February 4, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers,
On ‘Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report
on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad'
The National Staff Development Council today released "Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad," which finds that the United States provides teachers too little professional development, and that what little is provided often lacks key elements proven to raise student achievement.
WASHINGTON—This report offers a blueprint for better professional development for teachers and, ultimately, better student achievement. Those who look to international comparisons of student achievement also should study the results of this report, which provides a likely explanation for why some countries perform better than the United States.
The report highlights the desperate need for more and better support for teachers in order to foster teamwork among teachers, give them a voice in school decision-making, and tightly focus professional development on their academic subjects. Each of these is a critical, research-based measure that would improve teacher quality and student learning. One finding highlights the gap between where we are and where we need to go: Research shows that 50 hours per year of professional development is needed to improve student achievement, yet most teachers in this country receive no more than 16 hours.
Recently, some policymakers have proposed so-called teacher quality reforms that, perversely, would make the teaching profession less attractive, undermine teacher morale and collaboration, and do nothing to help teachers teach and students learn. This report points to a better way forward, and we hope policymakers embrace the research-based measures described in this report, which have proven successful in other nations.
The AFT is strongly committed to improving teacher quality. In addition to working to change state laws and collective bargaining agreements to promote better professional development, the AFT has its own research-based professional development programs, works with school districts to establish peer assistance and review programs that improve teacher evaluation and support, and even provides training for America's teachers in "lesson study," a form of professional development that is popular in Japan and featured in this report.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.