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About The Improving Teacher Quality Program In California

"The primary goal of each grant is to improve teachers' pedagogical and academic content knowledge through a program of rigorous professional development."
The Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) State Grants program, established under Title II - A of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, is an evolution of the former Eisenhower Grants program. The Commission has administered the Eisenhower and ITQ grants in California since the program's establishment in 1984.

An ITQ grant is a multi-year partnership between one or more institutions of higher education (colleges, universities) and one or more local education agencies (school districts, county education offices) in high-poverty areas. Funds are targeted to improve student achievement by improving the quality of instruction and increasing the professional attainment of school faculty and other staff. The primary goal of each grant is to increase K-12 teachers' pedagogical and academic content knowledge through a program of rigorous professional development (PD). A secondary goal is to expand knowledge of successful PD models and techniques through evaluation research and dissemination of findings. Focus on this goal has increased considerably since the transition from Eisenhower to ITQ. The RESEARCH section of this website includes a guide to research methods used in the program and preliminary findings from the first cohort of research grants.

"These projects have provided high-quality professional development to 10,735 teachers, impacting the education of almost 602,000 students in high-need California schools."
Unlike the original Eisenhower grants, ITQ grants are open to all academic subject areas. Currently funded projects include math, science, language arts, history/social science, and visual and performing arts, with several grants addressing multiple subjects. More detail about the five past ITQ initiatives and individual grants can be found in the PROJECTS section. To date, the ITQ program administered by the Commission has made 45 awards (and 20 sub-awards) to local partnerships for a total of $44 million in Federal Funds. These projects have provided high-quality professional development to 10,735 teachers, impacting the education of almost 602,000 students in high-need California schools.

ITQ projects have built on the knowledge base established during the Eisenhower years (1984-2001) while introducing the element of formal research methods (scientifically based research or "SBR") to validate the effectiveness of PD practices. While no social-scientific finding is absolutely precise or perfectly predictive of real-world outcomes, the accumulation of evidence over three decades shows that successful PD interventions at this scale have several characteristics in common.

The Commission's experience administering the Eisenhower and ITQ grants shows that the most successful professional development interventions are:

Intensive: Rather than appearing briefly in front of large audiences, program staff engage teachers directly over longer periods of time, often working with them individually, and shaping the PD curriculum to fit the particular needs of each group. Teachers have opportunities to brainstorm, plan, reflect, and solve problems in small groups, and to present results to providers and other teachers for feedback and expansion. There are multiple instructors, including both academic content faculty and coaches or leaders who are classroom veterans.

Content-rich: PD providers treat their subject area as a whole academic discipline, cultivating inquiry and understanding at the highest level among elementary and secondary school teachers. Ideally, the academic skills taught at every grade level serve as a series of bridges to post-secondary learning: content-rich PD helps teachers help students to succeed at making these connections. In more practical terms, the immersion of teachers in college- or graduate-level material helps them understand the organization and lasting relevance of the standards they teach, making instruction clearer and more focused. This type of instruction is also highly beneficial to teacher self-efficacy-how well teachers feel they know the subjects they teach, an attribute with proven ties to student outcomes.

Evidence-based: There is evidence from past applications that the PD will work to accomplish project goals, including increased student achievement and improvement of teacher knowledge and skills. Ideally this evidence comes from published education research as well as past experience of the providers and their in-house research. The success of the intervention is assessed regularly while it progresses (a process often called formative evaluation), giving providers and teachers the opportunity to modify their practices based on data that emerges.

Grounded in needs of student, teacher, and school: In a successful PD intervention, the skills and knowledge teachers gain are things that they specifically need to improve student performance in their schools. The subject matter and methods being taught will translate directly into classroom practice. Providers ensure that the practices they promote will work with the targeted student population, taking into account the age of the students and their current levels of achievement, as well as language abilities and cultural differences where appropriate. The intervention does not conflict with other programs in place at the school, either by being redundant or by over-burdening teachers with required activities. The school administration gives full support to the intervention, in particular making allowances in the school schedule for PD activities.

Year-round: In addition to summer activities such as institutes or academies, successful programs include regular activities during the school year to keep the PD material fresh and support its implementation. These often include working groups or collaboratives designed to help teachers support each other in the classroom implementation of the new methods and knowledge they are acquiring. School-year activities involving the community, such as evening events for students and their parents, have also been components of successful interventions.

Collaborative: Beyond assigning group activities during institutes, successful PD programs build frameworks for collaboration among teachers that will last beyond the funding period. A widely successful model is the Professional Learning Community (PLC), a group of teachers who meet regularly to strategize, plan lessons and curricula, discuss best practices, share assessment data, and work together on solving problems in their classrooms and instruction. Worldwide, the highest-performing educational systems rely heavily on similar forms of collaboration; teachers in some countries spend more time doing this kind of work than they do in the classroom. The implementation of a PLC or similar collaborative in a high-need public school in California must be sensitive to the many other insistent demands we place on our teachers' time and energy.

Sustainable: The most successful PD interventions have a lasting positive impact on the schools and districts where they are applied. Through collaborative frameworks put in place during the funded program, teachers are able to continue supporting each other in implementing the changes that the intervention promotes, and also to promote these changes among teachers who did not receive the intervention. An indispensable element of this form of sustainability is teacher leadership: the structured cultivation of teachers who will guide other teachers in implementing new instructional models, facilitate collaborative activities, and mentor new teachers. Like collaboratives, teacher leadership must be fully supported by the school and district administration, who should provide incentives for teachers to serve in this role as well as allowing them time and space for leadership activities.