Stimulus Money for Professional Development?

Many school districts around the country are poised to receive stimulus package money and are trying to figure out how to spend it. Many will spend it hiring needed teachers, while others will put it toward retention. One natural place to put new dollars is professional development. However, not all professional development is equal, and in many cases, will not translate to improved teaching or student achievement.

According to Heather Hill’s article, Learning in the Teacher Workforce, in The Future of Children: Excellence in the Classroom, most workshops, institutes, and study groups appear to be brief, superficial, and of marginal use in improving teaching. In short: a waste of money.
But it does not have to be this way. Professional development can enhance teaching and learning if it has three characteristics:
1. It lasts several days or longer;
2. It focuses on subject-matter-specific instruction; and
3. It is aligned with the instructional goals and curriculum materials in teachers’ schools.
Such high-quality programs do exist. But they are a tiny fraction of the nation’s offerings. One problem is that researchers rarely evaluate carefully either local professional development or its effect on student learning. Most evaluations simply ask participants to self-report. Lacking reliable evaluations, how are teachers and district officials to choose effective programs? Clearly, much more rigorous studies are needed.
To make continuing education effective, school districts should encourage teachers to take graduate coursework that is more tightly aligned with their primary teaching assignment. And districts should select professional development programs based on evidence of their effectiveness. Finally, central planners must ensure that items on the menu of offerings closely align with district standards, curriculum materials, and assessments.

See also The Future of Children policy brief, "A Plan to Improve the Quality of Teaching in American Schools"

5 thoughts on “Stimulus Money for Professional Development?

  1. proleapposter

    i think its very humanism using money for stimulus. and its also fair enough.
    however, we should take a note at the parameter of performance appraisal for every each educator. what criteria to be needed by educator to get stimulus. what achievement he should achieve before get the money.

  2. J. Hansen

    It’s very difficult to find professional development that meets the needs of all teachers. When planning for an entire school, it’s wise to focus on something broader (i.e., pedagogy) like the gradual release of responsibility model, cooperative learning,or distributive practice. Both of these educational concepts are research-based best practice and can be implemented across multiple curriculum/subjects.

    One of the biggest mistakes educators make is not monitoring implementation of professional development and measuring the impact it makes in student learning. Knowledge, application and impact is critical in results-based professional development.

  3. Internet Bank

    Sen. Lowell Barron and other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus said Wednesday they will make the proposed constitutional amendment a priority for the legislative session beginning Jan. 12.

  4. SquidInferno

    As an art teacher it is hard to find programs of study that include my content area as it relates to teaching. More importantly, there are far too many classes out there designed to take advantage of teachers who are attempting to increase their salary. These courses are often just a weekend or two and contain little or no serious educational value. Emphasis on courses concerning classroom management need to be required and should amount to 1/2 of the credits or hours teachers take to renew their certificates. Knowing how to manage a classroom of students is just as important as being well qualified to teach ones subject.
    I would add one more characteristic for effective professional development: Instruction must include the importance of early childhood education as the cornerstone on which all later education will develop. This last bit may seem out there and disconnected to professional development for educators. I think far too many educators forget that education starts at birth and effective education starts with the education of the parent.

  5. Moneybookers

    I’m from Bulgaria and I can only smile when I read what problems you experience in the US 🙂 Its true that no one likes the waste of money but at least your schools do receive some good money. I’m sure at least part of them are used for good purpose. Here on the other side the schools have no money for teacher’s salaries (the teachers receive one of the lowest salaries in the country – about $400/month). Better have in excess that not have at all 🙂

Comments are closed.