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Status of Education Reform in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: Teachers' Perspective
NCES: 1999045
February 1999

Professional Development Activities Among Teachers

An important component of educational reform involves promoting continued professional growth among teachers. The survey asked teachers to report the number of hours they spent on any professional development from September 1, 1994, through August 31, 1995, including attendance at professional meetings, workshops, and conferences, but not including regular college courses. Ninety-four percent of teachers reported participating in professional development. These teachers reported that they completed an average of 42 hours of professional development during the 1994-95 school year (Table 7 and appendix Table B-6).

Teachers were asked to report on the types of professional development activities they attended and whether the activities focused on high standards (Table 8 and appendix Table B-7, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). The largest percentage of teachers reported attending inservice workshops or programs (97 percent), followed by district or school-based long-term or ongoing comprehensive professional development (71 percent). About half (54 percent) attended professional teacher association meetings, while 36 percent attended summer institutes. Between 41 and 47 percent of teachers attending inservice workshops or programs, district or school-based long-term or ongoing comprehensive professional development programs, and summer institutes reported that information on higher standards was a major focus of the professional development activities they attended (Table 8). However, only 22 percent of teachers attending professional teacher association meetings indicated that it was a major focus.

Attendance at professional development activities where information on higher standards was a major focus was related to implementation of reform activities in classes. Overall, 56 percent of teachers reported that they attended such activities (Table 9). Of those teachers who reported that they had not implemented any reform activities to a great extent, 61 percent reported that they had not attended such professional activities, whereas 39 percent said they had. The reverse pattern held for teachers who reported that they implemented three or more reform activities to a great extent: 65 percent reported attending professional development activities that had a major focus on higher standards, and 35 percent reported that they had not attended such meetings.

In the survey, teachers were also asked to describe or characterize professional development activities sponsored or supported by their schools. Many reported that the activities were planned, to a great extent, according to school needs (41 percent; Table 10 and appendix Table B-8, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 Part 5, Part 6 Part 7, Part 8); almost one-third (30 percent) felt that the activities provided opportunities to share information with colleagues at their schools to a great extent. Four of the remaining characteristics- useful for helping students achieve to high standards, aligned with high standards, provided strategies to apply in the classroom, and ongoing, integrated professional development programs-were described as being true to a great extent by 26 to 28 percent of the teachers. Fewer, 10 to 17 percent, felt that the activities provided followup or networking activities to a great extent.

Elementary school teachers more frequently reported that these characteristics were present in the school-sponsored or supported professional development activities they attended. Forty-one percent of elementary school teachers felt that to a great extent the professional development sponsored or supported by their school provided strategies to apply in the classroom, compared to 19 percent of middle and high school teachers (Table 11 and appendix Table B-8, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 Part 5, Part 6 Part 7, Part 8). About one-third of elementary school teachers described the professional development sponsored or supported by their school as including ongoing, integrated professional development programs to a great extent, compared to the 16 percent of high school teachers who felt that way. While 25 percent of elementary school teachers indicated that followup activities were provided to a great extent, 8 percent of high school teachers and 12 percent of middle school teachers agreed.

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