Professional Development: Pennsylvania

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Professional Development: Pennsylvania results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/PA-Professional-Development-9

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pennsylvania makes a teacher's evaluation ratings available upon the teacher's request. The state does not have policy that connects professional development to teachers' evaluations.  

Citation

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 recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state noted that the proposed teacher evaluation system will be linked to the state's Standards Aligned System Portal, which links teacher evaluation responses to professional development opportunities. 

In addition, the state pointed out that data collected indicates that 72 percent of districts report using teacher evaluations to determine professional development needs. 

Last word

The fact that only 72 percent of districts indicate that they connect teacher evaluations to professional development needs is evidence that a statewide policy is necessary.

How we graded

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.  

Research rationale

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next. Vol 11, No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (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, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Institute of Education Sciences (2011).

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