative: involving multiple educators working on the same concept or practice to gain a shared understanding. Just 9 percent of enrolled activities were collaborative.
- Data-driven: based on and responsive to real-time information about the needs of teachers and their students. Only 8 percent of activities that were offered aligned to this format.
- Classroom-focused: relevant to the instructional process. Eighty-five percent of PD activities aligned with this standard.