Higher Pay?

Ok, before you read this post, I’m going to admit freely that this issue is one which brings out my snarky and biased side.

A writer with the News Tribune advocates higher pay for math and science teachers to lure better and new teachers to the profession. No other content area would receive the extra pay; it would only be given to math and science teachers.

I take issue with for a few reasons:

1. I absolutely believe all teachers deserve more pay across the board, not just a select few. Education is not a free market based system and shouldn’t be run like one in my humble opinion.

2. Snark alert — offensive statement coming — I don’t believe that extra pay should be given to content areas struggling to produce better results. Now I admit that I believe the math and science teachers are in a very difficult spot (plus, I don’t believe in the validity of the math and science WASL tests mainly used to define their success), but I would rather give bonuses to areas which are showing successes if I had to give extra pay to anyone.

3. I believe everyone in a school should be rewarded monetarily when test scores and graduation rates improve.

In my high school reading and writing scores have risen every year. Math and science scores rose slightly and have now plateaued. When an informal lunch discussion began with a mix of teachers in different content areas, this idea of extra pay for math and science teachers came up and, of course, the math and science teachers were all for it. People debated the idea back and forth with some people pinning the results solely on the teachers, others pinning it on the students, and others pinning blame on the parents and community.

While I know the competitive market is making it much more difficult to get math and science teachers, I don’t believe higher pay for that area is acceptable. Maybe I’m too prejudiced or jealous, but I don’t think this is the answer. Plus, part of the shortage in my area is the new math mandate for students failing the WASL where we take away student electives and double the kids up on math. The math department went from 9 to 16 teachers in two years! Students who didn’t enjoy math before now doubly don’t enjoy it, and the attendance rates have worsened in the math department since the new mandate.

Like I said, I believe in better pay for all and school rewards for everyone when test scores and graduation rates climb. I think it’s equitable and builds community.


19 thoughts on “Higher Pay?

  1. Steve Rosenbaum

    Quick scenario for you. We have two school systems. School system A goes to the state legislature and say, things are great, test scores are up, graduation rate is up. We’d like some more money.

    School system B takes a turn. Things are rough. Test scores are down. School is crumbling and we’re worried about voilence. We’d like some more money.

    Which school gets the money?

  2. drpezz Post author

    Seems obvious, though I’d love to see the system reward successes rather than being a completely punitive one.

  3. Steve Rosenbaum

    It’s really the difference between a government and a market system. If you took the same scenario and took it to a corporate board of directors, they’d put all the money into School A and they’d tear down School B.

    Just for fun, here is my list of 10 questions about schools.

    1. Why is k-12 the only time in your life that you’ll spend all your time with others of the exact same age?
    2. Why do we have k-12 instead of some other number of years? I know the historical reasons, but haven’t things changed?
    3. Why do we teach subject by subject, in silos, rather than cutting up and sorting what needs to be covered in other ways?
    4, Why are teachers basically at the top of their profession the day they start? (There’s a very short career path for teachers.)
    5. Why are schools all inclusive, one-stop shopping? Couldn’t kids go to multiple schools at the same time?
    6. Why don’t schools teach life and work skills?
    7.Why do we have homework instead of having kids finish their work in school?
    8. Why do schools need to have their own buildings? Couldn’t they rent out space in the community?
    9.Why do schools promote a social system that is so clickie and unlike what people experience out of school?
    10. Why is it so hard from one school to learn from and adopt the best practices from others school?

  4. drpezz Post author

    I’m not sure how serious you are to get answers to some of these questions, but two major limitations predominate my thoughts on them:

    1. Education is not a business, and a true business model will not work. Market factors are not compatible with education (just as private vs. public school arguments fail, the proverbial apples and oranges).

    2. Much of what I believe needs to occur in education requires complete system overhauls, and the public–while vocally advocating change–will not want their kids to be the guinea pigs for change and will not want to pay the huge costs involved to begin a new series of systems even if they would be cheaper in the long run.

    The only question I would venture to say is an oddly conceived one is number six, which implies life and work skills are not being taught, when I would argue the exact opposite is true. Schools are not given the ability to hold students entirely responsible for their decisions, and this greatly affects effectiveness.

  5. Steve Rosenbaum

    Sometimes there’s a claim that life skills are embedded in the other topics but the kind of skills that seldom see in people entering the workforce include:

    – How to sell (which is something you need for everything)
    – How to get a job including interviewing and resume writing
    – How to lead a team through a decision making process
    – How to do short and long range planning both financial and non-financial
    – How to actively listen and give feeback
    – How to start your own business

    The list goes on and on.

    The comment about not wanting to take risks with your own kids is a big one. However, we know that the worst way to adapt to change in a positive way is to try and avoid too many risks. That’s way government doesn’t change as well a business.

  6. drpezz Post author

    You should take some of my English classes to see some of those skills being taught, practiced, and learned. 🙂 LOL

  7. Steve Rosenbaum

    It would be very interesting especially because it can take years to learn just one of those skills. In know to learn how to sell something requires a minimum of 200 to 500 selling situations. To learn how to lead a team through a structure decision making process requires at least 30 to 50 practice sessions.

