Sunday, April 15, 2007

Paying Teachers More And Differently

The Center for Teacher Quality is badass. Their report on performance pay is superfly TNT.

The report identifies four conditions under which teachers should be eligible to receive performance-based salary increases:
  1. promoting significant academic gains
  2. developing and using new, relevant skills
  3. working in high need schools and positions
  4. providing school and community leadership.

I like this report for numerous reasons, but especially numbers 1 and 3. These criteria demonstrate an understanding that performance pay is not about keeping up with the Jones or making reparations for generations of underpayment or a stipend for Caring So Much (CSM), but is rather a tool to promote further student achievement. Any performance pay system that is not designed around the goal of improving teaching and learning is fundamentally flawed, and this work demonstrates an understanding of this and avoids that common pitfall. Moreover, it includes the key principle that despite feel-good statements (commonly made in Masters classes across this great land) all teaching is not equal -- not in its demands, not in its difficulties -- and therefore should not be treated equally in terms of its rewards. Folks who work in high needs schools with purpose and deliberation rather than accident and last resort should be paid more. Folks who teach math and science in places where those skills are in high demand across employment sectors should be paid more. Big time.

I hesitate slightly at #2 because I think it is redundant. If those new skills and knowledge are valuable, they will be reflected in student achievement (#1). If they aren't, and a lot of the stuff that looks good on the surface (We're all GLAD trained! My students make PowerPoints!) never gets done to that level of actually improving teaching and learning, we should not build in systems of reward.

That said, this is strong work and solid thinking. Now let's make sure that the folks who possess this clarity of vision get themselves into union leadership positions so we can make this happen.

2 Comments:

Blogger Nancy Flanagan said...

Dear TMAO,
As one of the authors of the CTQ report, thanks, big-time, for your thoughtful endorsement. There is a lot of buzz about the report; it's gratifying to read comments from someone who has actually read the thing, and identified some juicy issues and new thinking inside.

Your comment about working in high-needs schools with purpose and deliberation is SO on point--we were adamantly opposed to "combat pay" for teaching in challenging schools (the very concept presumes that tough, underachieving schools will forever be tough and underachieving) and thought the best people to be teaching in high needs schools were those with aptitude for and commitment to the work; those folks need to be very well paid.

About #2 (I think that's the one you see as redundant): Notice that we are call for extra pay for RELEVANT knowledge and skills. We were looking to eliminate mindless course-taking as the most reliable way to make more money. Teachers sometimes do learn things that are enormously useful in shaping a creative, productive teaching practice--take a class in digital videography, for example. Nobody gets paid for that, but I recently worked with an incredible first grade teacher who taught the concept of motion, using a digital camera, slowing down the frames as kids filmed each other tossing things, dropping things and sending little toy cars down ramps, then sketching arcs, lines, and measuring speeds. Now there's a relevant, useful skill, but not one a district would reward at present. If she were willing to teach this skill to all the other primary teachers, it becomes leadership, something else we usually try to manage through anointing people or "trainings."

Finally, on the subject of paying math and science teachers more, may I immodestly suggest my blog on this very topic? In fact, check out all the TLN bloggers' pieces on pay for performance:

http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teacher_in_a_strange_land/

or

http://tinyurl.com/ywkwcb

I can also rest easier knowing that the report is superfly TNT.
(smiling)

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Bill Ferriter said...

Actually, Nancy...I'm most excited to find out that we're badass!

Bill Ferriter----another co author of the report.

http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical

4:54 PM  

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