- Transforming Professional Development into Student Results
Transforming Professional Development into Student Results is an interesting profile of the way professional development is addressed in school districts. The author, Douglas B. Reeves, is the founder of the Leadership and Learning Center. Reeves has written extensively on leadership, organizational effectiveness, and accountability. He has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the Brock International Laureate for his contributions to education and the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Secondary School Principals (156). Reeve's background has culminated in this book, which explores not only the problems with professional development but also the solutions to these problems.
Reeves has divided the book into three sections: part 1, "What's Wrong with Professional Learning?"; part 2, "How to Create High-Impact Professional Learning"; and part 3, "How to Sustain High-Impact Professional Learning." [End Page 72] The underlying premise of the entire book is that the goal of all professional development should be increasing student achievement. The effectiveness of professional development should not be measured by its popularity with the staff or by the number of offerings. The measure used should be directly tied to student achievement.
Part 1: Problems
Part 1 addresses the problems with most current professional development. Most school improvement plans are built upon data based on school achievement. Unfortunately, these data are normally effect data. Data given to teachers in September or October are based on the students who were in their classes the past year. Cause data must also be taken into consideration. What are the reasons or causes for a student not achieving? It is not enough to look at the end result of a state test score or effect data. Effect data will not change unless there is a change in cause data. Rather than just focus on student causes such as poverty and single-parent families, we need to focus on the causes where we can have the greatest effect, such as teaching and leadership. Thus, we need to focus on professional development.
High-impact professional learning has three necessary components. First, it must be directly linked to student learning. The second component is that it must balance student results with a rigorous observation of teaching and administrative practices. The third component is that it must focus on people and practices rather than programs. It is not a series of PowerPoints delivered by someone who has not had contact with students in recent years.
High-impact professional learning is affected by the "Law of Initiative Fatigue." Reeves perceives that as the number of initiatives increases, the amount of emotional energy available will decrease for each successive initiative. White, as stated by Reeves (28), also established that there is an inverse relationship between the number of priorities a leader pursues and their long-term effectiveness. This leads us to the concept of power standards.
Having too much to accomplish and not enough time is a common complaint from both teachers and leaders. Power standards were developed to help address this dilemma. A power standard has leverage by being able to cross over into more than one discipline. A power standard has endurance because it is a necessary skill at more than one grade level. A power standard is essential for success at the next level. These are the standards that the next grade-level teacher would deem essential. Just as we are able to come up with power standards for students, we are also able to develop them for teachers and school leaders. [End Page 73]
Even with the time constraints, the number of tasks required of school personnel keeps increasing, especially in the area of planning documents. Reeves notes that as the number and size of school improvement plans have increased, there has not been a corresponding increase in student achievement. From his research, Reeves found that student achievement corresponded to plans that had nine characteristics. These plans included the following components:
1. Comprehensive needs assessment—evidence of leadership decisions directly related to student...