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Question 1:
What professional learning structures build educator capacity to support
student achievement of the CA CCSS, and how can I help establish
and maintain a culture of continuous improvement in my school/district?


Implementation of the CA CCSS requires a shift in culture. It demands transforming the way we think about professional learning, how we support professional learning throughout an educator’s career, and how professional learning affects student learning and engagement. For students to achieve the CA CCSS, teachers need effective preparation and ongoing professional learning to support their own success as learners and, in turn, support their students’ learning.

School leaders are responsible for creating and maintaining a culture of learning by which teachers consistently reflect on their practice (particularly how it connects to student learning), receive meaningful feedback, and work collaboratively with their peers so they are learning from each other. The key to this is communication—knowing what to communicate, how to communicate, and with whom to communicate. Roland Barth states, “Professional isolation stifles professional growth. Unless adults talk with one another, observe one another, and help one another, very little will change. There can be no community of learners when there is no community and when there are no learners.” 1

Professional learning is the process in which education professionals actively learn the knowledge and skills needed to improve teaching, leading, and student learning through critical analysis of practice, reflection on their own teaching, collaboration with colleagues, and other interactive tasks. It is critical that teachers are provided excellent professional support as they increasingly integrate 21st century skills into every curricular area. They should be provided opportunities to collaborate in learning and planning, which can occur face-to-face or through virtual communities of practice. They should share and be provided rich models of effective 21st century instruction and curriculum, engage in thoughtful reflection and critique of lessons, and build on and refine instruction together. School site administrators who increase the amount of time they spend working directly with teachers significantly strengthen their role as instructional leaders. 2

As instructional leaders think about professional learning structures that build educator capacity and establishing and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement, there are several resources and tools available to consider, but the most comprehensive and widely vetted resources available to California educators are the State Board of Education-adopted curriculum frameworks. With this in mind, this section will focus on helping instructional leaders answer the questions above using guidance from the framework, viewing a video of multiple panels of instructional leaders discussing the questions, and considering what all of this means for their work and local context.

Connections to the California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL)


Education leaders facilitate the development and implementation of a shared vision of learning and growth of all students.
Element 1C: Vision Planning and Implementation
Leaders guide and monitor decisions, actions, and outcomes using the shared vision and goals.
Example Indicator:
1C-1 Include all stakeholders in a process of continuous improvement (reflection, revision, and modification) based on the systematic review of evidence and progress.


Education leaders shape a collaborative culture of teaching and learning, informed by professional standards and focused on student and professional growth.
Element 2A: Professional Learning Culture
Leaders promote a culture in which staff engage in individual and collective professional learning that results in their continuous improvement and high performance.
Example Indicators:
2A-1 Establish coherent, research-based professional learning aligned with organizational vision and goals for educator and student growth.
2A-2 Promote professional learning plans that focus on real situations and specific needs related to increasing the learning and well-being of all staff and students.
2A-3 Capitalize on the diverse experience and abilities of staff to plan, implement, and assess professional learning.
2A-4 Strengthen staff trust, shared responsibility, and leadership by instituting structures and processes that promote collaborative inquiry and problem solving.

Before you begin…

Prior to focusing on the questions above, participants in this activity should be familiar with the following chapters of California’s curriculum frameworks:

Mathematics Framework

ELA/ELD Framework

On the next page, you will find a video that features multiple groups of instructional leaders from across the state. A Note-taking Guide (DOC) is provided to help you consider the perspectives shared in the video. You may want to review it before watching the video and print it or have it open on your desktop to have in front of you while you watch.

1 Improving Schools from Within, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1991, p. 18.
2 Ann Jaquith, "Instructional Capacity: How to Build it Right," Educational Leadership, October 2013, pp. 56-61.