RELEASE: Let’s Put an End to One-Size-Fits-All Professional Learning, Says TeachStrong Coalition

TeachStrong coalition releases policy proposal recommending that districts and schools design their professional learning systems to better address student and teacher needs and to foster feedback and improvement.

The TeachStrong campaign brings together more than 60 teachers unions, teacher voice organizations, research institutions, and education reform and policy leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy issue of 2016.

Washington, D.C. — Despite significant investments at the federal, state, and local levels, most teachers do not receive the kind of professional learning that would help them continuously grow and improve their practice. Today, the TeachStrong campaign released a new policy proposal that calls on districts, schools, and school leaders to build systems of professional learning centered on student and teacher needs. These systems should promote collaboration and actionable feedback and allow for sustained, targeted opportunities for growth.

The TeachStrong campaign is a coalition of more than 60 leading education groups aimed at making modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016 so that students, especially those from low-income families, can be taught by great teachers. The campaign’s nine policy principles detail the need for comprehensive, systemic change to the teaching profession. To accomplish this goal, TeachStrong believes that the United States must invest in and develop policies that better recruit, prepare, support, and compensate teachers through all stages of their careers. The policy proposal released today emphasizes that teachers need more—and better—opportunities to grow professionally in order to address student needs.

“Every child, regardless of their ZIP code, deserves a qualified, committed, and caring educator who has access to continuous and well-designed professional development opportunities that focus on what we can do to ensure our students’ success,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “Professional development is essential to a professional growth system that will enhance teaching and learning, and it should include adequate time for inquiry, reflection and mentoring.”

TeachStrong’s new policy proposal offers the following policy recommendations for states, school districts, and schools to consider when reimagining how to design professional learning systems to meet student and teacher needs:

  • Districts, schools, school leaders, and teacher leaders should build structures and cultures that promote collaboration, openness to feedback, and continuous improvement.
  • Districts and schools should identify high-quality professional learning strategies with evidence and data systems that track the effectiveness of professional learning.
  • Districts, schools, and school leaders should prioritize professional learning for teachers that address unique student and teacher needs.

“Every teacher learns within the context of a professional learning system—the question is whether those systems were designed with the intentionality and wisdom to transform educator practice so that all students experience great teaching,” said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward. “TeachStrong’s principle focused on effective professional learning advances our growing understanding about what schools and districts need to do to create cultures of continuous improvement.”

“Effective teaching results from a teacher who engages students through their interests, designs the learning with an understanding of student needs, and builds on the assets students bring to the learning,” said Joyce Joyce, executive director of education at the Public Education and Business Coalition. “The Public Education and Business Coalition believes that professional learning is just like effective teaching. Professional learning must also attend to engagement, learning design, and assets of the professional learners. The latest TeachStrong policy proposal explains why all educators should be part of professional learning systems that are individualized to their strengths and needs.”

Today, TeachStrong also released a new video—part of its Story Project—in which TeachStrong ambassadors Karen Gant of Florida, Thomas Hakim of Indiana, and Ciana DeBellis of New York discuss the need to redesign professional learning to better address teachers’ individualized needs and ultimately benefit their students.

The TeachStrong campaign has also released policy proposals on recruiting diverse, high-achieving teacher candidates, reimagining teacher preparation, raising the bar for licensure, providing new teachers with residency and induction programs, and ensuring that all teachers have the time, tools, and support necessary to succeed.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact press@teachstrong.org.