Professional development plays a big role in the life of a teacher working in the United States. The average teacher is required to attend professional development courses prior to the beginning of each school year, frequently throughout the year, and even during their summer vacation.
While the amount of professional development required varies by building, district, and state, all teachers are required to attend large district-provided conferences along with in-person and online professional development courses, as required by state law. Obtaining these continuing education credits costs a teacher a lot of time and money.
School districts spend an average of 2-4 percent of their budget on professional development courses for the teachers working in their buildings. And while this may not sound like a lot of money upfront, the annual cost ranges anywhere from $6,000–$18,000 per year per teacher for a total of $18 billion being spent by school districts. Compare that to the average employee training costs of $1,071 per year per employee, that a corporation spends.
Teachers face out-of-pocket costs to earn continuing education credits. While many states require a minimum of 30 hours of professional development courses each year, school districts don’t always provide enough opportunities to satisfy these hours in a given year. So teachers have to find continuing education programs elsewhere and in many cases they have to personally pay for these programs.
Given the amount of out-of-pocket costs teachers incur for school supplies and the cost teachers spend on required continuing education, it’s hard to imagine why a teacher would want to continue in the teaching profession.
To further complicate things, continuing education requirements and programs continuously change. The number of hours required, the subject matter these courses focus on, and the delivery methods have changed dramatically.
Twenty years ago, educators were far more likely to take fewer continuing education courses and those they did take were in-person and centered around their subject areas. For example, an English teacher would receive training on completing novel studies in class while a math teacher would receive training on incorporating more word problems into the curriculum.
Fast forward ten years and teachers were required to earn significantly more credit hours to renew their license every five years or so. Plus, they were more likely to learn about collecting data and using technology in the classroom as opposed to subject-specific information. Some of the standard trainings started being offered online, such as bloodborne pathogens and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The number of hours required has increased again, and there’s a huge push for teachers to become more informed about topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion, and trauma-informed education.
Few professions experience the level of continuing education that teachers require. Fewer still impose the cost of training and supplies be paid by the employee. And fewer still require that training be attended during what’s classified as “off schedules”, whether that’s summer vacation or winter break.