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Posted Oct 21, 2010

APT’s Online Professional Development Improves Teacher, Student Performance

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Birmingham, Ala., October 21, 2010—English and math teachers who took professional development courses online improved their instructional practices and subject knowledge, producing performance gains for their students. That’s the report from Boston College documenting the success of e-Learning for Educators, an initiative led by Alabama Public Television (APT) that paired state departments of education and public television stations in ten states, in one of the first large-scale experiments to study the impact of online professional development for educators. The e-Learning project, focusing on high-need areas, is a five-year effort funded by a $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Teach program. The Boston College research, the largest set of independent randomized trials conducted on an online professional development program to date, included 330 elementary and middle school teachers and 7,000 students in ten states. Education Development Center (EDC), a recognized leader in online instruction, consulted with APT and Boston College in carrying out the project research studies. As teacher performance comes under increased scrutiny, the findings from the research point to online professional development as a powerful option to improve teacher quality, according to the report. APT’s Dr. Lynne Meeks, director of the e-Learning for Educators project, notes that K-12 teachers located in rural areas, in high-need schools and in the difficult-to-staff math and science subjects are particularly suited to online professional development. Yet even as the study report was being released, APT learned that an anticipated $10.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue and expand the program to additional states in 2011 had been diverted to a jobs bill designed to prevent teacher layoffs. Meeks notes that Alabama Public Television is deeply committed to supporting departments of education in providing effective, accessible professional development for teachers at little or no cost and will continue to seek funding projects like e-Learning for Educators. “The e-Learning model holds promise for improving teaching and learning across all grades and academic areas,” she adds. “Online courses allow busy teachers to access learning, resources and colleagues not available locally and at a time that fits with their busy schedules. This is particularly important for rural teachers, who make up a large percentage of teachers in our state.” Boston College’s Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative (inTASC) is a not-for-profit research group that works collaboratively with schools, education institutions and business on research and development related to technology and assessment. Alabama Public Television holds the distinction of being the nation’s first statewide educational television network, serving as a model for other statewide public broadcasting networks in the U.S. and abroad. Affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System, APT retains its educational mission—serving as a seven-day-a-week educational resource for every Alabamian through online services, digital television programming on three statewide channels, Emmy Award-winning documentary production and educational outreach activities. Who Participated in the e-Learning for Educators Initiative? The e-Learning for Educators project partnered local educational television affiliates with state departments of education in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.. What was the e-Learning for Educators Impact in Alabama? In Alabama, more than 4,914 teachers completed an online e-Learning for Educators course, impacting approximately 98,280 children. 335 teachers who have leadership certification have earned PLUs (professional learning units), required for an administrative post in Alabama school systems. Of the teachers who have taken courses, 75% report that the content learned was new information. 89% gained insight into new/different approaches to teaching and 90% agree that when they used learned content in class, students appeared more interested.

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