Part-time adult education instructors at City Colleges of Chicago have agreed to link bonuses to student achievement. That just doesn’t happen at the college level.
A “great teacher” should make up to $150,000 a year, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.
“I think young teachers — we should double salaries. A starting teacher should make $60-$65,000 [a year]. A great teacher should be able to make $130, $140-$150,000 [a year]. Pick a number. We have beaten down educators. We have to elevate the profession. We have to strengthen the profession. We have to reward excellence. Great teachers, great principals make a huge difference in our nation’s children. We have to invest in them and yes, need to reward excellence, particularly when great teachers are taking on tough assignments and inner-city schools in rural or remote areas, areas that of critical need like math and science — we have to get much more creative than we have in the past.”
Duncan wants higher base pay and performance pay.
“We” doesn’t include the U.S. Education Department, by the way. State and local taxpayers foot the bill for teacher salaries.
Pay some teachers more and others less, writes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic.
Not all teaching jobs are alike. In fact, one could say there’s no such thing as “a teacher” at all. There are math teachers and English teachers. There are fourth grade teachers and high school teachers. There are gym teachers and…well you get my point. But while it might seem obvious, it’s also important. Because as two new studies out this week highlight, some kinds of teachers may simply be more influential on students’ educations and lives than others. The way we evaluate and pay them should reflect that.
The first study, an NBER working paper on The Long Term Impacts of Teachers, concluded that students assigned to a high value-added teacher any time between third and eighth grade were “more likely to go to college, were less likely to have children as teens, and made more money as adults” than their peers.
Good English teachers actually had a greater long-term impact on their students’ lives than talented math teachers. But they were also rarer. On the whole, math teachers were just more capable of raising their students’ test scores.
A second study, also an NBER working paper, Do High-School Teachers Really Matter? concluded “only sometimes.”
Looking at data from schools in North Carolina, Northwestern Professor C. Kirabo Jackson found clear evidence that high school algebra teachers were able to regularly lift their students’ test scores. When it came to English teachers, though, the proof wasn’t there. Meanwhile, good high school teachers’ saw the amount of improvement in their students’ test scores vary much more from year to year than top elementary school teachers.When I spoke with Jackson, he said there were any number of explanations for his findings. Perhaps chief among them: English is considered a harder topic to “move the needle on,” especially in high school. Students learn language inside and outside the classroom.
“Performance bonuses might be more effective for math teachers, who are more likely to see results from their teaching, than English teachers, who might be facing an impossible task,” Weissmann writes. Or perhaps good English teachers should be paid more, because their job is so difficult.
Performance-pay schemes designed for elementary teachers, who have a decent chance at improving their students’ scores, may not be a fair way to evaluate high school English teachers, he adds.
An early Race to the Top winner, Tennessee is requiring schools to evaluate teachers by value-added test scores and principal observations. The new evaluation system is complex, confusing and a huge time suck for principals, reports the New York Times.
Because there are no student test scores with which to evaluate over half of Tennessee’s teachers — kindergarten to third-grade teachers; art, music and vocational teachers — the state has created a bewildering set of assessment rules. Math specialists can be evaluated by their school’s English scores, music teachers by the school’s writing scores.
The state is tweaking rules to cut principals’ paperwork burden. But principals complain it’s not enough.
. . . (Principal Will) Shelton is required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).
He must have copies of his evaluations ready for any visit by a county evaluator, who evaluates whether Mr. Shelton has properly evaluated the teachers.
Shelton must observe his 65 teachers four times a year, whether they’re his best or weakest staffers.
The formula—in what is called a “value-added” model—tries to determine a teacher’s effect on a student’s FCAT performance by predicting what that student should score in a given year, and then rating the teacher on whether the student hits, misses or surpasses the mark.
But (calculus teacher Orlando) Sarduy, like thousands of other Florida teachers, doesn’t even teach a subject assessed by the FCAT. So his value-added score will not come from his math teaching or his particular students. Instead, it will be tied to the FCAT reading score of his entire school in South Dade—a notion that infuriates him, even though he appreciates the level of objectivity the new system brings, and the ways it strives to isolate a teacher’s impact on student learning.
