Taxpayers are spending vast sums of money on time-consuming teacher development programs that don’t actually improve teaching quality, according to a study conducted by The New Teacher Project. The Washington Post reports:
“We are bombarding teachers with a lot of help, but the truth is, it’s not helping all that much,” said Dan Weisberg, TNTP’s chief executive. “We are not approaching this in a very smart way. We’re basically throwing a lot of things against the wall and not even looking to see whether it works…”
The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.
The conventional wisdom in many quarters is that to improve our education system, we simply need to boost education spending. But we’ve already tried that; education spending has gone up for years, and schools have used the money to add more administrators, more classroom aides, and more training programs. There is very little sign that any of this has done much good. American school districts typically overspend on things that don’t matter much while stiffing the things that really do.
Some of the most promising reform strategies would not necessarily require costly new programs. We should be encouraging smaller schools, more local competition, more parental choice, and more freedom for teachers to teach as they wish. At the same time, we should be cutting down on the number of education bureaucrats and scaling back meaningless teaching doctorates and masters programs. The savings could be used to boost the pay of effective teachers, and usher in a more competitive educational culture.