Why Quality Professional Learning for Teachers Is an Imperative for Student Success

By Jacob Bruno, Vice President, Professional Learning, NWEA

Jacob Bruno, Vice President, Professional Learning, NWEA

Not a Debate, But an Imperative

When it comes to educating our youth, teachers, policy makers and parents continue to debate over different priorities -- be it standards, curriculum, school safety, or teacher pay. But one priorityis clear:every student deserves instruction effective at helping them learn what they need to succeed in school and life.

That is why it is critical that we support the types of thought leadership and educator professional pathways that empower teachers to make, measure, and maximize their impact on student learning; and to do so in ways that all kids experience growth, proficiency, and beyond.

Four areas where quality professional learning is essential to make this happen: 

● Alignment of instruction and assessment to rigorous academic content standards: One of the most powerful levers of student learning and school improvement is to ensure that every student is on track toward grade-level proficiency. Instruction, and the assessments that measure learning, must be rigorous and aligned with common standards that define the skills and knowledge that students must obtain to be prepared for college, work and life. With instruction and assessments aligned to high-quality standards, teachers are empowered to better monitor their students' progress toward proficiency and adjust their instructional practices to ensure every learner is on track to succeed.

● All stakeholders understanding the academic growth of each student: Alongside measuring proficiency, we must also measure growth to provide a more accurate picture of student performance. Measuring growth informs where every student is on their learning journey and how far they have come. This knowledge enables teachers to target instruction for individual student needs to meet them where they are at and take them to that next level in their academic experience.

● Understanding of the purpose and instructional use of every lesson, task, and assessment of learning: A teacher’s understanding of the purpose of instructional and classroom tools, including assessments, is just as critical as the teacher’s knowledge of content. Teachers must understand the key objectives for each lesson, task, and formal or informal assessment, and how the resulting data will help inform instruction and help students learn. Equally important is that educators communicate with key stakeholders about assessment and its application in the classroom.

● Educators who are deeply assessment & data literate:And most importantly, educators must know if students are learning.For any assessment to truly serve its purpose, teachers must be able to interpret and apply the data to help their students.The problems many schools and districts face are that often teachers have little or no training on using assessment data to guide their instruction. To make the investment in assessment pay off for everyone -- especially students -- teacher assessment literacy needs to be a priority.

How Can We Enable Quality Instruction?

Empowered teachers, who have the necessary classroom tools and resources, are critical to overall student success and tohelping all students - especially those in disadvantaged situations -to maximize their growth, grade level proficiency and beyond. Policymakers, community leaders, and parents have a responsibility to support educators within their schools in making continuous & impactful professional learning a priority. When we give teachers the professional learning and support that they need to deliver quality instruction, the powerful combination of their commitment and their efficacy will lead to the learning and achievement revolution that every student deserves.

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