Professional Development

The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners? Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade

Kaplan, M. and Mead, S. The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners? Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade. (2017) Bellwether Education Partners: Washington, D.C.

This paper traces the evolution of Head Start Workforce policies over 50 years and detail how shifts in the broader early childhood landscape, especially state-funded pre-k programs, have influenced these policies. Based on this analysis, the authors make five recommendations: (1) Provide equitable compensation and benefits to Head Start teachers; (2) Include Head Start in state initiatives to build the early childhood workforce; (3) Develop systemic approaches to improve preparation for early childhood teachers; (4) Continue to support high-quality, ongoing, job-embedded professional development for Head Start teachers; and (5) Make Head Start a vehicle for promoting innovation in early childhood teacher preparation, support, and development.

Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade

Herzfeldt-Kamprath, R. and Ullrich, R. (January 2016). Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.

This report examines the consistency of children’s access to effective teachers between preschool and third grade—as well as how that access differs by a child’s race/ethnicity and socio-economic status — within three broad factors of teacher effectiveness: qualifications, attitudes, and environment. The analyses presented utilize two nationally representative data sets: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, or ECLS-B, and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11, or ECLS-K: 2011. Results support that the factors that contribute to effective teaching are inherently interconnected and typically accessed at lower rates by African American and Hispanic children, as well as children from low-income households. Furthermore, access to effective teachers varies between the prekindergarten year and the kindergarten through third, or K-3, grades because the standards, expectations, and supports for teachers are different for these two systems. The authors offer policy suggestions to improve Prer-K to Grade 3 alignment and access to quality teachers.

Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform

International Literacy Association (2016) Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform [White paper]. Newark, DE

The central tenet of the white paper is that classroom literacy instruction should be grounded in rigorous, peer-reviewed research — not politics, ideology, or speculation. Rather than settling on a specific reform strategy, the white paper offers frameworks for use in drafting or evaluating reform proposals. The frameworks address four key education sectors: literacy learning and teachers; schools and schooling; student support; and families and communities. For each sector, the white paper offers a list of research-validated approaches to literacy advancement, which is designed to function as a rubric to inform, refine, and assess reform proposals. In addition, each framework includes a detailed list of supporting sources to facilitate exploration into the underlying research base.

2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction

Barksdale Reading Institute (March 2015). 2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction. Oxford, MS: Barksdale Reading Institute and The Institutions of Higher Learning.

The study led to nine key findings, including an improved level of emphasis on the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The study also highlights a serious gap in the understanding and application of evidence-based practices for early reading instruction both in teacher preparation and in K-3 field experiences. The report culminated in several major recommendations: (1) Adopt research-based practices at every level of reading education (specifically those practices endorsed by the National Reading Panel); (2) Improve P-20 educator knowledge and communications to better inform policy; (3) Repurpose the state’s Reading Panel to include educators and literacy experts from all levels of the system to oversee the credentialing of undergraduate instructors assigned to teach early literacy courses.

Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction, Washington, DC, 2016.

To explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool, this study examined two types of strategies that preliminary literature searches revealed as promising practices to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3 (referred to as P–3 alignment) and (2) differentiated instruction. To explore how educators use these two strategies, this study conducted a systematic literature review followed by case studies of five programs that used one or both of these two strategies. Key findings: (1) All five case study programs aligned instruction across grades by aligning or coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices, and professional development; three sites also used aligned assessments. (2) Common elements of P–3 programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. (3) Teachers in all five programs reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction. (4) All five programs focused on increasing students’ vocabulary, oral language, and social-emotional skills.

Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation

Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (April 2015) Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC

Children are already learning at birth, and they develop and learn at a rapid pace in their early years. This provides a critical foundation for lifelong progress, and the adults who provide for the care and education of young children bear a great responsibility for these children’s health, development, and learning. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) were commissioned to explore the implications of the science of child development for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8. In this report, the committee finds that much is known about what professionals who pro­vide care and education for children need to know and be able to do and what professional learning supports they need. However, that knowledge is not fully reflected in the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems. The report offers recommendations to build a workforce that is unified by the foundation of the science of child development and early learning and the shared knowledge and competencies that are needed to provide consistent, high-quality support for the development and early learning of children from birth through age 8.

Early Grade Teacher Effectiveness and Pre-K Effect Persistence

Walker A. Swain, Matthew G. Springer, Kerry G. Hofer (2015) Early Grade Teacher Effectiveness and Pre-K Effect Persistence, Evidence From Tennessee, AERA Open Oct-Dec 2015, 1 (4) DOI: 10.1177/2332858415612751.

The researchers utilized data from a public pre-K evaluation in Tennessee, matched with school administrative records and data from a new teacher evaluation program, to examine the interaction between pre-K participation and a factor that is as elusive to measure as it is universally accepted as vital to student outcomes — teaching quality. The researchers found that students who had attended a state-funded preschool and subsequently had a highly rated 1st grade teacher performed better than children who had a highly rated teacher, but did not attend a state-supported preschool. Analyses indicate a small positive interaction between teaching quality and state pre-K exposure on some but not all early elementary cognitive measures, such that better teaching quality in years subsequent to pre-K is associated with more persistent positive pre-K effects.

The Multiple Roles of School-Based Specialized Literacy Professionals

 International Literacy Association. (2015) The Multiple Roles of School-Based Specialized Literacy Professionals (Research Brief). Newark, DE:  International Literacy Association.

