The Teaching Commission -- a group whose board includes former IBM chief executive Louis V. Gerstner Jr. and former first lady Barbara Bush -- concluded that rigid rules for teacher pay have failed to attract teachers to more difficult schools and more difficult subjects; that education schools needed higher standards; and that teacher licensing should be more rigorous.
Higher standards and tougher licensing guidelines won't bring more in. It'll keep more out. This isn't rocket science, people. If you want more teachers, you've got to pay them.
But then, they started to scratch the surface:
Last May the National Academy of Education issued a set of recommendations designed to deal with precisely the same problems: performance-linked teacher pay, incentives to teach in urban and poor rural schools, higher standards for teacher training, and more support for beginning teachers.
They're getting closer. Incentives to teach in poor and urban schools are important. But they've got to be high. Few teachers who could be hired in the suburbs will go to the inner city or to the sticks for a grand or two more. It'll take at least $5,000 more and even that, realistically, probably isn't enough.
But the big problem they miss is highlighted perfectly in the article I cited yesterday from the Austin Chronicle:
For one thing, there's the pay. AISD, like many districts, has addressed the issue of teacher shortage by recruiting new teachers through relatively high starting salaries. A beginning AISD teacher earns about $35,000 – not too shabby, especially if half your friends are still working in coffee shops. But in yet another vicious cycle – the phrase comes up a lot in retention discussions – the front-loading that convinces people to give teaching a try doesn't do much to convince them to stay. As teachers age, they find their salaries simply don't keep up with those of other professions. An AISD teacher with 20 years experience earns only $45,000.
There it is. $35K isn't bad fresh out of college. But once you hit that ripe ol' age of 30 -- I'm almost there myself -- it don't look so hot anymore. Inevitably, most people will start looking around for other work.
We've got to incentivize people at that 7-year mark (when that itch sets in), give them a bump, a bonus, something.
I do agree that performance pay is needed but it cannot be based solely on test scores. Things like parent and student satisfaction with the teacher are also important. And the extra time a teacher devotes to tutoring and mentoring. And efforts to design innovative curriculum. And so many other things that could fill hundreds of pages.
Teachers do more than test preparation. That must be acknowledged in any pay for performance package.
I'm glad there's so much talk lately about teacher retention. The fact is that it wasn't so long ago that women didn't have many career choices. Thus, our schools were blessed with an incredibly deep pool of talented, bright, dedicated teachers. Now women can enter any profession and they're leaving teaching in droves. At the same time, our population is booming: there are now 55,000,000 students in American schools.
We've got to attract teachers to the schools and keep them there. And sorry, small government conservatives, it's going to cost us. Plain and simple economics, here. Y'all claim to understand economics, right? Well, you get what you pay for. $45K for a 20th year teacher is an abomination. Very few make it to the 20th year. As the Chronicle pointed out:
Teachers come for personal reasons, and they go for personal reasons. The big three, though, are pay, administrative (or administrator) hassles, and classroom management issues. In a 2003 State Board for Educator Certification study of why teachers leave the profession, 61% cited salaries, 32% mentioned poor administrative support, and 24% referred to problems with student discipline.
61% cited low pay. This kind of math ain't complex. It's simple. Our schools need more money. Yes, it should be targeted for maximum efficiency, no doubt. But still the conclusion is unavoidable.
The schools -- and specifically the teachers -- need more money. So let's quit demonizing the teachers' groups and get on with the task at hand. It's time to make the substantial investment in schools that everyone knows we need to make.
Not later. Now.