Professional Development

Report: Teacher Development Efforts Not Improving Instruction

The 50 largest school districts in the United States spend an average of $18,000 per teacher, per year on professional development, but only 30 percent of teachers demonstrated a substantial improvement in instruction over a two- to three-year period, according to a new report from TNTP, a national nonprofit organization founded by teachers.

The report, "The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth About Our Quest for Teacher Development," analyzes the professional development efforts and outcomes of 10,000 teachers in three large school districts and one charter school network. The researchers identified some differences in the professional development experiences of the teachers who improved compared to those who did not and came up with a list of recommendations for improving teacher development efforts.

The study found that "no particular kind or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve." The failure could be at least partially explained by the fact that most teachers don't understand how they need to improve their instruction, or even that they need to improve at all, with less than half of teachers surveyed for the report agreeing that they have weaknesses in their instruction.

The report provides three recommendations for improving professional development:

  • Set clear, measurable goals for teacher development efforts;
  • Revise existing efforts to meet those goals by trying new approaches and shifting resources to those that are most effective; and
  • Consider changes to teacher recruitment, compensation and smart retention policies, as well as changes to teacher preparation, job structure and school design.

The full report is available as a free PDF download from TNTP's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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