Professional Development

Whither Professional Development in the Budget?

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 08, 2010 1 min read
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Here’s another teacher-related question on President Obama’s budget request: Will it be good or bad for professional development?

If lawmakers go along with cutting the Title II state formula grant program by half a billion dollars, then there’d already be fewer funds for professional development, unless class- size reduction—a large percentage of current spending under the program—is excised as an allowable use of the money. (Expect the teachers’ unions to fight that tooth and nail.)

And a few of the funding streams that have been consolidated were focused on professional development, such as the educational technology grants. The National Writing Project, one of the big success stories in professional development, also would be consolidated into the proposed new programs.

On the other hand, the budget names proposed new Title II programs “Excellent Instructional Teams,” and says they’d support the collaborative use of data to improve teaching. And to be sure, it was never all that clear in the first place that the professional- development that districts were providing with federal funds was any good. The definition in the NCLB law specifies that the funds can’t be used for one-day workshops, but it’s hard to know how many of the nation’s 14,000 school districts paid attention to that stipulation.

M. Rene Islas, a policy adviser to the National Staff Development Council, a professional-development advocacy group, seems cautiously optimistic about the budget language in this post. (You may remember that Islas headed up teacher-quality issues back at the Education Department between 2002 and 2006.) NSDC is a proponent of the learning-team approach to professional development, where educators across grades and subject areas reflect on achievement data and set instructional priorities.

Still, there’s another tension here worth exploring. How much professional development should be individually based and how much of it should be based on collaborative work? After all, one of the Obama administration’s reasons for putting evaluations at the center of Title II is to ensure that all teachers are getting consistent feedback on their own practice. How can team-based professional development supplement individual feedback?

Over at Public School Insights, Claus Van Zastrow has a few thoughts on professional development in the budget here and here.

But what do YOU think?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.