Professional Learning’s Role in College- and Career-Readiness

On July 31, the Alliance for Excellent Education hosted a Webinar about recent efforts to transform professional learning in order to ensure that students are college and career ready. Speakers from Learning Forward and the states of Kentucky and New Hampshire spoke about their recent partnership, formed for the purposes of designing a statewide, comprehensive professional learning system in order to effectively and deeply implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Learning Forward is a nonprofit dedicated to engaging educators in effective professional learning. The organization has been working with the state of Kentucky to develop a new professional learning framework and to serve as a demonstration site for other states. New Hampshire is one of six states serving in the role of “critical friend” in the initiative.

Teacher professional learning is extremely important for the rigor and relevance of students’ learning and achievement, however data shows that that teachers are generally not receiving adequate development. A 2008 Metlife survey reveals that nearly half of all teachers surveyed feel that their students’ skill levels are so mixed they cannot teach effectively. According to another Schools and Staffing Survey, more than 60% of U.S. teachers reported that they have not have even one day of training or education to support special education students or English Language Learners.

Learning Forward representative Mariana Hayes mentioned that too few states use their regulatory and policy-making authority to advance their goals for professional learning, a construct that must be comprehensive, coherent, and impactful. Some of the goals for their initiative with Kentucky include:

  • Articulating a vision for professional learning that guides policy and practice;
  • Creating a monitoring system that provides data about quality, inputs, outputs and outcomes about professional development;
  • Working with teacher education programs and focusing on teacher mentoring and induction, especially while teacher education programs experience a gap in knowledge about the CCSS;
  • Revising policies that have professional development implications; and
  • Supporting application of the lessons gained in the state of Kentucky to other states.

Prior to the initiative, Kentucky knew they needed to reevaluate their commitment to professional training, especially because not all students were performing at the highest level. They were supported by 2009 legislation that called for the transformation of learning standards and the fact that they have had professional learning standards in place for some time. In order to transform their professional learning framework, they have been working across the spectrum (early childhood, to P-12 and higher education) to see what each group can contribute. They have also been working with business and industry fields, considering their demands and requirements. Kentucky is also trying to continuously improve teacher evaluation and student assessment processes. Throughout the whole framework, they aim to focus on learning theory and effective practices of teaching and learning.

The archived webinar can be viewed at

Learning Forward (formerly known as the Staff Development Council) has developed standards for professional learning that can be viewed at More about the organization’s partnership with Kentucky can be found at

Katie Drummond is a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research and a member of the National High School Center's College and Career Readiness Team.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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