Professional Development: Pennsylvania

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that teachers receive feedback about their performance and should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Professional Development: Pennsylvania results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Full implementation of the Pennsylvania Educator Effectiveness system began in the 2013-2014 school year.  The evaluation framework does not tie professional development to evaluation findings for all teachers. Teachers are provided a signed copy of their rating form. Teachers rated "needs improvement" or "failing" must participate in a performance improvement plan. The improvement plan includes, among other things, "recommendations for professional development... based on the contents of the rating tool."


Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Require that evaluation systems provide teachers with feedback about their performance. In order to increase their effectiveness in the classroom, teachers need to receive feedback on strengths and areas that need improvement identified in their evaluations. As such, Pennsylvania should require that evaluation systems provide all teachers with feedback about their classroom performance, whether or not such information has been requested.

Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations. Professional development that is not informed by evaluation results may be of little value to teachers' professional growth and aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. Pennsylvania should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania indicated that the state has extensive resources for professional development on the Standards Aligned System (SAS) portal.  The state noted that the resources have been reorganized around the four domains used in the educator effectiveness system so that the evaluator and teacher can refer to them when an area for growth or improvement is identified in the evaluation process. These resources are also designed for the plan of improvement, and the SAS portal provides professional development on the Danielson framework for all teachers on the meaning of the domains and components through short courses. The courses may be taken free of charge for improvement in an identified area or to increase knowledge in all of the domains.

Research rationale

Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations.

The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve.  Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers' strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities.  Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers.  Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.

Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad.  Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings. 

Professional Development: Supporting Research

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011; E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers," NBER Working Paper No. 16877, March 2011.

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, A. Wayne, F. Stancavage, J. Taylor, M. Eaton, K. Walters, M. Song, S. Brown, S. Hurlburt,  P. Zhu, S. Sepanik, F. Doolittle,  and E. Warner, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, May 2011, NCEE 2011-4024.

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see K. Neville and C. Robinson, "The Delivery, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training" The Finance Project, 2003.