Some performance-pay experiments have rewarded teachers and support staff for improvements in the whole school, rather than trying to measure each person’s contribution. The idea is that everydone does their bit in raising those reading scores, including the music teacher and the janitor. But when the stakes are high, people want to be rated on measures they control. And it’s hard work to evalute teachers fairly.
Forty percent of public school teachers hired since 2005 came through alternative preparation programs, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Information. That’s up from 22 percent of new teachers hired between 2000 and 2004, notes Ed Week‘s Teaching Now.
In addition, the survey found that alternative-route teachers are more in favor of using reforms such as performance pay, elimination of tenure, tying student achievement to teacher evaluations, and market-driven pay to strengthen the teaching profession than are their traditionally prepared counterparts.
However, nearly all teachers, regardless of certification route, support removing incompetent teachers without concern for seniority.
All teachers surveyed were “slightly more satisfied with general working conditions” and “more satisfied with the status of teachers” than those surveyed in earlier years, going back to 1986, reports Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011.
Baby boomers are retiring: Less than a third of teachers are 50 or older and 22 percent are younger than 30.
Eighty-four percent of public school teachers are female, up slightly, and 84 percent are white, down from 91 percent in 1986.
In a surprising shift, Wisconsin’s largest teachers union has endorsed performance pay and evaluating teachers with value-added measures and peer review, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In addition the Wisconsin Education Association Council proposed splitting up the Milwaukee Public Schools system, an idea the union opposed when it was advocated by former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Wisconsin needs an organized way to move underperforming teachers out of the profession, said Mary Bell, WEAC’s president. The union’s proposal includes “career transition services” for teachers who fail to meet performance standards over three years.
She also said that the state’s outdated model of paying teachers based on years of education should be replaced with one that rewards high-performing teachers who meet learning objectives with students. Instructors who take on hard-to-staff positions and additional responsibilities should receive extra compensation, as should teachers who earn their national board certification, she said.
WEAC’s proposal to break up MPS is not supported by its Milwaukee local. The governor and state education department officials had no comment.
State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon), the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, called WEAC’s announcement a “huge move.”
“I think they know this is happening across the country, and we’re going to do it in Wisconsin, and so they decided, ‘We can sit on the sidelines or we can play ball,’ and I’m glad they’re interested in playing ball,” said Olsen, who is working on reform efforts aimed at ensuring that schools can remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.
An eight-part Journal-Sentinel series, Building a Better Teacher, reported that Wisconsin legislators and union leaders have resisted teacher-quality reforms pursued in other states.
Reformers are trying to steer strong teachers to weak schools, but so far it’s not working, writes Alan Borsuk in part four of the Building a Better Teacher series by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Hechinger Report.
A study released Nov. 18 by The Education Trust, a respected Washington-based education advocacy group, showed that students from low-income homes continue to have teachers who are working outside their field of expertise or who have little experience at rates much higher than higher-income students. The report called progress in changing that “disappointingly slow.”
In the suburbs, hundreds of teachers may apply for every opening. Few teachers want to work at West Side Academy, a K-8 school in a tough Milwaukee neighborhood, says the principal, James Sonnenberg. Three of his most promising teachers were laid off last spring because they lacked seniority, then recalled but assigned to other schools. Sonnenberg was sent “experienced teachers whom he had not sought, nor had they sought him.”
It’s hard to change the system without weakening seniority rights, paying some teachers more for taking on harder jobs and figuring out how to identify good teachers.
Denver, which has performance pay, rewards teachers for working in low-performing schools, Borsuk writes, but it’s not clear that it’s helping.
Wisconsin pays a $2,500 bonus to any teacher who earns certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, plus an additional $2,500 to board-certified teachers who work in low-performing schools. But there aren’t enough board-certified teachers to make a difference.
Milwaukee Public Schools hope to develop incentives to improve teaching in low-performing schools, but the focus is on rewarding all teachers in a school instead of singling out exceptional teachers.
The district’s main focus is on improving the teachers it’s already got through “effective on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching,” writes Borsuk.
Allan Odden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, says Chicago, Boston and New York improved the quality of teachers by looking farther afield for good teachers, avoiding the worst teacher-training programs.
“They recruit top talent,” he said, and put them in high-needs schools.
Odden also said programs such as Teach for America have tapped into a strong desire by top-flight college graduates to spend at least two years helping the country by teaching in demanding situations.
