Monday, October 23, 2006

PESPD'S Plan for Paying and Retaining Teachers

Okay, as promised, here it is! My plan for paying and retaining teachers.

We start with a normal salary schedule. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, in most places, teachers are put on a salary schedule according to the number of years they have been in their district. Their first year in a school, they are on step zero, and their fourth year, they are on step three. The higher the step, the higher the salary. In our school, the highest step is 16. In every step, there are lanes for the amount of graduate credits that teachers have had since attaining their bachelors degrees. In the schools where I've worked, it has gone by increments of 15. For example, if someone is on step four, there would be lane for Step 4 + 0 credits, Step 4 + 15 credits, all the way up to Step 4 with a Masters + 45 credits. The farther a teacher is along on lanes, the more they get paid within that step. So in other words, a teacher who is just out of college with no graduate credits might get paid something like $28,000, and a teacher who is at the highest step with a Masters + 45 credits might get paid something like $56,000.

My idea is to start with this schedule, but to allow a principal to move teachers up an down the steps. So if a school got a great new teacher, at the end of a year, the principal would be able to move her from step one all the way to step five, six or even higher if he wanted to. No teacher would object to being moved up, but many would object to being moved down, and I would also allow principals to do that. In those cases, I would set up an appeal process with a panel consisting of something like one school board member, one teacher, and one respected citizen from the community--perhaps a parent or a retired teacher. Both the teacher who had been moved down and the principal could bring witnesses and give evidence, but there would be no lawyers allowed.

Although having graduate credits or a Master's degree doesn't necessarily make one a better teacher than one who doesn't, there is value in earning them, so I would continue to have lanes within the steps in order to encourage continuing education.

In most places, when cuts need to made, teachers are laid off strictly by seniority. The least senior teachers get cut. Since, in my system, the people who the principal believed were the best teachers would be the highest on salary schedule, I would use a system similar to this. But rather than using strict seniority, teachers would be laid off according to is lowest on the salary schedule in the departments that are being cut. As things are now, a teacher in an area being cut, social studies for example, can "bump" a teacher with less seniority in a different area, like math, that isn't being cut. I would allow the principal to use his or her discretion to do this type of thing by having a teacher that is higher on the salary schedule bump one who is lower. Obviously, if a principal did this, it should be because the principal believed the "bumping" teacher was better.

I know that any teacher who doesn't like his principal is probably going to think that this is a lousy idea. But teachers aren't the only people in our society who sometimes have lousy bosses, and they wouldn't be the only ones to have to try to get along with bosses they didn't like. I know this sounds simplistic, but the solution is to replace bad principals with better ones.

I think this system would help to solve a couple of problems that we have. First of all, it would help schools to keep outstanding young teachers that are too often lost when cuts have to be made due to budget problems. It could also do a lot to cure something that I call the "I paid my dues" syndrome.

I've said before that I've known very few veteran teachers that could be called incompetent. But I have seen too many veteran teachers who have quit working as hard as they could. They quit doing those extra things that they did when they were younger because they've "paid their dues." There is no question that being made safe by seniority does an awful lot to contribute to this attitude. Knowing that longevity doesn't guarantee teachers anything unless they continue to work up to their capacity might do a lot to cure this malady.

So there it is. If you don't like it, go ahead and hit me with your best shot. I should mention that I have written other posts saying that teachers should have the power to remove disruptive and apathetic students from their classes when they think those students are hurting the education of other kids in those classes. I believe principals should be able to use their judgement to have the best teaching staff possible, but I also believe teachers should be able to use their judgement to provide the best educational environment possible in their classrooms. I honestly believe that if principals and teachers in public schools had the power to do these things, vouchers wouldn't even be an issue. And if they were, we would be so good that they wouldn't be anything to be afraid of.


Blogger Creatively Ironic said...

Hi - you've hit on what the private sector has always had: job codes. A new college grade entering our department is MTS (member of technical staff) 1, he proceeds to MTS2, MTS3, etc. depending on the evaluation of the manager (principal). Moving an engineer down a level is a rare occurance and is not without legal risks, so the Human Resource department gets involved. Engineers who take additional training are only eligible for more salary if they show benefit to the company from having taken the courses - it is not an automatic bump. Thanks.

10/23/2006 10:22 PM  
Anonymous steven said...


Having principals (and teachers) actually run schools sounds like a reform that could provide real improvements to education. Even better would be, in addition to letting principals (and teachers) run schools, letting parents choose the school their children attend. The more choices the better. Kind of like a voucher system.

10/24/2006 2:37 PM  
Anonymous redkudu said...

The one thing I notice about your idea, if I'm reading right, is that a teacher's ability to advance depends on the principal. And the principal is saddled with the burden of knowing each and every teacher thoroughly enough to make decisions like this.

The problem for me there: I haven't seen a principal or assistant principal in my classroom in 3 years (and haven't needed to). I haven't been evaluated by a principal in 5 years. (We have other evaluative methods at my school.)

So, for the teacher like me, who is constantly striving but very quietly endeavoring, might this not lead to the slippery slope of favoritism (and/or open up the accusations of such)? I know other teachers at my school are a lot more vocal and visible than me, and we have 100+ teachers/support members on staff. (Another question: how would this system work for support folks?) 100+ faculty members is a pretty demanding burden for a principal, who also has the school to run. Even our APs oversee several departments of people, and can rarely make it to a monthly meeting.

I think your system would end up requiring a review board where teachers who are overlooked in a year could appeal somehow, which might be messy. Without strict guidelines, I can see folks complaining that Principal didn't visit their class but once, while s/he visited X's class 3 times. Maybe this system would need some sort of "campaign" clause where, if a principal wasn't able to get to know me well enough throughout the year with the other staff members to attend to, I could campaign with a portfolio. In my case, though I can't afford to take extra college courses, I do read 3-5 professional books over the summer, and attempt another 2-3 during the year. But then, of course, you get into the sticky arena of portfolio quality and evaluation, and etc.

Anyway, interesting thoughts to bounce around. I've actually worked in environments where getting along with "bosses" was a necessary skill, both in and out of teaching - so I'm not the person who's going to claim "liking" a boss or not is a real concern. Your idea is appealing in many senses, but also, in my opinion, possibly troublesome as yet, due to the burden of responsibility placed on the principal as the single evaluator of performance. As an airline employee for many years, I knew my team leaders had verifiable sales figures to use in my evaluations for promotion. But what could a principal defend him/herself with as quantifiable measurements of a teacher's effectiveness? (Which, in the end, leads to the notion of test scores, and we already know where that's gotten us. ;) )

10/24/2006 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea. I see the problems that reduku points out, but I also see the benefits of it (especially as an excited young teacher who is "at the bottom of the totem pole").

I definitely think education pay must be reformed somehow.

10/24/2006 7:19 PM  
Anonymous redkudu said...

Question to Anonymous teacher:

Do you have any ideas about how new teachers such as yourself should be evaluated in a system such as this? Dennis gives the example of the "exemplary" first year teacher, but what about those who need a year or two of practice? Especially in the arena of classroom management? What strengths do you think first-time teachers have that should be financialy rewarded? (I can think of technology in the classroom as one.)

10/24/2006 7:43 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Redkudu, I think you have valid concerns. I work in a high school with about 100 kids per class, and everybody in the school (and the community, for that matter) has a pretty good idea who the best and worst teachers are. I can see where that might not be the case in a large school. Obviously, my idea would not work very well if a principal didn't have a good feel for how good his or her teachers were. However, it would seem to me that even in a large school, knowing who the best and worst teachers are should be part of a good principal's job. Maybe I'm wrong on that, though.

I may not have been clear on this, but according to what I have in mind, teachers would go up the salary schedule just as they do now unless the principal took action. I do think that those "constantly striving and quietly endeavoring" teachers are eventually given the appreciation they deserve, but even if they didn't get recognition as quickly as they should, they would continue to move up the salary schedule, just as they do under our present system.

10/25/2006 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Lilith said...

One problem I can see with this is the size of the teaching population within the school. In most businesses, the boss has a limited number of people who they are responsible for. The number is way below the 100 or more that principals in the schools I have worked in are responsible for. Our hight schools have 3000-5000 students. Think of the staff size. It is unreasonable to imagine a principal can stay on top of the quality of one of the professionals working for them. I know from experience how frustrating it is to have an incompetent teacher working in a school, making the load heavier for all the staff or the ones that come in contact with them, but I also know that principals don't have the time or resources to deal with them. I don't know what the answer is.

10/26/2006 6:36 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"It is unreasonable to imagine a principal can stay on top of the quality of one of the professionals working for them."

Isn't there a chairperson for each department? Why not rely on them?

10/30/2006 3:21 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I find really hard to reconcile your stance that though students do poorly on this test, the public schools are doing a bang-up job. You teach high school history, right? Do you think the scores you see for your entering students show preparation? 12 or 13 of these questions are complete 'gimmes' -- and that's being very conservative (and not including the 4 binary-choice or 5 multiple-choice questions, which if included would reduce the chances of getting a zero on this test to about 1% with pure guessing). If the students coming into your class are so poorly prepared, and they're not all Laotian immigrants, why do you say the schools are doing a good job?

11/02/2006 2:14 PM  

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