Staff Development on a Shoestring

Make professional development work for you.

Leadership consultant Price Pritchett says, "The biggest challenge today isn't getting an education, it's keeping one." Meaningful and practical staff development is a must for every school employee, but budget and time constraints can make it extremely hard to fit professional development into the school day. However, there are strategies to circumvent these challenges and take advantage of opportunities that arise. Here are three suggestions for making the best use of time and reining in costs for professional development.

  • Change budgeting practices. Experts recommend allocating approximately 25 percent of a program's budget for professional development. Build this level of funding into new program funds and future grant applications, then leverage existing budgets by using multiple sources to split-fund current activities. For example, if teachers learn how to use a new technology-based instructional strategy for reading, combine funds from the reading program with technology dollars to pay for training.
  • Take advantage of free resources. Some publishers offer professional development to their customers for little or no additional cost, particularly if the training is negotiated at the time of purchase. Staff can also participate in free online course offerings from providers such as Teacher2Teacher Digital Workshops and Apple Learning Interchange. Courses at these sites cover a broad range of content areas and topics.
  • Provide your own ongoing support. Once staff has attended training, they can help one another during the implementation process. Using professional learning communities, staff can plan and reflect; provide peer observations and feedback; and read and discuss related literature, all within the context of the regular school day. Opportunities for collaboration may be further enhanced using free online tools such as wikis and blogs to foster anytime discussion. This approach may require restructuring staff meetings to accommodate planning and discussion time, as well as funding for substitute teachers to support peer observations.

Susan Brooks-Young is an educational consultant and writer.