Is it possible to waste $1.5 billion in one year? If you work in public education, apparently it is. In fact, if you work in public education you can waste $1.5 billion in one year, and then demand more money the next year because the $1.5 billion wasn’t enough. And yes, billion, with a B.
Where was this money wasted? On professional development for teachers.
The Institute of Educational Sciences is a division of the US Department of Education. Their job is to determine if the programs and practices our public schools use actually accomplish anything. Several years ago the IES set out to study whether the professional development teachers receive actually (a) improves teacher knowledge of the subject, and (b) increases student knowledge of the same subject. Their second year results have just been released (see here).
Each year school divisions across the country spend more than $1.5 billion just in federal funds for professional development for their teachers. Add in the cost of hiring substitute teachers for lost class time while teachers attend professional development as well as the cost of delivering those programs, costs which are paid for at the state or district level, and you’ve got a whole lot of billions being spent to teach teachers. When we’re taking about several billion taxpayer dollars a year, one would hope that the classes increased both teacher and student knowledge.
One might hope that, but one is a complete idiot.
The results of the IES’ two year study into the effectiveness of teacher professional development have been released. Their research shows that there is NO increase in teacher or student knowledge as a result of teacher professional development. Specifically, the study concluded that, ” At the end of the second year of implementation, the PD program(s),
- Did not have a statistically significant impact on teacher knowledge. There were no significant impacts on teachers’ total score on a specially constructed teacher knowledge test (effect size = 0.05, p-value = 0.79) or on either of the test’s two subscores. On average, 75.7 percent of the teachers in the treatment group correctly answered test items that were of average difficulty for the test instrument, compared with 74.7 percent of the teachers in the control group.
- Did not have a statistically significant impact on average student achievement in rational numbers. There were no significant impacts on students’ total score on a customized rational numbers test (effect size = –0.01, p-value = 0.94) or on either of the test’s two subscores.”
As our budget is facing an $32.1 million unexpected expense to cover the increased cost of teacher retirement benefits, maybe we ought to look to our PD budget for some offsetting reductions, especially as it appears that the PD we’re paying for is useless.