Investing in Instructional Quality

    Teacher practice and pedagogy is probably the single most important predictor of student success in all classroom instruction.  It is sensible, then, to improve math and science education by investing in the ongoing professional development of math and science teachers.  The committee, in my opinion, is on the right track in promoting teacher professional development and endorsing financial incentives for those teachers who partake in these training opportunities.  I would take the recommendation one step further to require ongoing, rigorous professional development for all teachers as part of their credential renewal process.  While financial incentives are motivating for some, the reality is that many teachers did not enter into the field of education for financial gain.  Many teachers are content to pass on paid voluntary training opportunities in favor of uninterrupted vacations and much-needed down time.  However, if credential-specific, rigorous professional development was a requirement of credential renewal, all teachers would be required to participate.  I would even take it one step further and make it a contractual requirement for teachers to participate in a set number of days/hours of professional development.
    Education is a constantly evolving field.  As brain research and research in other related fields provides greater clarity regarding how people learn and retain new information, it makes sense that instructional practice should evolve to accommodate that research.  Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals with credentialing/licensing procedures monitored at the state level all participate in mandated continuing education.  It just makes sense to require teachers to adopt similar practices.
    Most states do have some stipulations for teachers to complete professional development hours to renew their licensing; however, there is very little monitoring of the actual content of the professional development.  Those of us in education are all too aware of the "university credit" courses for teachers that have very little pedagogical merit and/or relationship to the actual content taught in the classroom.  The vast, vast majority of teachers are professionals and act accordingly.  Given the time, financial compensation, and access to relevant, rigorous professional development related to their classroom instruction, I believe most teachers would not hesitate to participate.  Making it a mandate provides the incentive for those less enthusiastic folks.