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4 Steps to Create an Accurate District-Wide Budget for Professional Development

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Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. ~ John Steinbeck

Providing relevant, learner-centered professional development is essential for any school district that wishes to improve teacher retention and student outcomes. That said, budgeting for professional development can be a challenge because the money to pay for it often comes from a variety of buckets.

At Alludo, we don’t think budgeting for professional development should be complicated, and we also don’t believe that professional development needs to be expensive to be effective. With that in mind, let’s talk about the four steps to create an accurate district-wide budget for PD.

Table of Contents

  1. Where Can You Find Professional Development Funds Other Than the PD Bucket?
  2. Steps to Create a District-Wide Budget
    1. Assess Your Current Professional Development
    2. Identify Your District Professional Development Goals
    3. Research Your Options
    4. Find Money in Your Budget
  3. Alludo’s Take

Where Can You Find Professional Development Funds Other Than the PD Bucket?

Perhaps the biggest challenge of creating an accurate professional development budget is that most school districts don’t have a comprehensive PD bucket in their budget in the first place. That doesn’t mean money isn’t available. Rather, it means that the money doesn’t have a PD label.

When you’re trying to evaluate the effectiveness of your existing professional development model and compare costs to make an informed decision about partnering with a new provider, it’s essential to break out your costs, regardless of where they’re hiding in your budget.

PD funds are often allocated in an array of areas because leading educators know that prioritizing spending in these areas will benefit teachers and students. Here are some of the places you can find PD funds in your budget:

  • Instructional coaching and mentoring
  • Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)
  • Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
  • Social emotional learning (SEL)
  • Effective onboarding
  • Teacher retention
  • Curriculum (math, literacy, ELL/ELD, science, etc.)
  • Innovation in learning
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Feedback & recognition
  • Teacher & staff effectiveness

Alludo has created a budgeting tool to help school districts identify money that’s currently used – or could be used – for professional development.

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Considering the potential impact of professional development on everybody who plays a role in education, including teachers, paraeducators, administrators, and students, it’s easy to see why it’s essential to identify funds to spend on PD and spend them wisely to get the best possible result.

Steps to Create a District-Wide Budget

There are four basic steps that can help you create a district-wide professional development budget.

#1: Assess Your Current Professional Development

Step one is to look at your current system of professional development and evaluate it in terms of cost and results, as well as its future potential. This breaks down into four areas, as follows:

  • Costs. What is the total amount you spend on professional development each year? Make sure to pull money from every applicable bucket, then calculate your costs per year and per teacher. Consider not only the direct PD costs, but the costs of subs, preparation time, and time out of the classroom.
  • Teacher Engagement. How many teachers are engaged in PD at present? You should factor in how much time you spend trying to engage teachers who are resistant. It’s worth considering the cost of creating a PD program — design, implementation, hiring consultants, etc. — with no teacher engagement.
  • Results. Is your current PD getting you the results you want? And how are you measuring those results? In other words, what is the return on your investment in PD? If you’re not meeting your district goals or you’re experiencing high teacher turnover, it’s a sign that you’re not optimizing your results.
  • Scalability. Looking ahead, how expensive would it be to scale PD to accommodate additional learners? If you’d be looking at hiring more instructors, creating more materials, or scheduling additional classes to make PD available, make sure to include those costs in your analysis.

evaluating current professional development

This analysis step is essential because it will help you identify areas for improvement and savings.

#2: Identify Your District Professional Development Goals

Once you have a handle on your existing professional development, the next step is to look at your district goals and identify the areas that are most important to you. Some examples might include the following:

  • Increased teacher engagement. If teachers aren’t participating in PD, then you’re not getting the most from your investment.
  • Increased student engagement. Teacher professional development and student engagement are inextricably linked. 
  • Improved student achievement. Standardized test scores are a common metric for school districts to evaluate how well they’re doing. It’s important to also build a clear picture of the student and his or her interests, to identify what and how they are thinking and learning, and assess the effectiveness of the environment on their learning.
  • Improved teacher retention. Teacher retention is a priority because it’s far less expensive and disruptive to student impact to keep a teacher engaged and supported than it is to replace a teacher who leaves your district or leaves the profession.
  • Increased college acceptance rates. College acceptance rates are another metric that matters to school districts, and better teacher development can lead to more college acceptance for students.

Make sure that your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You must be specific, so that you can track your progress and adjust your PD as needed.

identify your professional development goals

#3: Research Your Options

With your goals in place, your next step is to research your options for improving your district’s professional development.

One of the biggest choices you’ll make is between asynchronous and synchronous PD. Synchronous PD consists of traditional classroom instruction. By contrast, asynchronous PD happens online and courses and course materials may be available at any time. 

Adoption of asynchronous professional development is an effective way to give teachers a choice in what and how they learn while getting better results and saving money.

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#4: Find Money in Your Budget

As we have already noted, the money to pay for PD can come from multiple sources within your existing budget. As a reminder, these include the following:

  • Curriculum (Math, literacy, ELL/ELD)
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Innovation in learning
  • Social emotional learning 
  • Instructional coaching
  • Teacher/staff effectiveness
  • Online, asynchronous solutions

budget sources for teacher PD

If you do step one, then you’ll already have this information at your fingertips and you can decide where and how to allocate funds to pay for your new system of professional development. You can use our free quote calculator to get your Alludo quote.

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Alludo’s Take

Alludo specializes in creating quality online, asynchronous learning environments that help school districts save money while retaining good teachers and meeting their goals. 

Our new budgeting tool focuses on providing school districts with professional development that meets our LEMUR learning model:

  • Learner-centered. We offer choice-based learning personalized to each learner’s interests and skill level.
  • Engaging. Micro-learning and gamification make learning fun and easy to access at any time.
  • Measurable. School districts have the metrics and tools they need to track results across systems, initiatives, and audiences.
  • Understanding. Learners’ needs change, and you can understand and meet those needs with fresh content from the Alludo Content Catalog.
  • Responsive. Scalability is built into our model, so you can easily accommodate new learners and get them up to speed.

We believe that by giving teachers a choice and a voice, school districts can provide relevant, engaging professional learning that teachers love, while also saving money and meeting their district goals.

Are You Ready to Save Money and Keep Good Teachers with Learner-Centered Asynchronous Professional Development?

Budgeting for professional development can be challenging, but the guidelines we’ve provided here can help you get a handle on your existing spending and update your professional development program to support teachers, improve student outcomes, and save money at the same time.

Want to reach up to 100% PD in your district? See how Alludo can help make it happen with our free professional development platform trial, including:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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