Redefining PD for Math and Literacy Achievement

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During the edLeader Panel “Redefining PD: Strategies that Amplify Math & Literacy Achievement,” educational leaders were introduced to a shift from conventional professional development to high-impact professional learning, aimed at reversing the trend of stagnating or declining test scores.

The panelists emphasized that well-designed professional learning programs can boost student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points and offered a deep dive into a framework that can foster a culture of continuous improvement in any school.

Experts from the Lavinia Group team—Purnima Chopra-Vohra, Director of Programs, Lydia Cuomo, Instructional Consultant; and Ambrosia Johnson, Instructional Consultant—painted a picture of the evidence-based practices that constitute high-impact professional development.

The pillars include professional learning workshops, detailed data analysis, intellectual preparation, and classroom coaching. These methods are designed to equip educators with tools to foster environments of continuous enhancement in their schools and to improve their instruction and effectiveness in the classroom.

Key elements of effective professional development programs include taking an interactive approach, being mindful of scheduling, focusing on engaging content delivery, ensuring trainer expertise, customizing the content to the school’s specific context, including impact measurement tools throughout the program, providing spaces for reflection, and creating engagement through coaching and feedback loops.

The panelists also highlighted the importance of interactive content, training integrated into the school day, tailored content to address specific school issues, and practical training delivered by experienced instructional leaders.

Despite limited research on how schools’ investment in PD impacts student outcomes, high-impact PD programs emphasize the need for impact measurement and content reflection. Effective PD is not merely transactional but requires sustained engagement to allow teachers time to assimilate content, practice, and receive feedback. Recent studies by the Lavinia Group indicate significant improvements in student performance following year-long PD programs, with one school experiencing a 29-point surge in ELA proficiency and a 46% increase in math proficiency.

For schools interested in implementing a high-impact PD program, the first step is to gather data on existing skills and competencies through surveys or go into classrooms to observe and gain insights directly from educators. Then, the designers of the program must analyze this data alongside student performance to help identify teaching gaps that need addressing.

Based on the needs assessment, the implementation team can then set strategic goals. This data informs the curriculum and establishes a baseline to track progress and maintain a continuous feedback loop, enhancing teacher effectiveness over time. Using students’ work as both a window and a mirror, observation can also help to see how students’ work is improving over time as a result of improved instruction.

The next phase of a high-impact professional development program involves assessing the PD content to ensure it is engaging, relevant, and rigorous—making it accessible for teachers while also challenging them to go beyond their current knowledge. It’s essential that PD programs are accompanied by thorough planning, practice, and targeted coaching to support teacher success so that teachers are not just thrown in and expected to become experts. Monitoring and adjusting feedback loops throughout the program is vital to ensure the effectiveness of the program and the achievement of strategic goals.

As mentioned above, it is also crucial to highlight the importance of providing flexible options. Teachers are more likely to participate when the timing is flexible and accessible remotely, which makes it more inclusive. Equally as important is making sure there are spaces to collaborate and give feedback. In fact, 85% of teachers want an element of feedback on the work they do in professional development settings. Gathering student work and analyzing student performance improvement is one part of this, but instructional coaches and administrative oversight can help to give fact-based feedback.

The intellectual preparation portion teaches teachers to go deeper than just typical lesson planning. It teaches them to go beyond being a subject-matter expert to build skills to engage students on deeper levels using different methodologies. Then, pairing teachers with instructional coaches (either internal or external) gives them an objective audience to help them brainstorm new ideas, see a model of how to do a lesson, and get feedback in real time once they’ve done the lesson.

They can help before, during, and after lessons as teachers practice what they’ve learned in the PD program.​​ The Lavinia Group team provided a clear breakdown of how instructional coaches can best help their teachers in a step-by-step framework, ensuring a program’s effectiveness and value-add to educators.

The edLeader Panel underscored the need for dynamic, high-impact professional development. By integrating practical, research-based methods and sustained engagement, such programs significantly enhance teacher effectiveness and student performance, making a tangible difference in educational outcomes.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, Redefining PD: Strategies that Amplify Math & Literacy Achievement, sponsored by Lavinia Group.

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Lavinia Group

Lavinia Group, a division of K12 Coalition, is dedicated to propelling K-12 schools toward rapid academic growth in math and literacy. Renowned for its revolutionary curriculum, instructional coaching, professional development, and summer learning programs, Lavinia Group consistently achieves double-digit improvements in student performance. Its collaborative, immersive approach with educators and school leaders ensures long-term, sustainable academic success.

A proven pathway to results


Article by Laura Smulian, based on this edLeader Panel