A Cost Framework for Professional Development

Allan R. Odden
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Sarah Archibald
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mark Fermanich
Oregon State University
H. Alix Gallagher
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University


In the context of today's standards-based education reforms, where the goal is for students to achieve to high-performance standards, effective professional development is critical. In order for students to learn more, teachers must change what and how they teach. Though typical professional development has had little impact on teacher practice or student performance, effective professional de­velopment is considered by most a critical strategy for accomplish­ing today's ambitious student achievement goals.

Research is beginning to link the key features of professional development programs that change teacher practice and in turn boost student achievement scores. But while there is a growing consen­sus among researchers about the features of effective professional development, this knowledge is only slowly entering district and school practices. For these reasons, many districts still provide nu­merous unfocused and ineffective professional development pro­grams that are not aligned with goals for student learning. This proliferation of professional development costs money. Since dis­tricts and schools have limited resources, these expenditures di­minish their ability to deploy more effective professional develop­ment strategies, which research is beginning to show require sig­nificant expenditures over a sustained time period. Even when re­form-minded district and school leaders want to deploy effective professional development strategies, they rarely know how much the programs cost.

This article begins to address this lack of knowledge about the costs of various types of professional development. While the article's main purpose is to develop a methodology for organizing the costs of professional development programs into an analytical framework, it is necessary to have a common language for discussing various professional development programs.

This article was originally published in Journal of Education Finance by University of Illinois Press and Journal Storage (JSTOR).

Suggested citationOdden, A. R., Archibald, S., Fermanich, M., & Gallagher, H. A. (2012, July). A cost framework for professional development [Article]. Policy Analysis for California Education.