In the School and District Capacity domain, we learned that the challenge of shifting teacher preparation and practice was the most frequently cited barrier to achieving successful implementation of the standards. In Professional Learning, we unpack what efforts to shift teacher preparation and practice look like from the perspective of teachers, school leaders, and district leaders.

The findings on this page

Teachers and district leaders frequently describe professional learning environments that are collaborative and teacher-led.

Professional Learning Opportunities for Teachers

Most California teachers agree or strongly agree that their schools and districts provide opportunities to work together in teams and participate in other collaborative professional learning activities:

Percentage of teachers indicating “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” with the following statements:

Similarly, when district leaders are asked about specific uses of professional release time, they describe a variety of collaborative, peer-to-peer activities:

Examining Student Work

“15 minutes each day gets banked for 75 minutes a week so the teachers can use it for PLCs, so that they can come together and look at student work. It’s really teacher time to collaborate. It’s not principal- or site-led professional development per se, but it is teacher collaboration time to really sit down.”
–District Leader

Reviewing and Acting on Data

“Teachers work in data teams and make instructional decisions based on that.”
–District Leader

Combining Vertical and Horizontal PLCs

“We meet and collaborate each week and they’re working together not only in the departments, but also across grade levels. When they’re in grade levels, that forces them to start talking a different language.”
–District Leader

Conducting Instructional Rounds

“Instructional rounds. This is a point of contention, because this is the agreement between the district and the union. [It’s] very loosely defined. Basically, collaboratively, the principal and the teachers should come to a consensus about what will happen. In most cases, that happens.”
–District Leader

When providing professional learning opportunities for school leaders, districts were most likely to report that content focused on opportunities to observe what instructional shifts looked like in authentic classroom settings.

Professional Learning Opportunities for School Leaders

How would you describe the content of the professional learning you are providing your school leaders?

Key Takeaways

  • The most frequently cited response, “Norming for Site Walkthroughs,” included activities such as training on an observation tool, conducting learning walks, and shadowing teachers on their instructional rounds.
  • By contrast, district leaders were least likely to report that professional learning for school leaders focused on bringing principals together for planning time or other administrative tasks.


“[We have] eight different role teams…and the purposes of those role teams are instructional – so, walking classrooms, looking specifically at the standards, looking specifically at the key instructional shifts, and then some problems with practice and inquiry work. That’s one of the biggest things we’ve done to try to develop leaders. Coherent understanding of what instruction should look like with the new standards.”
–District Leader

“PD has two foci: operational, [i.e.] how to use and access all of the program resources in planning…and pedagogy, [i.e.] how to deliver the content with constant refinement of strategies to maximize student learning, [which is an] ongoing part of the weekly PLC and instructional rounds process.”
–District Leader

“Standards, strategies, and implementation. [Those are] built into their monthly principal meetings.”
–District Leader

The majority of districts used a qualitative approach to measuring the effectiveness of professional learning, employing walkthrough demonstrations to observe how learning opportunities were taking place.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Professional Learning

How do you measure the effectiveness of professional learning?

Key Takeaways

  • In addition, an equal proportion of districts reported using teacher feedback and engagement and student achievement data.
  • While student achievement data typically referred to formative, interim, and benchmark assessment results, teacher feedback and engagement included a variety of measures including teacher surveys, artifacts, and portfolios, as well as informal conversations with teachers.


“We have a learning walks tool that we’ve developed internally. So it would be through our learning walks or through our rounds process that we would kind of calibrate across a number of classrooms and see if we see the types of practices that we’ve trained people on or not.”
–District Leader

“A lot of it is qualitative, so we’re looking at the feedback that the teachers [are] giving us. And then of course, eventually, we’re looking for evidence of success through any of the data that we collect, with assessments and our interim. We’ll look at interim. Are we seeing incremental growth along the way?”
–District Leader

“Feedback is not an issue because you see [teachers] in the hallways, you see them at the meetings. The teachers are very vocal about what works and what doesn’t work.”
–District Leader

“[We look at the] level of participation and engagement that our teachers have [put] into the work and [the degree to which] they’re wanting to collaborate with their colleagues. [We also use] a teacher portfolio where they’re pulling evidence of all of those types of areas and as they mature and grow in their careers, that instructional practice moves to, how are you supporting other teachers in those ways? And that is one way that we also measure the success, [whether] the teachers are really getting what they need.”
–District Leader

Want to know more about how districts and schools are using professional learning opportunities to support California standards implementation? Visit the following publications and resources from the Center and its partners on Professional Learning:

WestEd Knowledge Brief: California Standards Implementation: What Educators Are Saying

CenterView: Forging Partnerships – A Model for Teacher Leadership Development

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