Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

4 Ways to Maximize the ROI on Professional Development Spending

By Matthew Lynch — October 19, 2016 4 min read

By Jason Culbertson

According to TNTP’s The Mirage Report, districts can spend upwards of $18,000 annually per teacher on professional development, but what are they getting for that? Understanding how to increase the return on investment (ROI) on professional development will ensure the spend results in higher educator and student performance or inspire a data-driven change.

My argument is not about ROI in strictly financial terms, but how professional development can help districts achieve their goals for teaching and learning by continuing effective practices and reallocating precious resources of time and money. Title I and II expenditures between July and September are particularly susceptible to being “spent” rather than invested.

Here are four ways to maximize the impact of your professional development dollars.

1. Invest in your principals.

Gail Connelly from the National Association of Elementary School Principals estimates that principals spend only two percent of their time on their own professional development. And only four percent of federal funds allocated for improving educator performance are spent on principal development. Lack of time and funding are a noxious mix, systemically limiting principals’ effectiveness, and the research is clear on the impact and importance of principal effectiveness on teacher retention and directly on student achievement.

Increasing funding and time is not easy for most districts. We partnered with district executives and principals in the Syracuse City School District to look at what tasks principals were performing and then grouped those tasks in order of importance. We called the most important tasks “A-Level” work (usually related to student and educator performance) and built professional development offerings around them. We used coaches to help principals do their A-level work and revamped already scheduled monthly principal meetings to focus only on A-level work and solve issues related to it. The result? Higher performance with minimal cost increases.

2. Conduct an instructional needs analysis.

What knowledge, skills and habits are needed to carry out a district’s instructional priorities? An instructional needs analysis helps determine what assets educators have and what they will need to develop to realize strong results in addressing the district’s instructional priorities. This approach will help PD evolve from the usual broad set of offerings to a limited set of offerings built upon assets and targeted to closing gaps in knowledge or skills.

To conduct the analysis, appoint an owner of the process and use readily available data to determine what knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits need to be cultivated to realize leaders’ audacious goals for students. The information can come from student achievement data, educator evaluations, focus groups, and external research. The results should serve as the basis of professional development. Districts looking to increase their ROI even more should stop investing in PD offerings that don’t close these gaps.

3. Use coaches wisely.

Implementation science researchers Joyce and Bowers determined that even the best professional development results in a five percent increase in teachers using new skills in the classroom. However, when coaching was added, usage jumped to 95%. For this to happen, coaches need deep content knowledge, effective pedagogical skills and the framework to facilitate professional development and ensure the majority of a coach’s work is happening in the classroom alongside teachers. To maximize their effectiveness, coaches need support, too.

My colleagues and I have been working with a large state agency, who launched a network of literacy coaches throughout the state. Our coaches support these literacy coaches to make sure they are structuring time with teachers well, giving actionable feedback, and fostering a culture of follow-through on the literacy strategies that matter most.

4. Professional development should foster the Implementer’s Mindset.

Despite best efforts, the majority of initiatives in schools today fail--with some estimating a failure rate as high as 70%--never resulting in the intended outcomes. What’s the main reason? Execution. Professional development should cultivate an “Implementer’s Mindset,” a term my colleagues and I use to describe a leader or teacher’s uncanny ability to maintain discipline, focus, and accountability every day to realize outstanding student success.

In helping to turn around struggling schools, we spend a lot of time helping leaders and teachers stay the course (discipline), keep sharp alignment (focus), and invest in each other’s success (accountability). In practice, this means taking stuff off the plate, not allowing anything to get put back on it, and believing success happens when your colleagues are successful also.

Jason Culbertson is president of Insight Education Group. His experiences as a former classroom teacher, leader for state and non-profit organizations, and thought partner for districts, states, and the US Department of Education provide him with unique expertise in solving the challenges of chronically underperforming schools. He tweets at @JCulberts0n

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Human Resources Manager
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Communications Officer
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Hamilton County Department of Education
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read