Profiles of Selected Promising Professional Development Initiatives

Cohen, Carol et al.

Professional development -- including both pre-service and in-service training -- is a critical component of the nation's effort to improve schools and student achievement. Key to ensuring that teachers, principals, and other educators have the knowledge and skills they need to meet the challenges of today's classrooms is ensuring that they have access to sustained, intensive professional development. Financing directly affects what professional development takes place, how it is made available, who participates, who pays, and what impacts it has. Thus, improving professional development in education will depend on better information about what various models of professional development cost, how cost-effective those investments are, what resources are available to finance professional development, and how financing strategies can help achieve education reform goals. It will also depend on an assessment of whether efforts to improve professional development could be enhanced by changing the ways in which it is financed.

To begin to address these issues, in April 2000 The Finance Project received a planning grant from the Ford Foundation to launch a new initiative on financing professional development in education. The Finance Project is a nonprofit policy research and technical assistance organization whose mission is to support decision making that produces and sustains good results for children, families, and communities by developing and disseminating information, knowledge, tools, and technical assistance for improved policies, programs, and financing strategies. Through research and development of tools and materials, The Finance Project continues to build its extensive body of knowledge and resources on how financing arrangements affect the quality and accessibility of education as well as other supports and services for children, families, and communities. The Finance Project also brokers information on financing issues and strategies to a broad array of audiences, and provides technical assistance to "reform ready" states and communities engaged in efforts to align their financing systems with their policy and program reform agendas.

The purposes of The Finance Project's Collaborative Research and Development Initiative on Financing Professional Development in Education are to:

  • Create a better understanding of how much is spent on professional development in education and what those expenditures purchase
  • Delineate how financing affects the quality and accessibility of professional development and the costs, cost burden, and cost-benefit of alternative approaches to the preparation and training of educators
  • Develop new policy tools to help design and implement improved financing for professional development that is aligned with education reform strategies
  • Develop a technical assistance capability to share information about financing issues and strategies and make technical resources available to state and local policy makers and school officials who are engaged in efforts to reform financing for professional development.


During the planning phase of the initiative, The Finance Project began to identify and research critical issues in the financing of professional development in education by consulting with a wide array of relevant professional organizations, education researchers, advocates for teachers, principals, and other educators, higher education leaders, education reformers and professional development experts. Based on the input of these education leaders and with the oversight of an Advisory Group comprised of a diverse set of nationally-recognized education leaders, The Finance Project prepared the following series of products that lay the groundwork for further research, development, and technical assistance:

  • Profiles of Selected Promising Professional Development Initiatives, which provides a base of program and financing information on 16 professional development reform efforts
  • Framing the Field: Professional Development in Context, which examines what is known about effective professional development from both research and the profiles developed under this project
  • Cost Framework for Teacher Preparation and Professional Development, which lays out a comprehensive framework for understanding the types and levels of resources involved in both pre-service and in-service professional development
  • Issues and Challenges in Financing Professional Development in Education, which contrasts the financing strategies and challenges of new professional development initiatives with those embedded in traditional programs
  • Catalog and Guide to Federal Funding Sources for Professional Development in Education, which identifies and analyzes 96 federal programs that can be used to fund professional development in education.


Each of these products adds to The Finance Project's working paper series on issues, options, and strategies for improving the financing of education, family and children's services, and community development. Each reflects the views and interpretations of its author or authors, and may lead to further exploration or refinement over time. Together, these products highlight the changing conceptualization of effective professional development in education and the array of promising new approaches that are emerging. They also significantly contribute to an understanding of the salient issues in financing professional development -- including cost, available resources, and strategies for matching resources with education goals. Finally, they point to multiple directions for further research, development, and technical assistance to help build the capacity needed to advance effective reforms.

This volume, "Profiles of Selected Promising Professional Development Initiatives," represents an initial effort to identify and develop a data base on promising new approaches to professional development in education. Sixteen initiatives recommended by knowledgeable experts and representing a variety of types are profiled in this volume. The profiles, in addition to serving as a vehicle for sharing information about specific initiatives, form a base of information that was used in other work under this project to analyze factors contributing to effective professional development and financing issues and challenges facing professional development initiatives. The profiles were researched and prepared by The Finance Project staff members Carol Cohen and Megan Parry and consultants Peter Gerber as well as Robert Kronley and Claire Handley of Kronley & Associates. Carol Cohen served as project manager. The Finance Project is grateful to each of these individuals, as well as to the initiative leaders who generously provided their time and information on their initiatives, for their contributions to the development of this volume.

Cheryl D. Hayes
Executive Director

Delivery Area
  • professional development
Participant Area
  • educator
  • administrator
  • school
Age Area
  • adult