Thu June 9, 2011

Rep Polis Calls for ‘Data Driven’ Professional Development for Teachers

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis was in Lafayette today to discuss education reform and a new bill that would enhance professional development for teachers.

Standing in front of a stuffy classroom of summer school students at Justice High School, Polis unveiled the Great Teaching for Great Schools Act. The main goal is to plug teachers into more professional development programs. The effort would bring $500 million to the table nationwide, with an emphasis on collecting data on what programs are helping teachers improve student performance.

“Up until now a lot of professional development hasn’t been as data driven as it should be. It has been based on what a superintendant thinks works, or what’s trendy,” he says. “We want to tie that into student outcomes, what type of professional development for teachers will lead to better teacher outcomes.”

Polis was joined by Linda Barker, director of teaching and learning for the Colorado Education Association, a labor union that represents 40,000 teachers statewide. Barker says recent surveys show 65% of teachers are looking for more professional development opportunities.

“Do teachers need to learn every day? They do,” she says. “So Representative Polis’ bill matters to us.”

Barker says two specific areas of interest for professional development are technology use in the classroom and specific skills for closing the classroom achievement gap.

This is the second time Polis has introduced the legislation on the topic. Like last year’s bill, this legislation will be connected to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Congress is expected to begin debating the topic later this summer.