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What's the Average Cost of Professional Development for K-12 Teachers?

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Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. ~ George Washington Carver

Providing teachers with a robust system of professional development is essential for any district – and any society – that wishes to improve. The challenge for school districts is to manage the cost of professional development while still providing a learning environment that encourages teachers to grow.

At Alludo, we often get questions about budgeting, particularly from school districts who fear that they are spending too much on professional development and not getting the results they need. One of the most common is this:

“What is the average cost of professional development for teachers?”

We’re happy to answer that question because we believe it’s important to talk about dollars and cents, as well as about unintended costs and consequences. Here’s what you need to know about the cost of professional development – and how making the switch to learner-centered asynchronous learning can help you save money and improve your results.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the Value of Professional Development for Teachers?
  2. What is the Cost of Teacher Turnover?
  3. How Much Do Schools Currently Spend on Professional Development for Teachers?
  4. Tips for Creating a Professional Development Budget
  5. Alludo’s Take

What is the Value of Professional Development for Teachers?

Why is professional development important? What is its value? We set out to find out what effect professional development has on teachers – and what a lack of PD can mean for teachers, school districts, and students.

Our survey got over 800 responses from teachers in districts using Alludo as well as from non-Alludo districts. We learned that fully one-third of teachers are at risk of leaving their current job and one-fourth feel that they don’t matter or aren’t sure that the work they do is making a difference

Teacher Happiness Report

Those numbers are disheartening. What we know from experience is that teachers who receive adequate onboarding, training, and ongoing support are far less likely to leave their jobs than teachers who aren’t supported.

Professional development has value to everybody in a school district:

  • Teachers value PD because it provides them with necessary tools and training, as well as ongoing support, to connect with their students.
  • Districts value it because it reduces teacher turnover and ultimately, leads to better student outcomes.
  • Parents value it because they want their students to have the best possible experience at school.
  • Students value it because they want to feel engaged and connected.

While students may not give much thought to teacher professional development, it still has value for them because it contributes directly to the experience they have in the classroom.

What is the Cost of Teacher Turnover?

Teacher turnover is a big problem in the United States and has contributed to our ongoing (and worsening) teacher shortage. 

According to the Learning Policy Institute, a November 2021 report found that 48% of teachers reported that they had thought of leaving their job in the past month. That figure had nearly doubled from where it was in June of 2021.

They attribute the problem to a 19% wage gap between teachers and other college-educated professionals and point out that the problem existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but has worsened significantly since the beginning of 2020.

Their survey also found that underprepared teachers were leaving the profession at two to three times the rate of those who received adequate training and mentoring. The three top causes of teacher turnover were as follows:

  • Low compensation (that 19% wage gap)
  • Lack of preparation
  • Lack of ongoing support

causes of teacher turnover

The average cost to replace one teacher is between $20,000 and $30,000, including the expense of advertising positions, interviewing teachers, and paying for training to prepare new teachers for their time in the classroom.

How Much Do Schools Currently Spend on Professional Development for Teachers?

Now that we’ve reviewed the true cost of teacher turnover, it’s time to pivot to what schools spend on professional development for teachers and whether it’s too much – or not enough.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher, per year on traditional professional development. By traditional, we mean in-person, synchronous training where teachers must travel to attend classes and seminars at a pre-ordained time.

average cost of pd per teacher per year

Where does that $18,000 per teacher come from? It includes teacher payment for in-service days, which is usually a separate line item in district budgets. Funds may also come from other buckets, including technology, curricula, and so on.

It might seem obvious that schools should invest in professional development considering that we have a critical teacher shortage and PD costs less than teacher turnover, but that’s not always the case. That’s not to say that districts aren’t trying. Rather, we want to point out that when PD hasn’t been customized to help school districts meet their goals and address teachers’ needs, the risk is that it will be both expensive and ineffective.

The result of this type of spending is that school districts are depleting their budgets without reaping any of the rewards that come from a robust system of professional development – and teachers are still leaving the profession. Something must be done to stop the crisis if our schools are to meet students’ needs.

Tips for Creating a Professional Development Budget

At Alludo, we recognize that creating a budget for professional development was always a challenge – and in our changing culture, it has become even more so. School districts must approach budgeting in a way that acknowledges the ever-evolving needs of students and teachers. That means incorporating new topics and issues into professional development, including technology training, distance learning, social emotional learning, equity and inclusion, and more.

Here are four steps to help you create a PD budget that is realistic and will deliver the results you need:

  1. Review your district goals. School districts cannot afford to take a static approach to goal-setting. It’s essential to review goals regularly, revise them – or scrap them entirely in favor of new goals that better suit the needs of teachers and students.
  2. Get teacher input on PD priorities. A key principle at Alludo is our belief in giving teachers a voice and a choice in professional development. Teachers are the ones who are in the classroom and connecting daily with students. That means they are the best people to tell you what courses, activities, and topics are going to be most helpful for them, and ultimately for their students.
  3. Partner with an experienced PD provider. Calculating the cost of PD isn’t easy, especially when you don’t have a centralized learning environment that’s easy to track. Alludo has developed a quote calculator to help school districts estimate their costs. Partnering with an experienced provider will ensure that you get the system you want at a price you can afford.
  4. Focus on online learning. Traditional teacher development can be effective, but there’s no denying that it’s both more expensive and less accessible than online learning. It can be difficult to track, too, meaning that school districts can’t determine what’s working and what isn’t. Online, asynchronous learning is affordable and effective.

get teacher input on pd priorities

Taking the time to evaluate your needs and then partnering with a provider of online professional development is the best way to ensure that you end up with a system that provides the training necessary to meet your goals and provide teachers with the support they need.

Alludo’s Take

When compared with the cost of traditional, in-person professional development, the Alludo system – which provides online, asynchronous training – is significantly less expensive. In fact, you could provide training for a district of 1,000 teachers for a full year for about the same cost as paying for three teachers to attend in-person professional development.

provide learner-centered pd for 1,000 teachers

Of course we believe in asynchronous training, but how can you be sure that it’s asynchronous training that will make a difference and set your district up for success?

There are several elements of asynchronous training that make it possible to deliver excellent results while still being cost-effective. Here are some to consider:

  • It’s easy to incorporate teacher input and feedback to create learner-centered training that makes teachers feel supported and appreciated.
  • Online access to training makes it possible for teachers to complete PD requirements at their convenience, which we know drives engagement.
  • Micro-learning activities are easy to complete and more importantly, teachers love them!
  • Gamification brings an element of fun and excitement that encourages participation.
  • It’s easy to track results because with Alludo, you can run reports and track progress toward your district goals.

Measure PD Effectiveness

By incorporating these elements of asynchronous training into your new system of PD, you can be sure that your learning environment is designed for success, giving teachers what they need to feel supported, ensuring better student outcomes, and allowing school districts to track results and adjust training as needed to meet their goals. 

Can Your School District Save Money on Professional Development?

Creating a budget for professional development for K-12 teachers may be a daunting task, but it’s a worthwhile one. Ultimately, the goal of every school district is to make the most of their funding while honoring teachers’ time and providing them with the ongoing support and tools they need to deliver the best possible student outcomes.

Alludo specializes in creating customized, online professional learning environments that are both affordable and effective. Click here to schedule a platform demo today!