Term Paper: Staff Development and Student Performance

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[. . .] In addition, traditional salary scales offer increments to teachers for completing certain continuing education units (CEUs) or accomplishing recertification within a certain period of time. In some states, a Master's degree opens the door to a permanent license or a career boost.

California study conducted in 1986 estimated the average expenditure per teacher for professional development was $1,360 per teacher. (Little, 1989) However, when this metric was evaluated to include the contributions of individuals and the present value of future salary increments, the value was more like $4,000. A more recent study conducted by the Education Development Center estimated a range of $1,755 to $3,259 in annual per teacher costs for four large districts. These numbers represented 1.8 to 2.8% of local school budgets overall, not including the present value of future salary increments. (Miller, 1994) The similarity among these studies is that the actual expenditures for professional development exceeded the original estimates of state and local policymakers.

Local district investments in professional development typically consist of the extra operational school days required to put aside professional development time, the staff costs of planning and delivering in-service programs, reimbursing tuition and teachers' salary increments upon earning added degrees and certificates. It is estimated that these activities comprise 3-5% of operating expenses. States' professional development commitments include intermediate agencies, categorical set aside funds, employees who provide services and consulting to schools, administrative costs for recertification programs, state subsidized workshops and programs, and state aid to local districts. According to Corcoran, traditional state investments in professional development range from less than 1% to over 3% of total state spending on public education.

In 1993 the federal government spent an estimated $369 million on teacher development programs in science, mathematics, and technology. In addition, Chapter Two of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), The Eisenhower State Mathematics and Science Program, allocated $246 million in the same year. (Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology, 1993) In 1994, Congress passed legislation (dubbed Goals 2000) to increase federal support for professional development, particularly funding for the Eisenhower Program.

In virtually every state in the country, reform efforts are dramatically raising expectations for students, and consequently, for teachers. In response to these reform initiatives, educators are being asked to master new skills and responsibilities and to change their practice. To meet these new expectations, teachers need to deepen their content knowledge and learn new methods of teaching. Given that teachers, administrators, federal agencies and educational organizations are all interested in fostering teacher development, how exactly do we make the connection between staff development and student progress? According to the authors of Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, "The most compelling reason to invest in effective professional development is that it works." The authors add: Successful professional development "not only makes teachers feel better about their practice, but also reaps learning gains for students, especially in the kinds of more challenging learning that new standards demand."

In 1997, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted a study on the effects of professional development. The study found that "participation in professional development programs on cooperative learning, interdisciplinary problems, portfolio assessment, or technology integration led to more extensive use of those strategies in the classrooms. In short, "even no-frills staff development resulted in teachers' willingness to try new strategies to improve classroom instruction."

Trends in student achievement also support the power of professional development. Doing What Matters Most, the NCTAF follow-up to What Matters Most, found that states which made substantial investments in professional development during the 1990s have been rewarded with improved student achievement. Long-term correlation between professional development and student achievement can be seen in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa, which have consistently led the nation in achievement, and which "have all had a long history of professional teacher policies, and are among the 12 states that have state professional standards boards which enacted high standards for entering teaching." In contrast, Doing What Matters Most reports that "state reform strategies during the 1980s that did not include substantial efforts to improve teaching have been much less successful."

Recommended Guidelines for Successful Implementation

While there is no consensus for a standard blueprint for professional development programs, many have suggested common guidelines: (Griffin, 1982)

Stimulate and support site-based initiatives. Professional development is likely to have greater impact on practice if it is closely linked to school initiatives to improve practice.

Support teacher initiatives as well as school or district initiatives. These initiatives could promote the professionalization of teaching and may be cost-effective ways to engage more teachers in serious professional development activities.

Should be grounded in knowledge about teaching. Good professional development should encompass expectations educators hold for students, child-development theory, curriculum content and design, instructional and assessment strategies for instilling higher-order competencies, school culture and shared decision-making.

Model constructivist teaching. Teachers need opportunities to explore, question and debate in order to integrate new ideas into their repertoires and their classroom practice.

Offer intellectual, social and emotional engagement with ideas, materials and colleagues. If teachers are to teach for deep understanding, they must be intellectually engaged in their disciplines and work regularly with others in their field.

Demonstrate respect for teachers as professionals and as adult learners. Professional development should draw on the expertise of teachers and take differing degrees of teacher experience into account.

Provide for sufficient time and follow-up support for teachers to master new content and strategies and to integrate them into their practice.

Most importantly, groups suggest that professional development should be viewed as an integral part of a teacher's curriculum rather than a privilege granted to a selected few by administrators. There is a growing consensus that the traditional models for professional development are too hierarchal and isolated from classroom authenticity to positively impact a teacher's practices. Characteristics being identified as enhancing classroom technique are things like focus, follow-up, intensity and continuity. It has been mentioned by many sources that it is important that the goal of the individual instruction, whatever it may be, be aligned with district goals in order to be fully effective in translating learned skills to the classroom. This stands to reason, for competing goals will result in inconsistent messages.

Georgia's Example

Weaving continuous learning for teachers into the fabric of the teaching job is the foundation for large-scale improvement of student achievement in all public schools." (Renyi, 1996) This work can and should be initiated by the teaching profession itself, in partnership with other education employees, communities, districts, and states in an effort to reshape public schooling in order to support contiguous learning for all districts, and states in an effort to reshape public schooling in order to support continuous learning for all the workers in every school -- adults and children alike.

The 1998 study entitled "Staff Development and Student Achievement: Making the Connection in Georgia Schools" conducted a qualitative analysis comparing the relationship between staff development and student achievement. Funds had been appropriated towards staff development under the Quality Basic Education Act since 1985 at the state level (over $35 million in 1998). The state of Georgia has been gathering information on the use of resources, participation levels and accomplishments by district for years in a unique effort at assessing areas of success in staff development initiatives.

For the purpose of the '98 study, staff development was defined as: An organized learning opportunity for teachers to acquire knowledge and skills to help them become more effective teachers. Staff development activities may consist of activities such as a single workshop, a conference, a workshop series, summer institutes, college coursework, or organized peer coaching and study group sessions. A staff development activity may be sponsored by many entities including a school, the school district, Regional Education Service Agencies, state agencies, teacher academies, colleges, or professional networks and organizations.

For this study, the group selected a sample population of higher and lower achieving schools and collected data regarding staff development at the schools. Sixty schools across 35 districts were chosen for the study, representing a range of socio-economic factors. For each school a focus group of six to ten teachers was conducted. IN addition a survey was implemented, with 1,150 teachers responding. Overall, it was discovered that the higher achieving schools considered staff development a tool to improve student performance rather than a function separate from classroom results. The characteristics between the two subsets of schools are summarized below:

Staff Development in Higher and Lower Achieving Schools

Staff Development Characteristics Higher Achieving Lower Achieving

1. Decision-Making Process

More collaborative

Less collaborative

2. Content

No difference

3. Focus

More student and classroom focused

More emphasis on certification renewal and stipends

4. Providers

No difference

5. Strategies for Providing Time

No difference

6. Format and Delivery

More training strategies used, higher levels of use by teachers, greater number of positive outcomes

Fewer training strategies used, lower levels of use by teachers, fewer number of positive outcomes

7. Teachers'… [END OF PREVIEW]

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