Is Teacher Professional Development the Key to Improving Student Performance?

Is Teacher Professional Development the Key to Improving Student Performance?

As superintendents, administrators, and principals gather to discuss strategies to improve student learning, they are influenced by many stakeholders. Parents, local government officials, and even students chime in with what they believe will be the key ingredient in student performance improvement. Getting them all to agree on efforts, investments, or methods is no easy feat. But, there is one method for improving classroom performance that research supports – investing in teacher professional development that impacts the student learning.

Steven Rivkin and Eric Hanoshek, education experts from the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, did some interesting research in 2006 on teacher quality and these statistics are telling:

They took a group of 50 teachers and found:

  • –Students taught by the most effective teacher in that group of 50 learn in six months what those taught by the average teacher learn in a full year.
  • –Students taught by the least effective teacher in that group of 50 will take two years to achieve the same learning.
  • –In the classrooms of the most effective teachers, students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn at the same rate as those from advantaged backgrounds.

(Teacher Quality. Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin. Handbook of the Economics of Education, Volume 2, Amsterdam: North Holland, 2006, pp. 1052-1078)

Beyond teacher professional development what are some alternatives? Replacing teachers is not the answer. Not only does it cost money, but if you looked at PISA (Program for Internal Student Assessment) scores as a measuring stick, it was found that simply replacing the least effective 10% of teachers only improved scores by two points. Requiring teachers to have masters degrees didn’t increase PISA scores at all, and excluding the lowest performing 30% of teacher candidates from teaching only raised scores 5 points – and that was over a 30-year period.

So the real opportunity exists with current teachers and providing them with sound professional learning opportunities. Teacher professional development is the cornerstone of our Keeping Learning on Track formative assessment solution and for good reason.

Come back soon… we’ll soon be diving into Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) as part of an overall teacher professional development strategy, and discussing how these communities are advancing student learning in the classroom.

We’d love to hear what you think about the topic. Should TLCs be a priority for schools today to support their teachers’ professional development?