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professional development in the early childhood

In recent years, state and national policies have focused more attention on the issue of “teacher quality”—i.e., the ability of individual teachers or a teaching faculty to improve student learning and meet expected standards for performance. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, provides a formal definition of what constitutes high-quality professional development and requires schools to report the percentage of their teaching faculty that meet the law’s definition of a “highly qualified teacher.” The law maintains that professional development should take the form of a “comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement.” Similar policies that describe professional-development expectations or require teachers to meet certain expectations for professional development may be in place at the state, district, and school levels across the country, although the design and purpose of these policies may vary widely from place to place.

Generally speaking, professional development is considered to be the primary mechanism that schools can use to help teachers continuously learn and improve their skills over time. And in recent decades, the topic has been extensively researched and many strategies and initiatives have been developed to improve the quality and effectiveness of professional development for educators. While theories about professional development abound, a degree of consensus has emerged on some of the major features of effective professional development. For example, one-day workshops or conferences that are not directly connected to a school’s academic program, or to what teachers are teaching, are generally considered to be less effective than training and learning opportunities that are sustained over longer periods of time and directly connected to what schools and teachers are actually doing on a daily basis. Terms and phases such as sustainedintensiveongoingcomprehensivealignedcollaborativecontinuoussystemic, or capacity-building, as well as relevant to teacher work and connected to student learning, are often used in reference to professional development that is considered to be of higher quality. That said, there are a wide variety of theories about what kinds of professional development are most effective, as well as divergent research findings.