Raise Teachers' Pay or Face a Mass Leave
Teachers' pay is intimately related to the quality of education. In a recent study by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) in the United States, how teachers are paid has been tagged as a determining factor on who enters the profession and as important, on who stays. The study, entitled Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay, emphasizes the significance of the starting salary as well as the dependence of promotions and salary increase only on number of years served or advanced degrees obtained. The study proposes a smarter way of deciding how much to pay teachers. Deciding salary rates without paying attention to the needs and challenges of schools is suggested to lead to the following undesirable outcomes:
• It makes it hard to recruit top talent. Even people willing to look past the low starting salaries are turned off by the profession’s low expectations and willingness to reward mediocrity.
• It pushes great teachers out of the classroom—and encourages ineffective teachers to stay. A conservative estimate is that school districts nationwide spend at least $250 million annually on automatic pay increases for their ineffective teachers, draining funds that could be used to offer more competitive salaries to newand early-career teachers and reward high performers at every level.
• It discourages high performers from teaching in the schools that need them most. Great teachers should be encouraged—and rewarded—for teaching in high-poverty schools, but most compensation systems treat every teaching assignment the same.To avoid the above problems, the following recommendations are made:
The answer is not modest “merit pay” structures that give teachers a bonus now and then. We’re proposing a fundamental change in the way teachers are paid, a strategy that goes beyond paper credentials and time served to base compensation decisions primarily on how well teachers are helping students learn. Like professionals in countless other fields, teachers’ pay ought to reflect the difficulty of their jobs and how well they perform.
The recommendations begin with higher starting salaries. This is what ACT is demanding. The next two recommendations go further than this. It requires those who supervise schools to pay closer attention to the challenges and connect these to how salary increases are determined. It entails much more proactive observations of how schools operate. Raises must not be determined solely by numbers or measures that do not really tell the entire story. These must be based on what is actually happening inside a classroom. In addition, salaries must be used to address where the greatest needs are. Thus, in a nutshell, the solution is active and competent leadership. The problem is that the government seems to lack both.