Professional Development and the Teacher-Talent Pipeline

As schools and districts across the country implement the Common Core State Standards, the need to provide high quality professional development for teachers has never been greater. Yet, despite the more than $3 billion invested annually in teacher PD, few in our industry would say the money is well spent. If you’ve ever observed a typical PD session, it’s obvious why: undifferentiated “sit and listen” sessions abound, requiring little engagement from teachers and generating few personal insights as a result. To improve teacher PD, we need to shift to a talent development model. Research shows there are two factors critical for developing talent: engaging in deep practice, and focusing on challenging, bite-sized tasks. (Read more at EdWeek)

In Nevada, whether it is RPDP, the Regional Professional Development Program, or a local PD organization such as CPD, the Curriculum and Professional Development Division based in Clark County,  administration is working hard with constrained resources to make sure PD is a priority for the teachers of our state. Unfortunately, the current model is failing our teachers, and in turn depriving our students by not empowering our teachers to succeed. In order to get a better idea of our current system and where it needs to go, we’ve conducted multiple focus groups and have held discussions with many teachers, administrators, and community partners from across the state on this issue. Resoundingly, the comments have been near universal in their criticism of the current PD structure in our state, while also voicing support for efforts to improve the system and the way PD is delivered.

Of the different conversations we’ve had on this topic, it seems that there are 4 major concerns regarding the system as it now stands:

  • Not where you need it; RPDP and CPD typically take place outside of the building
  • Not when you need it; PD does not occur immediately/when issues arise. PD classes are often on the weekends, taking away personal time
  • Not given to who needs it. Classes and PD Sessions are not tailored to individual teachers and their issues.
  • Advancement opportunities are minimal outside of Administration

So how do we resolve this? How can we make sure that PD is inside the building, accessible when a teacher needs it, and tailored to each individual teacher? How do we make sure teachers have control over their ability to advance and improve, without leaving the classroom? Any framework for developing our teacher talent pipeline needs to be able to answer these questions, and we’ll support any system that does.