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[CPRE Finance Briefs - Reporting on Issues and Research in Education Policy]

Helping Teachers Teach Well: Transforming Professional Development

June 1995

by Thomas B. Corcoran

Thomas Corcoran is a Senior Research Fellow at CPRE. He is co-directing CPRE's study of state policies and alternative approaches to professional development which is being supported by the Carnegie Foundation. He also is currently playing a lead role for CPRE in the design and conduct of case studies of states for the national program evaluation of the National Science Foundation's State Systemic Initiative being conducted by SRI and CPRE.

In virtually every state in the country, reform efforts are dramatically raising expectations for students, and consequently, for teachers. In response to these reform initiatives, educators are being asked to master new skills and responsibilities and to change their practice.

To meet these new expectations, teachers need to deepen their content knowledge and learn new methods of teaching. They need more time to work with colleagues, to critically examine the new standards being proposed, and to revise curriculum. They need opportunities to develop, master and reflect on new approaches to working with children. All of these activities fall under the general heading of professional development.

Historically, state policymakers have paid little attention to the form, content or quality of professional development. Such matters have been left to the discretion of local boards of education and district administrators. However, if today's teachers are to be adequately prepared to meet the new challenges they are facing, this laissez-faire approach to professional development must come to an end. The needs are too urgent and resources too scarce to simply continue or expand today's inefficient and ineffectual arrangements.

This issue of CPRE Policy Briefs reviews what is known about professional development--where it is now, and where it needs to be. The brief discusses its organization, costs, and effects on practice. It also suggests some principles to guide professional development in the future and offers a framework for designing and assessing policies and programs.1

1This brief excerpts material from Thomas B. Corcoran, Transforming Professional Development for Teachers: A Guide for State Policymakers (Washington, DC: National Governors' Association, 1995). The work was supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of NGA, Carnegie, or the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education

CPRE Policy Briefs are published occasionally by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The Consortium operates two separate, but interconnected research centers: The Policy Center and The Finance Center. CPRE is funded by the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research. The Policy Center of CPRE is supported by grant #OERI-R117G1007; the Finance Center of CPRE is supported by grant #OERI-R117G10039.

Members of CPRE are Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Harvard University; Stanford University; and the University of Michigan.

The CPRE Policy and Finance Centers are part of a nationwide network of university-based research and development centers whose mission is to strengthen the performance of American students by providing useful and sound information. The research agenda for both Centers is built around three goals:

For further information on CPRE publications contact Pat Michaels at CPRE, Carriage House at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, 86 Clifton Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1568; 908/932-1331.

The views expressed in CPRE publications are those of individual authors and are not necessarily shared by the Consortium, its institutional members, or the U. S. Department of Education.

CPRE Management

Susan H. Fuhrman
Director, The Policy Center
Co-Director, The Finance Center
Eagleton Institute of Politics
Rutgers University

Allan R. Odden
Co-Director, The Finance Center
Wisconsin Center for Education Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison

William H. Clune
Wisconsin Center for Education Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison

David K. Cohen
School of Education
University of Michigan

Richard F. Elmore
School of Education
Harvard University

Michael W. Kirst
School of Education
Stanford University

[CPRE - Consortium for Policy Research in Education]

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