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Teachers’ Ongoing Learning in the Hands of School Boards

Ongoing professional development for teachers allows them to continue upgrading their skills and competencies, providing the next generation with a better chance to succeed in the classroom.

How much should school systems spend on professional development?

In its Standards for Staff Development, Learning Forward advocates that school districts are responsible for teacher professional development and at least 10% of their budgets to staff development and at least 25% of an educators’ work time be devoted to learning and collaboration with colleagues (NSDC, 2001).  Moreover, at least 30% of the district budget is devoted to technology.  Presently, the average percentage most districts spend on professional development is 1% to 3%. (Miles, 2004).  Further, the federal government requires that 10% of Title I funds for underperforming schools be allocated to related professional development.

How is the money spent?

This answer varies tremendously. There are costs associated with attending out of state conferences, which could include registration, transportation, lodging, and meals.  Professional development offered by school districts includes consultant fees, materials, and substitute teachers.  Other costs such as salaries for coaches, stipends for teachers’ outside their normal workday and supplies for professional learning.  Through creative scheduling however, small teams of teachers could engage in team-directed studies or professional learning communities several times a week, which would minimize costs.

How much does the amount spent on professional make a difference?

Spending more allows for greater intensity: higher quality, more learning time for teachers and more importantly, follow-up support as teachers apply what they have learned.  While there is no guarantee that higher amounts of funds for professional development makes it more effective, spending less will certainly have little or no impact on its success.  What matters is how it is implemented.

Where does the money come from?

Typical school systems use any combination of state, local, and federal funds for professional development.  Some federal and state grants allow school systems to use a portion of funds.  School systems may seek various funding sources from state and local foundations while most school districts allocate a portion of funds in their local budgets.  Some school districts require a certain percentage of budgets be allocated for professional development.

In closing, effective professional development provides ongoing opportunities for educators to continue to improve their knowledge and skills so as to assist students in their achievement.  When educators learn, students learn more.  Anyone concerned about their students will be a proponent of effective professional development for all teachers and educators.

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