Staff Development in California

Public and Personal Investments, Program Patterns, and Policy Choices—Executive Summary
Judith Warren Little
University of California, Berkeley
William Gerritz
International School Bangkok
David Stern
University of California, Berkeley
James W. Guthrie
Policy Analysis for California Education
Michael W. Kirst
Stanford University
David D. Marsh
University of Southern California


The California Staff Development Policy Study was initiated by the legislature and governor in response to a steady escalation in the number and costs of staff development programs. Results of the study will be used to assess the possibilities and limitations of staff development as an instrument of state and local policy intended to improve the quality of classroom teaching and learning.

For purposes of this study, staff development is defined as any activity that is intended partly or primarily to prepare paid staff members for improved performance in present or future roles in the school district. The term staff member is limited in scope to include all certificated personnel and teachers' aides.

The study was designed to aid policy makers by answering four basic questions:

  1. What is the total California taxpayer investment in staff development and what forms do the investments take?

  2. How are staff development activities administered, organized, delivered, and evaluated, and by what approaches do these activities achieve their goals?

  3. How do teachers and administrators judge the quality and effectiveness of the staff development activities in which they participate?

  4. What policy and program options might the state pursue in order to improve the classroom benefit associated with staff development?

This year-long examination of staff development in California yields eight main conclusions. The summary of conclusions and the text that follows employ the logic and language of investment. In doing so, it is important to acknowledge that any dollar spent on staff development is a dollar not spent on other educational purposes, including instruction. However, the investment orientation also permits policymakers to take a future-oriented view toward the value of current staff development. It positions them to address the problem of return on investment and to judge staff development resources by their prospects (or demonstrated ability) to improve the capacities and commitments of California's educators.

Suggested citationLittle, J. W., Gerritz, W., Stern, D., Guthrie, J. W., Kirst, M. W., & Marsh, D. D. (1987, December). Staff development in California: Public and personal investments, program patterns, and policy choices: Executive summary [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.