Action #1: Evaluate state professional learning initiatives
State education agencies (SEAs) typically evaluate the
professional learning they offer by collecting data such as the
number of educators trained, participant perceptions of quality
of the training sessions and participant self-reports of improved
skills. By contrast, comprehensive evaluations examine data about
a range of key aspects of the professional learning process from
initial planning to ultimate outcomes. Research questions to
pursue include the following.
Design: Was the professional learning designed
appropriately to meet identified needs and meet the
expectations established by the statewide standards for
Implementation: detailed information about the
extent to which the activities are being implemented at a high
level of quality and with fidelity to the design.
Reach and participation: Did everyone who the
learning was intended for have access to it and attend?
Perceptions: Did participants find the
learning experiences meaningful and worthwhile?
Short-term/initial outcomes: Did the
professional learning produce the desired changes in educator
knowledge and practice?
Long-term/ultimate outcomes: Did the
professional learning result in improved student performance in
the target area?
Addressing this full range of questions can give state leaders a
comprehensive understanding of the professional learning process;
it can help them pinpoint which key aspects of it need
improvement; and it can help them make decisions with confidence
about the effectiveness of efforts so that money, time and effort
can be spent on things that work.
Action #2: Support comprehensive evaluation of professional
learning at the local level.
Provide local leaders with robust guidance and tools that
they can access on-demand to increase their own capacity to
design and conduct comprehensive evaluations of professional
learning at the school and LEA levels. Providing these guidance
and tools are made available on demand to practitioners statewide
not only makes this work less burdensome for leaders in any one
location but also fosters greater consistency and quality across
schools and districts.
Provide integrated professional learning and technical
assistance to enhance local knowledge, skills and capacity to
design and conduct evaluation of local professional learning.
Professional learning can help local leaders increase their
knowledge about evaluation. Technical assistance — regular,
ongoing collaboration, coaching, feedback and other kinds of
implementation support — provided in ways thoughtfully linked to
professional learning, can help local leaders apply their new
knowledge in practice. Engaging in professional learning and
technical assistance can also help the SEA better understand
local practice and thereby better meet the needs of local
leaders, teachers and students. This can include work with
leaders and networks of teams at the district level and at the
school level for schools in most need of improvement. This might
be provided by the SEA itself or in coordination with partner
organizations such as regional education service agencies
Action #3: Increase the shared accountability for excellence in
professional learning between state and local leaders.
Provide local leaders with more feedback on their efforts.
For example, increase the communication channels within the SEA’s
professional learning programs and technical assistance services,
or collaborate with partners such as RESAs, to engage local
leaders in timely, ongoing conversations about their efforts and
ways to improve them. For example, the SEA or RESAs could review
and provide written feedback LEA and school plans and reports. It
can also include dialogue with local leaders to reflect on local
practice and data, provide feedback on that practice and data,
and plan for improvement. Information the SEA gleans about local
practices and needs through these feedback activities can help
the SEA continually refine its programs and services to meet
Establish stronger expectations for local leaders to
rigorously evaluate the professional learning they offer and to
use evaluation findings for continuous improvement. This could
include requirements that programs that include professional
learning on state college- and career-readiness standards as a
major component, conduct evaluations of that professional
learning that include systematic implementation monitoring and
rigorous examination of educator- and student- level outcomes.
Existing planning and reporting structures, such as school and
LEA Title I improvement plans, funding applications and other
types of program documentation regularly developed and submitted
to the SEA provide opportunities for increasing focus on and
communication about this work.