Every day is an interesting day in education research – two studies on teaching demonstrate the need for high quality teacher professional development. The first is a Gates Study, Teachers Know Best,

All told, $18 billion is spent annually on professional development, and a typical teacher spends 68 hours each year—more than a week—on professional learning activities typically directed by districts. When self-guided professional learning and courses are included, the annual total comes to 89 hours.

Yet by many measures, including the views of teachers themselves, much of this effort and investment is simply not working. In interviews, teachers say that too many current professional development offerings are not relevant, not effective, and most important of
all, not connected to their core work of helping students learn.

More specifically:
●● Few teachers (29 percent) are highly satisfied with current professional development offerings.
●● Few teachers (34 percent) think professional development has improved.
●● Large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools, analyzing student data to differentiate instruction, and implementing the
Common Core State Standards and other standards.
●● Professional development formats strongly supported by district leadership and principals, such as professional learning communities and coaching, are currently not meeting teachers’ needs.
●● Principals largely share teachers’ concerns about the efficacy of professional learning.

At the same time a new study on Teacher Merit Pay showed promising results – especially if it was linked to professional development

  • Merit pay programs for teachers are associated with a significant increase in student test scores, according to a new review of 37 studies, including 26 conducted in the U.S. But the effects depend of how the program is designed.
  • Programs combined with professional development produced the greatest results. “Integrating merit pay with effective professional development opportunities suggests an important route for future research into pay incentives,” wrote the researchers, led by Lam Pham of Vanderbilt University. They note even if teachers are working harder, they may not always know how to improve their practices.
  • Higher award amounts also produced stronger results, as did programs that provide merit pay to top-ranking teachers rather than to a group of teachers. Results in elementary schools were greater than at the middle school level. There were not enough studies at the high school level to provide a reliable estimate.

More to come on teacher professional development