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Better teacher development is key to student success

National report says U.S. provides inadequate professional development opportunities

WASHINGTON - February 04, 2009 -

Sustained and intensive professional development for teachers has a direct and positive impact on student achievement. American teachers report that much of the professional development available to them is not useful. That’s the message from a national report released today by the National Staff Development Council.

“This is just the latest study that makes the point that real and sustained student achievement happens when teachers are provided meaningful professional development opportunities throughout their career,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “Teachers need time to engage in sustained and focused professional development that is collaborative and focused on content.”

The NSDC study looked at professional development of teachers in the United States, compared those results with nations around the world, and cross-referenced their findings with student achievement in each country. The results are clear. Nations that invest the most in continually improving and strengthening the skills of their educators have the highest gains in student achievement.

According to the study, nine out of 10 teachers in the U.S. have participated in professional learning opportunities, but almost all have been short-term conferences and workshops. The report notes that those learning opportunities are too seldom tied to subject content, identified by teachers as being not useful, do not foster professional collaboration, are often paid for by teachers themselves, and are providing little help with the challenges teachers face in effectively reaching students with special needs or with limited English proficiency.

By contrast, according to the report, other nations where students outperform those in the United States invest heavily in professional learning for their educators and provide time that is built into the teachers’ work hours for ongoing, intensive professional development and collaboration.

“There is no easy or quick way to increase student achievement,” said Van Roekel, “but we now have research that shows us what works. If the United States is truly serious about helping every student succeed, we will invest in research-based professional development programs that get us there, and we’ll have the patience to let them work.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT: Miguel Gonzalez

(202) 822-7823,