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The past 20 years of educational reform have placed a special emphasis on professional development as a way to build instructional "capacity" in schools and districts. This has been accompanied by a movement away from one-shot in-service programs toward longer term engagement in the development of new strategies and approaches to curriculum and instruction. The National Writing Project, which is cosponsoring our current study of writing instruction, was one of the earliest and has been one of the most successful of these new approaches to professional development.
In 2002, 78% of Grade 8 students and 69% of Grade 12 students were in schools that reported providing professional Links Of London Bracelets development experiences to their teachers emphasizing reading and writing processes. Similar proportions (76% at Grade 8 and 72% at Grade 12) were in schools that reported professional development experiences that emphasized language arts across the curriculum. Results in Grade 8 in 2007 show a slight shift, with 4% more reporting professional development was "to a large extent" focused on reading and writing, and 4% fewer reporting it focused to "a large extent" on language arts across the curriculum. Grade 12 responses followed a similar pattern, but the differences were not statistically significant.
Another question asked Grade 8 teachers about the characteristics of the professional development experience that had most influenced their teaching. Interestingly, 78% of the students had teachers who cited an experience that emphasized reading or writing processes. This is testimony to how important understanding of underlying literacy processes is to teachers of English language arts.
At both Grades 8 and 12, the great majority of students in 2002 were in schools in which professional development focused on linking instruction to standards, with slightly greater emphasis at Grade 12 than at Grade 8 (81% versus 88%).
In 2002, the majority (83%) of Grade 8 students had teachers who also agreed that their state's language arts standards support good teaching, al-though only 50% had teachers who believed that the accompanying state assessments were good measures of their students' language arts achievement, and 62% felt that preparing for and taking the state assessment uses too much instructional time. (These questions were not asked of teachers at Grade 12.)
These data suggest that teachers of English language arts are by and large aware of the potential usefulness of standards and respond positively to professional development experiences that help them support their students' reading and writing processes. However, such learning experiences Links Of London Charms were not made available to 20%â€”30% of the teachers surveyed, and the extent and usefulness of the experiences that were provided is unclear. Further, fully half of teachers seem to have perceived a mismatch between their statewide tests and their professional notions of good performance.
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