School-day Development

Professional development courses take up some of a teacher's free time, but what about the school day? That lets them try out new instructional approaches -- and get immediate feedback -- while school's still in session. It's also a better time to get support from mentor teachers. Unfortunately, allowing time for training activities during the school day creates a logistical dilemma. Along with in-service days, some districts opt for early-release or late-start days, so teachers can learn new skills without their students around. In addition to rescheduling buses and employees, and in some cases before- and after-school child care programs, it can be a challenge for teachers to have an in-depth lesson in only an hour or two [source: NCREL].

Benefits of Professional Development for Teachers

School districts' pay scales often include increases for teachers with higher education and licensure levels, and those both require the expense of professional development. Teachers with national board certification, for example, can expect a salary increase for the life of the certificate (10 years before renewal) [source: NBPTS]. Plus, a National Research Council report found that teachers with national board certification take on other school leadership roles, stay in the classroom longer and support new or struggling teachers.

But there are a few downsides to professional development, too. For example, it can be time-consuming and costly. In the United States, each state determines the number of instructional school days per academic year, but the average is 180 [source: TimeandLearning.org]. However, as many teachers quickly discover, the school year is a bit longer for them. That's because there are usually about four or five teacher training days, or in-service days, built into the school district calendar each year. In addition, teachers are often required to spend time training during the summer and holidays.

In the District of Columbia, for example, teachers are granted five in-service days during the school year, but an equal number of professional development days must take place in August before the school year starts [source: DCPS]. While this district-sponsored training won't come out of a teacher's paycheck, completing an individualized professional development plan probably will. There are a number of free or low-cost resources on the Internet, but online college courses can run $300 or more per credit hour, and on-campus courses may cost even more [source: Degree Directory]. Workshop or conference attendance can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on transportation arrangements and additional books and materials.

Despite the effect on the bottom line, professional development can boost teachers' careers, preparing them for supervisory positions and helping them get pay increases. And, when teachers participate in professional development, it can be good for the students, too. Students of national board certified teachers who completed additional professional development courses have been shown to score higher on achievement tests [source: NBPTS]. For many teachers, accomplishments like this make the investment in professional development well worth the effort.

Want to learn more about what it's like to be a teacher? Check out the links on the next page.