Fire the weakest teachers — the bottom 6 percent — suggests Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University economist.
Sonnenberg wants to require teachers to go where their skills are most needed, regardless of seniority. “Why can’t the employer determine what is best for the organization?” asked Sonnenberg.
But there is almost no talk of forcing teachers with seniority to take such assignments. And, ultimately, it is tough to make people take jobs they don’t want.
Making schools better places to work is the best way to attract good teachers, says The New Teacher Project.
Mike Langyel, president of the Milwaukee teachers union, listed things that would attract teachers: “A competent and fair principal is key not only in getting teachers there but in keeping them. . . . We’re also looking at schools that are safe.”
A few teachers are so brilliant they can teach well in any environment; some are so bad they’ll teach poorly anywhere. Most teachers will teach effectively in a well-organized school with an academic focus; they’ll teach poorly in a chaotic school.
Strict rules for behavior, longer school days, greater intensity around academic work — these are parts of the formula that some schools are using with success.
Joshua Beggs, who heads the small high school operation of Eastbrook Academy, a religious school on the north side, said: “Many high quality teachers want to spend their lives helping underserved students succeed. Give them a classroom full of students who want an education and they’ll work in the poorest neighborhoods and may even accept below-average pay. Place them in a school full of unruly, undisciplined, unmotivated kids and they’ll give it their best shot — but ultimately they’ll quit if they can’t achieve success.”
There isn’t enough money in the world — certainly not in school district budgets — to get talented people to bang their heads against a brick wall every day.
Baltimore teachers rejected a new contract that would have changed the traditional salary scale based on seniority and academic credits.
The proposed contract included pay raises and kept health benefits at their current rate. But some were wary of a provision that would have replaced a system where seniority and degrees determined pay with one where they were paid by effectiveness in the classroom and pursuit of professional development.
Some 58 percent of teachers rejected the contract.
The contract had been hailed as a sign that teachers’ unions are open to reform, notes Teacher Beat. Apparently, the leadership of the AFT-affiliated union couldn’t persuade its membership.
Baltimore teachers will gain higher salaries and input on working conditions in exchange for abandoning the old pay system, reports the Baltimore Sun. Effective teachers could earn up to $100,000.
The new contract, being hailed as the most progressive in the nation, would in part link teachers’ pay to their students’ performance. The structure does away with the old model of “step” increases, or paying teachers based solely on their years of experience and the degrees they have obtained.
By the third year, all schools will let teachers “help set working conditions not outlined in the general contract, such as a longer work day or more planning time.”
Some teachers are breaking with their union to support performance pay and oppose seniority, reports the Wall Street Journal.
As a teacher, Sydney Morris wants to be rewarded if she can show she helps students make progress in her classroom. She also wants to make job protections such as tenure more difficult to get, and in the event that layoffs have to happen she wants the worst teachers to be let go first, no matter how long they’ve been teaching.
In March, the Bronx teacher and a colleague, Evan Stone, started Educators 4 Excellence to mobilize teachers who want to change the status quo.
Of particular concern is the practice of laying off teachers based on how many years they’ve worked in the schools. That “provides a safety net to be complacent,” said Margie Crousillat, a member of Ms. Morris’s group who is a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx in her seventh year of teaching. “Some veteran teachers have been teaching 25 years and they are incredible. But some aren’t. I don’t think age or experience should dictate whether you’re safe in your job.”
Three-quarters of teachers surveyed this year by the New Teacher Project said layoffs should be based on more than just seniority.
Value-added analysis has helped teachers prove their worth and keep their jobs in Tennessee, writes Stephen Sawchuk on Teacher Beat. The state has collected value-added data for more than a decade, he writes, “and until recently, it was an optional but not mandatory component of teacher evaluations.”
According to (former Tennessee Education Association President Earl) Wiman, over the past decade, the union has actually used information from that state’s value-added system to save teachers’ jobs during tenure and dismissal hearings. In other words, the information showed that those teachers did make a difference for kids, and effectively served as a type of check on principals.
The TEA successfully opposed basing teacher pay on value-added scores — unless that’s negotiated by local unions in districts receiving Race To The Top funds.
On the flip side, Arthur Goldstein describes how a teacher could exploit performance pay to make more money at the expense of students’ learning.