I need to stipulate three things: 1. I used to be a senior high math teacher 2. I work in corporate America in a highly competitive environment 3. I am payed more than both the national average and mean Okay, teacher pay, here in NC it’s pretty bad:
Under the current state base pay scale, a teacher who started in the system with no experience would take 16 years to reach a $40,000 salary. North Carolina school teachers have only seen one one raise since 2008, which was 1.2 percent.
Like I said, pretty bad. And we need to improve it. But let’s think about why. Do we wanna pay teachers more because we only love them and think they deserve more pay? No, at least not me. I wanna pay teachers more because by creating the incentive to be a teacher, you attract better teachers. And why do we want better teachers?
The work of Bill Sanders, formerly at the University of Tennessee’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, has been pivotal in reasserting the importance of the individual teacher on student learning.4 One aspect of his research has been the additive or cumulative effect of teacher effectiveness on student achievement. Over a multi-year period, Sanders focused on what happened to students whose teachers produced high achievement versus those whose teachers produced low achievement results. He discovered that when children, beginning in 3rd grade, were placed with three high-performing teachers in a row, they scored on average at the 96th percentile on Tennessee’s statewide mathematics assessment at the end of 5th grade. When children with comparable achievement histories starting in 3rd grade were placed with three low-performing teachers in a row, their average score on the same mathematics assessment was at the 44th percentile,5 an enormous 52-percentile point difference for children who presumably had comparable abilities and skills.
And how good are we at measuring teacher effectiveness? Well, consider this:
The vast majority of school districts in the U.S. presently use teacher evaluation systems that result in nearly all teachers receiving uniformly high ratings. For instance, a recent study by The New Teacher Project of twelve districts in four states revealed that more than 99 percent of teachers in districts using binary ratings were rated satisfactory whereas 94 percent received one of the top two ratings in districts using a broader range of ratings.[i] As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan put it, “Today in our country, 99 percent of our teachers are above average.”
We have no useful or meaningful way of evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness. And that has to change. We not only need to identify the best teachers and reward them appropriately, we need to identify poor teachers and remove them from our schools. And we have to go further. We need to pay more for the teachers teaching subjects we value more. For instance – there is no reason that an elementary music teacher or a physical education teacher.
Further, raises and bonuses need to be assigned proportionately – the better the teacher the higher the raise. And bonus. Some say that this will create a corrosive culture and pit teacher against teacher. I dispute this theory and point to corporate America as my example. As I mentioned above, I live in corporate America and am compensated relatively well.
I earn more than some of my peers and less than others. I achieve stronger raises than some and less than others; bonuses in the same manner. And I ave yet to feel a level of resentment that leads to less collaboration or cooperation. In fact, the reverse is true – I see that it increases such traits as fellow co-workers seek to emulate the stronger employee. The pay of our teachers is a disgrace. But the method by which we determine pay is a direct result of the teacher’s unions and needs to be scrapped for a merit system without tenure.