This research brief identifies three distinct roles for school-based specialized literacy professionals: reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy coordinators/supervisors. While responsibilities often overlap across these roles, there are specific distinctions in terms of the primary emphasis and professional qualifications required to be effective in each role. The brief provides school administrators with guidance on how to define the role of each specialty and to clarify what type of literacy professional their schools may need to hire. The descriptions aim to help those hiring literacy professionals to better understand what skill set is required and which qualifications to look for in the hiring process. Further, the new definitions will support college and university teaching programs in developing curricula to better prepare teachers for these specific literacy positions.

Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers

Claire Kaplan, Roy Chan, David A. Farbman, and Ami Novoryta (2014) Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers. National Center on Time and Learning and Teach Plus.

This report examines 17 high-performing and fast-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze students data, create new lesson plans, and develop new skills. On average, U.S. teachers spend approximately 80 percent of their time on instruction, while the international average for countries is 67 percent. Meanwhile, teachers in the schools featured in Time for Teachers spend 60 percent of their expanded school schedule on direct instruction with 40 percent of their time on collaboration, coaching, one-on-one support, and other activities.

PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right

Lesaux, Nonie K. PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right. New York: Foundation for Child Development, 2013.
This brief outlines the elements of strong PreK-3rd literacy instruction including: what high-quality instruction looks like,what supports enable teachers to carry out strong literacy instruction, and what policies enable schools to carry out strong PreK-3rd reading instruction. High-quality, coordinated PreK-3rd literacy instruction expands children’s cognitive capacities, develops language and vocabulary, and prepares them to read advanced texts. These skills provide a sturdy foundation for school success and expanded life opportunities.

Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers

Fuller, B, Gasko, J, Anguiano, R. (2010). Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers. Children's Learning Institute.

This report focuses on helping pre-K teachers develop skills that matter for early learning. The researchers identified mentoring and training for preschool teachers as important tools to help them enrich their instructional activities in classrooms and boost the early language and preliteracy skills of 3- and 4-year-olds.

Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

This practice guide focuses on three areas that current research on reading indicates are critical to building a young student's capacity to comprehend what he or she reads: knowledge and abilities required specifically to comprehend text, thinking and reasoning skills, and motivation to understand and work toward academic goals. Five recommendations: (1) Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies; (2) Teach students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content; (3) Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text; (4) Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development; and (5) Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative on Teaching and Student Learning

Literacy Collaborative. (2009). The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative on Teaching and Student Learning. Cambridge, MA: Literacy Collaborative.

New results from a four-year longitudinal study of 17 schools in the East Coast suggests that in-school literacy coaches can help boost student reading skills by as much as 32 percent in three years. Teacher expertise increased substantially, and the more coaching a teacher received the stronger the growth. Additional benefits: communication among teachers increased and the literacy coordinators became more involved in the critical conversations.

Teaching Reading Well: A Synthesis of the International Reading Association's Research on Teacher Preparation for Reading Instruction

International Reading Association. (2007). Reading Well: A Synthesis of the International Reading Association's Research on Teacher Preparation for Reading Instruction. Newark, DE: Author.

This report synthesizes the findings of research efforts focused on identifying essential qualities of effective teacher preparation programs for reading instruction. It finds that good teacher prep programs provide students with excellent instructional content; faculty and teaching; apprenticeships, field experiences, and practica; diversity; candidate and program assessment; and governance, resources, and vision.

Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. (2002). Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension. In Alan E. Farstrup & S. Jay Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 205-242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.

This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. While the article does not specify that it is intended for adults and draws from research in the K-12 field, it has the potential to be useful to adult educators. The article makes a strong case for balanced comprehension instruction (explicit instruction and time to practice) and the need for a classroom that supports reading, provides real texts, provides a range of different genres, and provides an environment rich in language experiences including discussion about words and their meanings and text (meaning and interpretation).

Research to Practice: Phonemic Awareness in Kindergarten and First Grade

Abbott, M., Walton, C., & Greenwood, C. R. (2002). Research to practice: Phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade. Teaching Exceptional Children, 34 (4), 20-26.

Teachers attend a workshop and learn about a research-based practice. A consultant works with the teachers for a while to set up the program and maybe even conduct an evaluation and follow-up instruction. The consultant leaves; the teachers are on their own. A couple of years later, nobody can find evidence the program ever existed. Does this sound familiar? Why does this occur? What happens to make teachers drop programs that may even be excellent? The secret may lie in what does not happen. We set out to discover the secret to successful research-based practices as teachers use them in real life. The example we chose was a phonemic awareness program; this article describes how phonemic awareness research and intervention knowledge was successfully translated for teacher implementation over 3 years.

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do

Moats, L. C. (1999). Teaching reading is rocket science: What expert teachers of reading should know and be able to do. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

This foundational report reviews the reading research and describes the knowledge base that is essential for teacher candidates and practicing teachers to master if they are to be successful in teaching all children to read well. Developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement

Garet, M., Stephanie Cronen, Marian Eaton, Anja Kurki, Meredith Ludwig, Wehmah Jones, Kazuaki Uekawa, Audrey Falk, Howard Bloom, Fred Doolittle, Pei Zhu, and Laura Sztejnberg. The Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement (NCEE 2008-4030). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

The report describes the effectiveness of two specific professional development strategies in improving the knowledge and practice of 2nd grade teachers in high-poverty schools and the reading achievement of their students. Both the 8-day content-focused institutes series (treatment A) and the institute series plus in-school coaching (treatment B) produced positive impacts on teachers' knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction and on one of the three instructional practices promoted by the professional development. However, neither intervention resulted in significantly higher student test scores at the end of the one-year implementation period. The institute series plus in-school coaching did not produce a significantly greater impact on teacher practice than the institute series alone.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald