Continuing Education for Professionals


Dan McGowan’s review of some claims that have recently been made about problems in the Providence school district is worth a read.  Broadly speaking, the claims about the school facilities themselves proved to have been exaggerated, while problems with management of teachers were not so much.

This item raises something that I’ve wondered about before — specifically, how much emphasis people really put on “professional development”:

Teachers get one day of professional development a year.

Grade: C

During a series of public forums following the release of the report, Infante-Green often asked attendees the same question: Would you go to a doctor who only received one day of training each year? While it is accurate that the current union contract only requires one professional development day during the school year, more nuance is required. Union president Maribeth Calabro and the Elorza administration maintain most teachers receive significantly more training each year. As an example, Calabro said at least half of her members have attended professional development sessions during their current summer vacation.

To be honest, I’d have no problem discovering that my doctor has only “one day of training each year.”  Doctors spend every day analyzing patients and determining the best treatments for their ailments.  One can expect that they are continually reviewing the latest information that might help them to do their jobs better.

The idea that they’ll simply coast along for their entire careers — doing the equivalent of handing out photocopied worksheets year after year — just seems strange.  Some will be better about this and some will be worse, but the fact that a doctor dedicated more than one day to some government-approved course of study that may or may not be relevant to my health and that may or may not have focused on some medical fad or PC indoctrination would not impress me at all.

So the question, then, is why we shouldn’t expect the same from teachers.  They have a 180-day work year.  Why should we assume that if we don’t use up some of those days for “professional development” instead of teaching, they’ll just let their skills atrophy and knowledge become antiquated?


Featured image: The Doctor by Sir Luke Fildes (1891).

  • Joe Smith

    RI requirement for physicians

    Physicians are required to document to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline that they have earned a minimum of forty (40) hours of American Medical Association, Physician Recognition Award or American Osteopathic Association (AOA Category 1a) continuing medical education credits.

    CMEs on Public Health Topics
    At least 4 hours of continuing medical education shall be earned on topics of current concern as determined by the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Current topics include: Ethics, Risk Management, Opioid pain management / chronic pain management, End of life / palliative care, Antimicrobial Stewardship.

    I believe it is every 2 years.

    RI teachers

    Teachers renewing professional or advanced certificates will be
    required, once fully phased in, to complete the equivalent of 20
    professional learning units annually.
    • Teachers seeking to transition from initial to professional certificates will
    be required, once fully phased in, to complete the equivalent of 30
    professional learning units annually.

    The values of PLUs are here –

    Two noteworthy points:

    (1) LEAs shall report persons who are dismissed for performance-based or fitness related reasons and shall also report the following in writing to RIDE within 15 days of discovery of the occurrence: (lists all kinds of bad behavior incidents)

    (2) Note: Activities that do not directly relate to improving educator practices, such as general logistics, school daily operations, safety trainings, and most committee work do not qualify for professional learning units. These are important activities for schools but are not considered professional learning.

    So Jason, it seems RI is finally getting more serious; however, I would contend that while district “PD” days could be useful, the onus should be on the educator to keep their skills up. I don’t know if hospitals pay doctors to do their CME (or the doctor has to do it on their own time since they are in a sense not “making money” when doing the CME) – but right now districts pay teachers to do district PD.

    But, the devil is in the details – RIDE is not requiring teachers to upload their PLUs, but rather “maintain them” in case of an “audit” unlike doctors who must upload CME proof.

    “Educators are responsible for the completion of PLUs and must maintain records of all activities that attest to participation in the activity and the PLUs earned. • Records must be available upon request to RIDE, if selected for audit. • RIDE will audit a percentage of renewal applications each year to ensure the professional learning requirement is being implemented as required by the new regulations.”

    After all, I believe school board members are required by law to do 6 hours of “PD” – yet is there any repercussion for failing to do that? There is not even a way to check.

  • Joe Smith

    Would you go to a doctor who only received one day of training each year?

    I get the new Commissioner is trying to make as much hay out of the JHU report as possible to support the state takeover, but your point is well taken.

    The answer might be yes *if* it’s really good and relevant training and no (even if say a whole week) if it’s useless/not relevant training.

    I add the extra point the Commissioner seems to imply only district provided training is happening.

    What would be useful? If in addition to the state site where you can check the teacher’s certification status, the PLU/Cont ed history was listed as well as annual attendance records (although in fairness they’d need to figure out how to qualify those for reasons like pregnancy, long-term illness, bereavement, etc.).