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Teacher Professional Learning in the United States: Case Studies of State Policies and Strategies

Abstract

High-achieving students emerge from a complex system of support that weaves together to build a strong fabric. That system includes effective teaching and leadership at the school and district level; rigorous curriculum, ongoing assessment for and of learning, continuous professional development for educators; family and community engagement; and conditions within schools and communities that ensure safe and productive learning environments for students and educators. This complex system exists in many communities and is missing in others.

Of the many elements that comprise this complex system, effective teaching has risen to the top as the most important followed by strong leadership. For the nearly 75% of the educators working in schools today beyond their novice years, professional development is the single most important strategy for extending and refining their knowledge, skills, dispositions, and practices throughout their careers. For those who are new to positions, strong preparation programs establish the foundation for success.

State policies and practices on career-long professional development for educators have the potential to strengthen both the effectiveness of and the access to professional learning that ties directly to improving educator practice and student achievement. This third study in the series of three studies on the state of professional development in the United States examines state policies and practices of four states making progress in two factors, access to professional development as defined by the Professional Development Access Index and student achievement as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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