Research summaryProfessional development should be driven by analyses of the differences between (a) goals and standards for student learning and (b) student performance (Burch, 1996; Fullan, 1993; Howey & Collinson, 1995; Miller, Lord, & Dorney, 1994; NFIE, 1996; NGA; NSDC, 1995; Pink & Hyde, 1992). Such analyses will define what educators need rather than want: to learn, make professional development student-centered, and increase public confidence in the use of resources for professional development (American Federation of Teachers, 1995; Farkas & Friedman, 1995; National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, 1996). Educators can then use these analyses to explore the usefulness of alternative strategies for student learning and school improvement, paying close attention to the gains made by diverse types of learners.
The importance of this student-centered focus seems self-evident, but has not been standard practice. Too often, new teaching strategies, curricular approaches, or organizational designs, pursued as goals in and of themselves, have diverted attention from the school's central goal (Guskey, in press; Loucks-Horsley, 1995; Newmann & Wehlage, 1995). Moreover, school-level educators have often been prevented from developing analytic capacity for continual school improvement by bureaucratic structures. In an empirical study of a change effort in the Chicago Public Schools, for example, Bryk, Rollow, and Pinnell (1996) found diminished capacity in schools because the central school office assumed the functions of identifying problems, creating responsive programs, and evaluating their effectiveness (p. 180).
ReferencesAmerican Federation of Teachers. (1995). Principles for professional development. Washington, DC. Author.
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Newmann, F.M., & Wehlage, G.G. (1995). Successful school restructuring. A report to the public and educators by the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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