Benchmarks Should Be Benched*

As teachers who have been victims of standardized professional development, we say benchmarks should be benched.

Here’s the problem (especially in the world of educational technology). When a school or district sets a standard, however well-meaning, they lose or alienate just about everybody they are trying to move forward. Little or no progress is made. When the same goal is set for everyone, the person who is way behind it thinks, Well, I’ll never get there, so what’s the point in trying. The person already at the benchmark thinks, Great, I don’t have to learn or do a thing. I’m done. And the person who is well beyond the benchmark concludes, There is never anything provided for me in this district. I have to learn and do everything on my own.

Nobody’s happy. Some people are upset. Few are learning or innovating. Everyone is stagnant or worse. Instead of the intentional progress being made at the direction of the PD leaders, progress is accidental and sporadic. The individuals who have the PD inflicted upon them are not inspired, and may run the risk of being demoralized. They really thought I needed to learn THAT?

Just because we set a benchmark, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that progress is happening. Just because we provided “something,” we shouldn’t assume that teachers (and ultimately students) are getting what they need. Similarly, we shouldn’t determine that just because we said something everybody learned it. Let’s not let ourselves off the hook by checking the box and claiming victory just because we mentioned it at a staff meeting.

There are many remarkable individuals who are learning, connecting, and innovating even though it isn’t happening through what is provided. Even so, we want our professional development to happen because of what we do, not in spite of it.

As educators we can do better than that.

*excerpt from the book Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional DevelopmentPersonalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development