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Professional Learning and Development Research Alliance


Evidence suggests that school districts invest significant resources in teacher professional learning and development (PLD). Given this substantial investment, districts need to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to improve instruction. Yet many district officials report they find it difficult to evaluate their PLD efforts effectively and rigorously. The Professional Learning and Development Research Alliance supports district leaders from across the region in making evidence-based decisions regarding the selection, adaptation, scale up, and/or discontinuation of PLD programs and interventions.


  • Build the capacity of district leaders to evaluate their teacher PLD efforts.
  • Support district leaders in improving their data collection and analysis to inform decisions about the content, format, audience, and timing of PLD opportunities.
  • Conduct research in response to district leaders’ questions that explore relationships between PLD and teacher and student outcomes.


Johanna Barmore headshotDr. Johanna Barmore
Program Associate
REL Northeast & Islands

Nicole BreslowNicole Breslow
Project Director
REL Northeast & Islands


Coaching and Workshop Series: Evaluating Professional Learning:
REL Northeast & Islands worked with the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES and five of their rural districts in New York, Central Aroostook Council on Education (CACE) and their member districts in Maine, and a statewide team in Connecticut to provide a series of four workshops and ongoing coaching to help them evaluate their professional development activities. Districts learned about connecting program objectives with measurable outcomes through the use of logic models, monitoring implementation of program activities, collecting and analyzing preliminary data, and utilizing data to drive decision-making processes for program improvement.

Research-Based Tool: Evaluating Professional Learning: A Tool for Schools and Districts:
Building on our work supporting districts in New York, Maine, and Connecticut to evaluate their professional development activities, REL Northeast & Islands developed the Evaluating Professional Learning: A Tool for Schools and Districts. This tool guides users through a process for developing an evaluation plan and includes activities, tools, and other resources for monitoring professional learning initiatives. A multidisciplinary team that includes teacher leaders, professional learning managers, data managers, and other administrators can use this tool to develop a logic model, develop evaluation questions, use existing and new data to address those questions and make sense of the data. Guidance is also provided to help the team communicate findings accurately and effectively to various audiences, such as school, district, or state leaders who can impact policies and practice. Learn more.

Coaching Project: Building Capacity for Data Use: Boston Public Schools
REL Northeast & Islands partnered with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to inventory the data the district currently collects related to the short-, medium-, and long-term goals of its mentoring program for beginning teachers; determine the quality and reliability of these data; and identify any additional data that may be needed to support the development of a program evaluation. The project includes coaching on the development of a data collection strategy that BPS implemented in the 2017/18 school year.

Coaching Project: Building the Capacity of State Education Agencies to Provide Guidance to Districts Regarding Professional Learning
This project enhanced the capacity of State Title II Directors in New York and Rhode Island to identify and review appropriate research related to professional learning activities in three areas: (1) instructional content coaching in English Language Arts and mathematics, (2) leadership training, and (3) professional learning communities. The project also built the capacity of the Title II Directors to provide guidance to local districts on how to use the research findings, and to develop and conduct their own research reviews on different topics in the future.

Research Study: Variation in Mentoring Practices and Retention across New Teacher Demographic Characteristics under a Large Urban District's New Teacher Mentoring Program
High teacher turnover is detrimental for student achievement, particularly in schools with high proportions of students from low-income households and students of color. A large urban school district wanted to understand how its first-year teacher mentoring program could better support its goals of increasing teacher retention rates and maintaining a diverse workforce. This study used teacher survey and staffing data to describe new teacher participation in the district's new teacher mentoring program, including mentoring dosage, practices, and the alignment between the demographic characteristics of new teachers and those of their mentors. It also explored how participation in the program varied by teacher characteristics and how engagement with the mentoring program related to retention. Learn more.

