Why Aren’t Dollars Following Need?

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The need for professional development is enormousand expressed; the question is, where’s the money?

The National Education TechnologyDr. Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editor-at-LargePlan (NETP), required bythe No Child Left Behind Act(NCLB), concludes with seven major actionsteps and recommendations. Step three is:“Teachers have more resources availablethrough technology than ever before, butsome have not received sufficient training inthe effective use of technology to enhancelearning. Teachers need access to research,examples, and innovations, as well as staffdevelopment to learn best practices. …Recommendations for states, districts, andindividual schools include:

  • Improve the preparation of new teachersin the use of technology.
  • Ensure that every teacher has the opportunityto take online learning courses.
  • Improve the quality and consistency ofteacher education through measurement,accountability,and increased technologyresources.
  • Ensure that every teacher knows how touse data to personalize instruction.…”

While I have lamented the lack of anymention of money for the NETP—andcomplained bitterly about the Bush administration’scomplete cut of educational technologyfunding from the proposedbudget—I have praised both the inclusionaryprocess and the forward-lookingattitude of the NETP. Step three, above, isjust common sense that has been with us formore than a quarter of a century.

Yet, budgets do not reflect what expertssay is a good guideline: 25 to 30 percent oftechnology dollars should be spent onprofessional development. In the 1995-96school year, QED (www.qeddata.com) forecastthat 62 percent of tech dollars would bespent on hardware, 12 percent on software,and 4.9 percent on training. In the 21stcentury, spending on professional developmenthas grown to 6 percent of the technologydollar (Technology in Education2004, MDR, www.schooldata.com).

The demand for professional developmentfor integrating technology is growing.According to the MDR report The Impact ofNo Child Left Behind, when leaders wereasked about the areas in which they feel theirteachers need the most training over the nextyear or two, technology integration came infourth behind “assessment,” “dealing withdiverse student populations,” and “teachingmethods.” In the same study, “integratingtechnology” was in the middle of a 14-itemlist of the greatest challenges growing out ofNCLB for today’s educational leaders.

Education Week’s latest edition ofTechnology Counts (www.edweek.org) listssix top priorities for state educational technologyspending. It is not surprising thatprofessional development was listed by 28states, far outpacing the other priorities.When asked how NCLB has influencedtechnology spending in their states, tworesponses related to professional development — “more funding now focused onintegrating technology with instruction,”and “more funding now focused on professionaldevelopment” — were cited by states,second only to “more funding now focusedon data management/collection” (15 states).

Clearly, the need for professional developmentis enormous—and expressed. Thequestion is whether or not districts will findthe money to fund the fulfillment of thisneed, especially if the funds are cut fromNCLB’s Enhancing Education ThroughTechnology program. The answer may befound in a study in the Journal of EducationFinance titled Inside the Black Box: SchoolDistrict Spending on Professional Developmentin Education (www.financingpd.org). The Finance Project is trying todisseminate this and related informationmore broadly.Visit the organization’s Website for more details.There is money in yourown district; you just need to find it.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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