Microsoft in Education Global Forum, Dubai, 2...
Districts are the biggest employers—but apparently not the best when it comes to training. Yet every district has plenty of professional development, and every district is focused on teacher effectiveness through the teacher evaluation push. Perhaps the focus is too much on evaluation.
It’s not that we’re not spending money on training to help educators perform better in the classroom; we’re doing it ineffectively. Much of the investment in the current teacher effectiveness drive in the U.S. is focused on one of three things: 1) Establishing a new system of measuring teachers. 2) Training principals to measure teachers in the new way. 3) Identifying ways of tying the new evaluation to student achievement results. It is rarely on efforts to develop teachers.
There are inherent challenges that this presents. We’re not strategic in how we spend money to train educators. If there are going to be new systems in place, we need to support educators so that they can meet the expectations of these evaluation systems. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study, Targeted Research on Users of iPD: Key Learnings, teachers believe PD is important, yet they “do not believe PD is effective, as it is not part of a coherent plan and does not improve their teaching.” This signifies a huge problem with PD in K-12 education today.
So, what do the Training Top 125 companies focus on? “Demonstrable results, progress of programs, innovation, success factors, training strategically linked to business goals, corporate commitment to training, [and] the potential applicability of best practices companywide….”
For school districts, the leadership should first focus on three critical areas: 1) Innovation 2) Training strategically linked to district goals, and 3) The application of best practices district wide. For example, a key goal would be to improve practice to effectively integrate the more rigorous Common Core State Standards in the classroom—and provide the teacher training and support needed to do so. Another goal would be to integrate technology in the classroom for 21st Century learners.
The greater solution would be to leverage technology to train across an entire district and develop online professional learning communities where educators can share, collaborate, learn, and support each other in teaching their students. This will be the face of a successful system of support for educators—and an effective, game-changing instance of PD.
A renewed focus on helping educators meet the needs of their students would help lower teacher attrition, increase knowledge and skills, and elevate the status of the profession. Employers of choice believe that human capital development is central to their success. In education, where 70-80% of budgets are spent on people, this approach should be even more important. It’s the only way we’re going to see the change we want to see in student achievement results.