Apr 21, 2011

Paying Teachers What They Deserve

Theodore Hershberg is a professor of public policy and history and director of the Center for Greater Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. Claire Robertson-Kraft, an IES Fellow, is pursuing her PhD in Education Policy in Penn’s Graduate School of Education. More information about their comprehensive framework for school reform can be found at their website: .
One of the most important messages StudentsFirst can help bring to parents and taxpayers is the need to reform the system of compensation for teachers in our nation’s public schools.
Two decades of research on the annual progress of individual students shows empirically what we have always known anecdotally – good teachers matter. In fact, teacher quality is the most important factor affecting the rate of student learning. In our current system, teacher salaries are based on years in the classroom and academic credentials, neither of which has been shown to have a meaningful impact on student learning. Attracting and retaining the most talented and committed women and men to the teaching profession requires a system that makes teaching a more financially rewarding and intellectually satisfying experience.
Developing the right pay-for-performance system is not always easy, as recent research from a Nashville-based program demonstrated. That particular program showed that paying teachers bonuses for increasing test scores did little to improve student achievement in middle-school math. But it would be wrong for defenders of the status quo to use this as evidence that compensation reforms are unnecessary.
Pay-for-performance is actually a much fairer way to compensate teachers. Consider this: using value-added measures as indicators of performance, we find, roughly speaking, that two-thirds of teachers in grades 3-8 are effective, i.e., they provide their students with a year’s worth of growth in a year; the remaining third are split between highly effective and ineffective. Yet in our current system both of these groups – the top and bottom performers – are compensated as if they were average teachers. So in paying everyone without regard to whether their students learn, we are on average misclassifying at least one-third of teachers.
If we are to recruit more of the best and brightest to the teaching profession, keep more of our most talented teachers in their classrooms, and attract the most able career changers, we will have to provide higher annual pay based on effectiveness. We must recognize that at the very moment we want our students to master new and more demanding academic standards that are benchmarked to meet international rigor, we are disproportionately recruiting new teachers from the bottom third of our college graduates.
Bonus pay by itself is not the answer, however. The reality is most teachers need additional training and support to increase student achievement. As such, we need to create a system that not only provides higher salaries for our top performers to incentivize improvement, but also offers high-quality professional development aligned to teachers' needs. New compensation systems will work only if they are coupled with meaningful feedback and support teachers need to grow professionally.
Additionally, new incentives and rewards must be balanced with risk and consequences, which is why we must also reform our system of tenure, remediation, and dismissal. Peer Assistance and Review processes, such as we describe in A Grand Bargain for Education Reform: New Rewards and Supports for New Accountability (Harvard Education Press, 2009), provide due process for teachers, but can also lead to timely dismissal for those who, despite the provision of time and resources, are unable either through lack of ability or lack of effort to improve their instruction. Most importantly, these systems treat teachers as equal partners in the reform process.
New compensation systems are necessary and can work, but they will be widely implemented only when a sufficient number of parents and citizens are organized to demand systemic change in our state capitals. That makes StudentsFirst’s efforts to raise the profile and level of dialogue about this issue an important contribution to education reform.
The views presented on our guest blogs are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of StudentsFirst. We thank all of our guest bloggers for their thoughtful perspectives.

No comments:

Post a Comment