Opinion
Professional Development Letter to the Editor

Professional-Development Essay States Problem, Misses Solutions

December 01, 2015 1 min read

To the Editor:

The Oct. 21 Commentary by Mike Schmoker, “Transforming Professional Development Beyond ‘The Mirage,’” relies heavily on a report released by the teacher-training and advocacy group TNTP. The report, “The Mirage,” claims to be an empirical study, but it does not include the technical details that would enable readers to know how many people were surveyed in each of the four unnamed districts the authors analyze, the response rates within each district, and so on.

In addition, I would argue that the report’s conclusions are horribly misleading.

For example, although the loose wording and imprecise nature of the technical details make it difficult to see how the report’s authors came to their conclusions, three of their stated findings seem to be hyperbolic in the extreme.

First, they state that the average teacher spends approximately 150 hours—the equivalent of 19 full days—in professional-development activities each year, or nearly 10 percent of a contract year. Second, the authors note that the districts studied spent nearly $18,000 per teacher per year. In my experience, and in the experience of the superintendents I have spoken to about this report, those numbers are way out of line with existing practices.

Third, the authors report that the total professional-development cost for a school district of 10,000 teachers is about $90 million, exclusive of teachers’ salaries, whereas a comparably sized government/military unit spends some $2 million. Actually, the personnel of military units, when not involved in combat, spend nearly all their time in training or the active practice of their skills, the costs involved in their doing so being their salaries, housing and meals, and equipment.

I agree with Schmoker’s title for his Commentary—we do need to move beyond this report. But he deals only with suggested processes, without concrete ideas for content and professional development.

We need a real dialogue about both the preservice education of teachers and their continuing education.

Bruce Joyce

Booksend Laboratories

Saint Simons Island, Ga.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2015 edition of Education Week as Professional-Development Essay States Problem, Misses Solutions

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