Research Study: Investigating the Relationship between Adherence to Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program Requirements and Teacher Retention
To mitigate high turnover and lower efficacy among early-career teachers, many school districts and states implement induction programs for beginning teachers. This study examined data from Connecticut’s induction and mentoring program for beginning teachers, called the Teacher Education and Mentoring (TEAM) Program. The TEAM Program requires beginning teachers to complete five instructional modules, submit reflection papers, and meet with a mentor. The study explored fidelity of implementation of the TEAM Program, how fidelity of implementation varied across schools and districts, and examined relationships between fidelity of implementation and teacher retention. Learn more.

Webinar: Evaluating Professional Learning: Introduction to a Tool for Schools and Districts (June 8, 2021)
This workshop introduced state, district, and school leaders to a new tool to assist in evaluating their professional learning initiatives. The workshop presented Evaluating Professional Learning: A Tool for Schools and Districts and provided suggestions for getting started. A practitioner from Connecticut shared about lessons learned using the tool. View event details.

Webinar: Teacher Induction Programs and Retention: Insight from a Study of Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program (November 5, 2020)
This webinar presents findings from Investigating the Relationship between Adherence to Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program and Teacher Retention and features a conversation with partners regarding how the findings from the study have been and will continue to inform Connecticut. In addition, presenters discuss how other states and districts can use the findings from this study to inform the design of mentoring programs. They also explore how states can use similar data collection and analyses to assess the implementation fidelity of similar programs. View event details.

Webinar: Micro-credentialing and Teacher Professional Learning (October 17, 2018)
As district leaders seek new and improved ways to advance educator professional development, many are considering incorporating micro-credentials into their districts’ professional learning systems or are in the early stages of piloting them. This webinar provides evidence-based information on micro-credentials and how best to use them to support teacher learning. The webinar also presents lessons learned from early adopters about the design and implementation of these programs. View event details.

Webinar: Using Cost Analysis to Inform Decisions About Professional Learning (January 11, 2018)
This webinar explores cost analysis methods in educational decision making and how districts can use these methods to select programs or inform resource allocation for professional learning programs. Drawing from resources such as a recently published REL report, “The Critical Importance of Costs for Education Decisions,” and CostOut, an online toolkit funded by IES, Dr. Fiona Hollands, Associate Director of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University, discusses why cost analysis is important, the types of cost metrics that are useful for decision making, and four methods for cost analysis. Two district leaders from Maine share a professional learning intervention they are considering, and Dr. Hollands uses the scenario to demonstrate how cost estimates can be combined with other information to answer different types of policy and practice questions. View event details.

Webinar Series: Planning for High-Quality Evaluation of Professional Learning
This three-part training series focuses on planning for and executing high-quality program evaluations of educator professional learning and development. Session 1 (October 11, 2017) covers the basics necessary to plan a good program evaluation, such as creating a logic model. Session 2 (November 16, 2017) focuses on the connection between evaluation questions and data collection methods, and planning for data collection during evaluation. Session 3 (January 25, 2018) explores data analysis and how districts can use the results of an evaluation to inform decisions. View event details.


Name Title Organization State/Territory
Caitlin Ahern Professional Learning Coordinator Lexington Public Schools Massachusetts
Anita Bernhardt Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment York School Department Maine
Terry Bordell Chief of School Improvement Questar III Board of Cooperative Education (BOCES) New York
Celeste Bowler Assistant Superintendent East Providence School Department Rhode Island
Colleen Callahan Director of Professional Issues
Rhode Island Federation of Teachers
Rhode Island Board of Education
Rhode Island
Francine Grannell K–12 Humanities Curriculum Coordinator Skaneateles Central School District New York
Scott Harrison Executive Director, Central Aroostook Council on Education University of Maine at Presque Isle Maine
Cheryl Kirkpatrick Director of Personnel & Professional Learning Chelmsford Public Schools Massachusetts
Deborah Richards Director, Division of Student Services Capital Region Education Council Connecticut
Valerie Sullivan Director of Curriculum and Instruction Lamoille South Supervisory Union Vermont
Shakera Walker Director of Teacher Development, Office of the Chief of Schools Boston Public Schools Massachusetts