Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Reform a Teacher Salary Schedule...

A new national study by Ed Sector demonstrates that not all teacher salary schedules are created equal. By studying how experience and credentials are valued differently in different school sytems policy makers and unions can tweak their existing single salary schedule to have a powerful impact without opting for risky and unproven pay for performance schemes. This study should make for interesting reading in the light of the current negotiations between the union and district in DCPS.
Read the study summary here


luv2teachdc said...

What is the actual correlation between teacher salaries, recruitment, and retention? Do successful charter and private schools attract and retain high quality teachers by consistently providing higher salaries and better benefits? Is there evidence in the non-profit or even the corporate sector that higher salaries leads to having more competent and effective decision makers?

It seems to me that the current national financial crisis is evidence that there is not a direct or consistent link between high compensation and goal achievement. Don't get me wrong, I think that teachers deserve excellent compensation packages. However, I am unaware of any researched causal relationship between high compensation and high performance.

In the pursuit of better educational outcomes, more time, effort, attention and resources needs to be aimed at strategies proven to dramatically improve performance including coaching / mentoring, professional development, and lesson study. While I agree that raising teacher salaries both at the beginning and early in the teaching career is likely to attract more candidates to teaching, I am unconvinced that a significant percentage of the larger candidate pool will be more qualified, competent or committed.

One lament (which I think is largely untrue though oft repeated) is that teachers are "only there for the money." If the money is made even more attractive, might the incidence of primarily monetarily motivated teachers be exacerbated? Things to make you go, hmmmm.

Mark Simon said...

One of the primary purposes of a salary schedule is to cause teachers, especially good teachers, to stay, raise and support families, etc.. Teacher retention is more of a crisis than the need to attract good candidates. There is lots of data that indicates that low salary is a major reason people leave teaching soon after entering, particularly those who are smart and have other options. Turnover is a brain drain and a waste of the investment in human capital. So constructing a salary schedule that fixes the turnover problem and provides just the right incentives is a challenge. The sound bites often associated with supposedly "bold" salary innovations like "pay for performance" can be misleading and miss the mark of what works. That's what's so refreshing about this study from Ed Sector.
So while luv2teachDC is right about the strategies other than salary, we want teachers to stick around, make teaching a career, and commit to schools and neighborhoods for the long haul. Salary, artfully structured to provide the right incentives to the right people -- not necessarily the same for everyone based on years of experience, and not necessarily rewarding useless credentials -- is not to be discounted as an important factor.

usereason said...

luv2teachdc said, "However, I am unaware of any researched causal relationship between high compensation and high performance. " There probably is no such research since many teachers get paid high compensation (or at least top of the pay scale) but do not have to produce high student performance to keep it. All they have to do is stay hired long enough.

The article concluded that teachers should get paid more upfront and then level off after that. So it sounds like after 8 years or so there is no incentive to get further credentials AND no incentive to improve your skills in the classroom since neither are tied to compensation! Of course those who are internally motivated will work on self-improvement anyway, but for those who let other priorities in life take precedent, working on classroom skills can be placed on the backburner - what do you have to lose?

I just really think that there should be a base pay scale with bonuses available that are tied to student performance. That's really the only reason to become a teacher. Any pay scale that leaves that out is not adequate.