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Do the Homework on Your PD Investment

This blog post is taken from Stephanie Hirsh's column in the February 2012 issue of the JSD, which is focused on the Resources standard.

At least once a month I get a call from someone asking what percentage of its budget a school system should allocate to professional learning.

In the most distressing of these cases, the caller is facing a budget cut and is seeking a rationale for maintaining the budget that's been allocated to professional learning. In more positive cases, the person is developing a strategy for increasing the professional learning budget.

Unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer to this question. But I am certain that whatever information people present in their efforts to maintain or increase their professional learning budgets must include answers to the following questions.

On the Income Side

What is our current commitment to professional development? This is not an easy question to answer, but collecting and summarizing responses to these three questions can help.


  1. How many federal and/or state dollars do we receive to support professional development?

  2. How much is allocated in the school system budget to directly support professional development?

  3. Are there other sources of financial support for professional development, and what does that total?

On the Expense Side

How much are we spending on professional learning? While it's difficult to account for every dollar, knowing the answers to these questions is useful:


  1. What is the approximate personnel cost attached to professional learning? What titles do these people have?

  2. What is the approximate professional development cost related to program implementation, and what are the most significant expenditures?

  3. What other kinds of expenditures make up the rest of the budget expense?

On the Impact Side

What are our dollars doing for educators and students? I doubt educators will be successful in safeguarding dollars or adding resources unless they can answer the most important questions:


  1. What are examples of impact of our investment in personnel? What compelling evidence do we have to show for it?

  2. What are examples of impact of our investment in program implementation? What compelling evidence do we have to show for it?

  3. What about the rest of the dollars - what is our return on their investment?

Building the Case

With the answers to these questions in hand, educators will be equipped to answer the next set of questions that are likely to be raised as they make their requests:

As a former staff developer, I know how difficult it is to account for every dollar that is spent on professional learning. But we must find understandable ways to answer the questions that both our advocates and our critics raise. We must recognize that we are the most authoritative source on these questions when we can produce our own data and attach them to results.

Results are the universal language. We know we can't achieve results without investment. It is our obligation to align the two.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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