Doing more with less...professional development
?Good teaching cannot fall victim to budget cuts,? a post on Ed Week's ?PD Watch? blog implored last week.
This year many states will make dramatic cuts to their education budgets?I would urge that those budget cuts not come at the expense of improving teaching. Furloughing teachers on professional development days, or ridding school systems of professional development departments, instructional coaches, and other forms of support altogether, will erode the knowledge, skills, and abilities teachers need to meet students' learning needs, and, as a result, will have a dramatic negative impact on student achievement for years to come.
The post is grounded in the dubious (but all too common) assumption that less is inevitably worse. ?As if it's impossible to streamline spending in education?or, in this case, in professional development?without negatively impacting quality.
For starters, regardless of their quality, most professional development consultants are astronomically expensive. I can remember being *shocked* that a one-day training with unheard of (and untested) trainers who knew nothing of our schools and teachers, but who worked for a well known and well respected organization charged $20,000 for a one day training. That's more than $3,000 an hour to deliver a presentation that had been pre-packaged and delivered many times before. And the quality of the trainers was so poor that we fired them by lunch.
Of course, in PD, since there is no money-back-guarantee, we never saw that $20K again. Nor were the teachers able to buy back that precious time that could have been better spent on planning, collaborating, school visits, or a host of other more effective (and less costly) professional learning opportunities.
How was it that such lackluster trainers could command such exorbitant fees? One problem is that, more often than not, you hire organizations, not trainers. So that means that PD fees are often only very loosely tied to the quality of the trainers themselves. And well known organizations can command big bucks for all of their trainers, no matter how good or bad they are.
To make matters worse, too many training sessions are essentially canned presentations that are not customized to meet the particular needs of the teachers (or the students they serve). In fact, I've worked with a host of trainers in the past trying to get them to understand what our teachers already know, where they are and what they needed, only to have the trainers arrive and deliver the same, pat presentations and PowerPoints they always give. Which meant that we had to effectively pay twice: once for the external trainers and once to actually customize the information ourselves for use in our schools.
Such practices are as wasteful as they are commonplace. So, in the end, as we look to do more with less, perhaps PD budgets are the right place to start after all? After all, while ?good teaching cannot fall victim to budget cuts,? poor professional development certainly can.
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
May 16, 2013
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