It's all about the training.
Most of us have jobs, and almost all of those jobs require some sort of continuing education. Can you think of one that doesn't? I really can't. How about an auto mechanic? I am pretty sure they have a rigorous training program and have to learn new techniques every year when a new line of cars is launched. What about the person who runs the cash register at the gas station? They probably have to go through training as well. As quickly as technology changes and software updates are released, there is probably more training than one might think. How about the carpenter, the plumber, or the electrician? Yes, I am quite certain they have to learn new skills and procedures for completing their jobs as well. I wonder about the good folks from the city who plow the snow, pick up the trash, or mow the right of way? I am sure they have training regimens as well. After all, OSHA regulations are constantly changing, MSDS sheets need to be updated, and they probably get new equipment that requires specialized certification before operating.
I'll bet when you consider jobs that required continuing education you thought of doctors right away! What would you think if you went to a doctor that hadn't had any additional training since medical school and they graduated from medical school 20 years ago! Yikes, that person wouldn't be my doctor for very long! Now how about teachers? I sometimes hear people say that, "That was the way I was taught in school and I turned out alright." I am quite sure most of us would take exception with anyone providing us with a service or product 20 years old.
"This 20 year old fuse panel worked great for me, I am sure it will work just fine for you as well", says the electrician as he puts in your 'new' home electrical system.
Do you ever wonder about that training? When does it happen? Does it happen during the normal course of the work day, or does it happen at night, or on the weekend? In the vast majority of the examples that I provided above, the training occurs on the job. After all you probably can't become certified on the new fork lift at work if you are not at work. You probably can't learn the new surgical technique without trying it out under the supervision of a mentor surgeon.
But yet in education there is sometimes a perception that teachers aren't working unless they have a classroom full of kids in front of them. If a teacher isn't teaching then they must be on break, right? Teachers don't need professional development; after all they went to college and got a degree. They know how do it, don't they? I am being sarcastic here, because I know for a fact that developing a strong teaching force requires a robust professional development program with ongoing and embedded job training. School is not the same as it was when you and I attended. It's different. The outcomes have changed, the technology has changed, the demographics of our students have changed, and the way we communicate, collect and analyze information has changed. Just like you wouldn't want a doctor operating on you with 20 year old surgical techniques, you shouldn't want your child in a classroom under the instruction of a teacher with 20 year old teaching strategies.
In countries with the highest student achievement, teachers only spend 60% of their work day actually teaching. The other 40% of the time, those teachers are engaged in professional development activities ranging from collaborative work, learning new teaching strategies, or mentoring other teachers. By comparison in the United States, teachers spend 80% of their time teaching and only 20% of their time on activities characterized as professional development.
So what does that mean for professional development? Well, it definitely suggests a correlation between professional development and student achievement. That is one of the reasons why we are putting such a strong emphasis on our own professional development program at Hudson. We recognize that the key to improving student achievement in our district is ensuring that we have effective teachers working with your children daily. That is why we have a calendar that schedules a 1:30 weekly early dismissal for our students.