The Hidden Cost of Free: What Districts Should Know About the Cost of Teacher Training

Teachers are all too familiar with professional development training. Federal, state, and district mandates typically require professional development in preservice settings, before a teacher is placed in a classroom, and continue on an annual basis for the duration of one’s career.
Continuing education and training for teachers is not standard practice without reason. The end goal is to support teachers, grow their skills, and improve job performance to lead to better student outcomes.

But what is the reality of training for teachers, and what should districts consider when it comes to the cost of teacher training?

Workshops As a Typical Cost of Teacher Training

Research is mixed on whether workshops are effective towards raising student achievement. Still, in-person training is often the professional training default. Over 90% of teachers participate in workshop-style training sessions during a school year. A workshop usually lasts half a day at a minimum or can last multiple days.

Why workshops? Workshops tend to be an easy choice because they are a straightforward format that most are familiar with. Their curriculum and materials have already been developed or can be tailored. Training a small group of teachers may only require scheduling a facilitator and reserving a space.

Workshops also appear cost-efficient. Compared to sending a teacher to week-long institutes over the summer, the shorter duration of a workshop at first glance is more appealing. Workshop training for teachers ranges in cost and can be more cost efficient if more people attend.

The average number of teachers per public school district in the U.S. is about 235. Let’s imagine that we are a district training all 235 teachers with a budget of $12,000 for a one-day workshop. We have found a facilitator who charges $50 a head. It would appear that the initial cost to our district to train our teachers is 235 x $50, or $11,750.

However, this does not account for a hidden cost of teacher training in this workshop example: time.

The Value of Teachers’ Time

This infographic above reveals that time is the hidden cost of teacher training. A one-day training is eight hours of time per teacher. In our example, this is 1,880 hours of teacher time.

Multiply these hours by an average public school teacher salary of $58,950 ($28.34 per hour), and the district is now looking at $53,279 in human resource spending, or $65,029 total with the cost of the workshop, to send these 235 teachers to an all-day workshop. Suddenly what appears as a bargain $12,000 workshop to train the entire district is actually costing more than five times the cost, totaling over $65,000.

In the case that a training takes place during a school day, this formula does not take into account the cost of hiring substitute teachers. Each hour that a teacher spends outside the classroom is also costing a district to pay their substitute.

This example is just the cost of one one-day workshop. According to a comprehensive TNTP report on teacher training, teachers spend an average of 24 hours per year in professional development workshops. In a year, this amounts to an average of 19 school days doing professional development, or almost 10% of a typical school year.

Time of administrators or professional development coordinators is also at stake. Planning one workshop might appear to require minimal logistics on the part of a district or school, but coordinating for multiple groups can add up quickly. Measuring return on investment through manually tracking attendance and measuring learning outcomes on paper requires even more time.

Rethinking Efficient Professional Development Solutions

At Kognito, the value of time was a theme we heard in teacher focus groups about professional development. To address this pain point, districts can eliminate fractions of the hours spent in a one-day training. And teachers can easily repurpose those hours saved back into the classroom, or dedicate them to lesson planning.


Download Kognito’s Guide To Securing Funds for Professional Development and SEL Curriculum

Districts, meanwhile, are looking for evidence-based trainings that fit within their budgets. It is also in their best interest to keep teachers satisfied with engaging training options. In fact, only 29% of teachers report being satisfied with their current professional development offerings. Meanwhile, trainings must be effective enough to lead to real results in academic achievement for students.

Given the many demands on teachers and the mandates of districts, here at Kognito we developed our online K-12 simulations to stay brief, meaningful, and convenient. All of our K-12 simulations take two hours or less to complete. Plus, users can pause and pick up where they left off, allowing for flexibility. Incorporating interaction, a staple of our simulations, gives teachers an opportunity to practice a new skill rather than passively learning it on paper or a Powerpoint slide.


When looking for professional development solutions for teachers, time is an opportunity cost. At Kognito we want teachers to feel valued and empowered instead of feeling like passive learners. And districts should feel confident that their investment in this professional development delivers measured results that are making a positive impact in their schools.

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If you’re interested in weighing the costs and benefits for implementing mental health professional development in your school or district, don’t miss our whitepaper, Criteria for Selecting Mental Health Training for K-12 School Personnel

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