Pay Me My Monies. . .

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant started an interesting strand of conversation today when he shared a collection of facts showing that the smartest teachers often leave the classroom first, leaving schools with collections of “low ability educators” who have little impact on student achievement.

Scott’s central question:

Let’s assume that, generally speaking, these studies are correct: 1) smart people are less likely to stay in teaching (thus resulting in a concentration of teachers with lower academic ability), and 2) the academic ability of teachers impacts student learning outcomes. Now what?

The conversation in the comment section of McLeod’s post has been lively to say the least, drawing out some of the edusphere’s most active thinkers.  For me, the Eduwonkette’s comments had particular resonance.  Among other things, she wrote:

Re what to do: Teachers with high scores have better salary options out of teaching, so we will need to change compensation practices if we want to keep these folks in education.

Do you think this is the key issue in the whole conversation? Are we woefully unprepared to keep top performers in education because we have a stagnant compensation system—and our professional organizations fight to protect that system at every turn?

Think about the benefits that teaching offers: affective rewards, job security, pensions (in most places). Pretty attractive to a candidate in 1973, right? After all, that was an era when pretty much everyone got one job and held onto it for life.

Today’s professional has no expectation of the 30 year career at all. What’s the statistic? Most people have 8 different jobs by the time they’re 30?  The top performers in education today don’t find inherent value in the kinds of perks offered by our profession—-and they don’t have any qualms about walking away from job security and a pension.

The kicker, then, seems to be redesigning the compensation (which includes more than simply salary) system in education to more accurately reflect today’s vision of a “career.”

Does this resonate with anyone else? Is it a pipe dream that we’ll never be able to bring to reality?

What’s the first step towards seeing compensation redesigned—and who’s got to take it?

6 thoughts on “Pay Me My Monies. . .

  1. Renee Moore

    Sorry about being so late entering this conversation. I’ve been reading around the blogosphere and elsewhere to see what different people are thinking about this issue. While many people link it to money and compensation, I tend to agree more with those who relate it to working conditions, since salary and compensation are consistently lower on the list of reasons teachers give for leaving the profession. What’s consistently at the top of that list are lack of administrative support, lack of freedom to TEACH or to grow professionally. Therefore, I agree with Carly, and others that we have to balance our conceerns over teacher compensation with close attention to developing the working conditions that will allow us to be most effective for our students.

  2. Carly Albee

    I think blaming the teacher retention/recruitment issues on pay, oversimplify the issue. Yes, that’s part of it (a bigger part for some than others). The old saying, “You get what you pay for” applies to the average quality of teachers in America. However, teacher recruitment/retention is a really really complex issue. I am biased, but I tend to blame most of the problems we have on working conditions. I work at the coolest school, with the coolest faculty and I am empowered everyday to change what education in America looks like. You couldn’t pay the qualified folks that I work with to quit teaching there. Why? Because good leadership and teacher empowerment have a HUGE impact on teacher retention (more “huger” than money?? For our school, yes… because we get paid the same amount as everyone else in the State). Also, we have no trouble hiring awesome teachers (you should have seen the number of applications for our most recent job openings).
    Do we need to fix the pay structure for teachers in North Carolina to attract and retain higher quality teachers? Yes. But at the same time, we need to work hard…or harder to create healthy, creative, empowering work environments to hire AND keep the best teachers.

  3. Nancy Flanagan

    This argument–that we are losing the best candidates for teaching because the money and the working conditions are bad–hinges on this concept:
    “Teachers with high scores have better salary options out of teaching” (eduwonkette) and a corresponding belief that higher scores will give us better teachers.
    On the face of it, it’s obvious: teachers with higher credentialing scores will be better teachers. But it’s not necessarily true, especially across the board. Nor is it universally true that the highest performers are always drawn to the highest-paying careers. There is some research that the high-SAT teachers who leave the profession have not invested much in their success there, and–over time–teachers who want to teach, and are committed to a community, leverage better results in the long run, even if their initial entry scores (SAT, etc.) and Praxis scores are lower than the high-achieving leavers. The research on this question is mixed, and depends on the ways questions are framed and data analyzed.
    While I certainly believe teachers should be paid more, and paid commensurate with their performance, hoping to catch the “smart ones” and encourage them to teach for a few years before pursuing their real careers is not a recipe for long-term leverage of achievement. Nor is this the strategy employed by high-achieving nations to build a professional teaching force.

  4. John Larkin

    Bill, I agree. Change the compensation system. As i posted over on Dangerously Irrelevant… pay them more, lots more, in an intelligent fashion. Unfortunately, given this world’s commodity driven environment, money talks.
    In Singapore pre-service teachers are selected from those applicants with the highest scores. It is quite different here in Australia.
    During their undergraduate years the Singaporean teacher trainees are on a teacher’s salary. When they graduate they are paid well and they are continued to be paid well.
    They work incredibly hard. They work during the school holidays as well. They do not have as much time off as Australian teachers. The expectations placed upon them are many.
    Teachers are highly respected in Singapore. They are nurturing the tiny city-state’s key resource ~ its children.
    Cheers, John.
    PS. I enjoy reading your blog.

  5. eduwonkette

    Hi Bill,
    One more note – compensation reform is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Changing the compensation system without improving working conditions (the many conditions that one commenter at DI cited) is unlikely to improve retention.

  6. Marsha Ratzel

    Bill,
    This is something that I’ve been thinking about. If you believe that most new teachers won’t stay for a lifelong career….
    Well then how does that change the way we’ve been thinking about new teacher induction? I’d say we need to find ways to re-organize ourselves to get people up to speed faster. What if our system tried to retain teachers for 5-10 years instead of 30?
    Here’s where I see the emergence of different levels of professionals really coming to the forefront. If our industry will be full of inexperienced teachers, they will absolutely need to be partnered with those that are well experienced.
    To my mind that means we would need to re-organize ourselves into teams. I think we’ve talked about having that expert teacher oversee teams of teachers..some who would be brand new, some pre-service teachers and some mid-range. This team would divide and conquer the job of teaching.
    It got my mind to spinning thinking about the possibilities. What if different members of the team were responsible for data crunching and then preparing lessons in response to that data? What if others did all the prep for those lessons…maybe searching out the best practices, putting together the insturctional/technology materials needed to back up the lesson…and then others taught the lesson?
    I think looking at the career horizon as a much shorter thing will help us think about more configurations and possiblities.

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