WASHINGTON—Statement from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on “The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth About Our Quest for Teacher Development,” a new study from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) that looks at the current state of professional development for teachers in our nation’s schools.
“TNTP’s ‘The Mirage’ report concludes that the professional learning programs many school districts have in place aren’t working for our nation’s educators and the students they serve—a criticism the AFT and others have made for years.
“The study points out the challenge of fixing the many flaws in our current professional development system without throwing the baby out with the bath water. Even high-quality professional development must be directly relevant to the needs of teachers and genuinely improve teaching and learning. And low-quality professional development, frankly, feels like detention.
“Equally problematic, as the new report shows, is that teacher ‘evaluation’ has become conflated with ‘development.’ Teacher evaluation is important, but as an assessment measure, not as an investment in teaching and learning—particularly with the current misguided focus on high-stakes evaluations that sees students as test scores and teachers as data points—which ultimately does not support improvement or growth.
“High-quality professional development must be an ongoing process of improvement that allows teachers not only to master new content but also to integrate this knowledge and skill into their classrooms. Evaluation, done well, can be a part of that continuous learning and feedback loop. And, as we have seen around the world in nations with high-performing education systems, teachers thrive in a collaborative culture that gives them the time, tools and trust to drive their professional learning.
“As one teacher said in ‘The Mirage’ report: ‘If our students need choices, we need choices, too. We are differentiating for our kids, but no one is differentiating for me.’
“Professional development is an essential element of comprehensive reform. The greatest lesson of ‘The Mirage’ report is that in order for professional development to work for teachers, it must be done with teachers.”