  8. drpezz Post author

    I would most definitely be focused more on the resume writing, interviewing skills, selling the self (as part of the interview process), planning and time management, and active listening and reading. The rest of your ideas are obviously from a strict business format which would not necessarily be part of my literature and writing courses, though we do look at decision-making and teamwork processes.

    I hear quite a few education critics come with entrepreneurship in mind, or business building, or corporate mindsets for kids to fit into, but the vast majority of the kids I teach don’t generally think of owning a business or working in a typical corporate setting. Many of my kids are agriculturally minded or looking into organic and other scientific fields. Often they want to work in the armed forces or to explore options in a collegiate setting.

    So what do you want to see in schools (answering your own questions)? I get a sense it’s more of a business, market perspective.

  9. Steve Rosenbaum

    I wouldn’t think that as an English teacher it would be your role to teach a lot of those subjects and certainly the background of an English teacher wouldn’t prepare anyone to teach those topics.

    However, if you students wanted to work in a corporate setting, agribusiness or scientific research that would have to learn how to do all that on their own. The certainly wouldn’t be prepared for 90% of whitecollar jobs.

    Maybe the job isn’t to prepare kids to enter the work world. I know most two year colleges offer work readiness curriculum to cover basic work skills which are missing in a huge number of first time applicants.

    I’d be interested in what you actually teach in team decision making. Being able to select the appropriate decision making process for different team assignments is a rather difficult and complex task.

  10. drpezz Post author

    I obviously select the decision making models to try and use in the appropriate settings. These are are still young kids with maturity issues, high school level or not, and they need lots of assistance and step-by-step processes. However, as they become more adept at working in groups, leaders develop and more responsibilities are given.

    High schools are really based on giving students basic skills (at least the vast majority of the students) and a base of cultural literacy. Advanced students can use more complex methods of learning and are definitely pushed harder, though the business world is not the end game; learning to know how to find, create, and use needed knowledge is really the goal. Ultimately, I aim to see students develop the capacity to self-teach. This independence is really what I hope to see no matter what field they enter.

  11. Clix

    Most of what you propose isn’t focused on because businesses, unlike typical public schools, have the option of turning people away. If you feel that candidate A does not fit the job’s requirements, you don’t hire them. Schools do not have that freedom.

    I’m not saying that they should, necessarily; I think there is value in teaching – or at least attempting to teach – every member of our society.

    Finally, the list of questions seems to imply that these are things that haven’t been thought about, which I believe is untrue.

  12. Steve Rosenbaum

    Are you suggesting that because schools have to teach everyone they shouldn’t focus on what they will be using later in life?

    Just because your teaching everybody doesn’t mean they should be learning exactly the same thing and at the same speed. But without true competition and a wide range of choices what you end up with is mediocrity for everyone. Everyone’s equal that way.

  13. drpezz Post author

    Competition is not the only answer; differentiation is also a means to accomplish serving a range of learners in a single classroom. Plus, creating interventions during the school day, rather than outside of it, would assist students with a diverse range of skills. Thinking outside the box is necessary (and requires resources, which seem to be a rarity).

    I’m not sure what you mean by your question. Not once did I or Clix suggest students will not learn skills in class that they will use later in life. You’ve stumped me there. I would challenge you to discover a course not teaching skills for later in life.

  14. Steve Rosenbaum

    What you suggest about differentiation, etc. would work better if you had a systematic way to share best practice and continuously improve the teaching process. However, the school system is so fragmented that you really can take advantage of a lot of powerful improvement tools and techniques.

    Here’s the example, a teacher in San Diego does something that works really. How long does it take before this method is adopted by someone in Jacksonville Florida. Would it be nice if it happens in a matter of days or weeks?

    Students and problems that seem very unique in a school of 300, end up being fairly common in a pool of 20 million students.

    It happens in other profession. That’s one doctors are often practice different versions of medicine. If you went from doctor to doctor with the same problem you’d get many different solutions.

  15. drpezz Post author

    Right now new ideas are really only scrutinized when standardized test scores rise; it’s the way people see things are changing, and it’s not the best way to identify success. In a number of ways education has regressed because of it.

    I think if true competition begins between schools, collaboration across the profession would end and we’d have a corporate-style setting. For example, people talk about pay for rising scores. If my pay is connected to how well my students improve, especially if compared with my fellow teachers, I would do two things: 1) I would never share my best practices and 2) I’d only teach what was on the test used to determine my pay. Cynical, yes but realistic.

    I think this would likely be seen between schools as well.

    I’m not sure I have an answer to your question, though I have noticed that’s there is a definite cycle to what is the “new” method: a new name or acronym but the same basic programs. Little seems to be truly innovative right. There are exceptions occasionally but costs seem to drive our leaders away.

  16. Steve Rosenbaum

    I think you misunderstand what happens in a corporate setting even under pay for performance. The incentives are much broader based so it’s about the quantity and quality of the work. You have to get the results in a perscribed manner. What you’re talking about would be considered gaming the system. I can give you many examples of people who got the boot who met their numbers but did it in the wrong way.

    So here’s the example, you will be paid on how well your students due and if you only teach to the test you’re fired. The would also say that test scores have to go up every year and your costs have to go down. In other words, every year you have to produce more for less. I can’t think of many schools that ever did that but I can give you many examples of companies that have the practice built into their cultures.

  17. drpezz Post author

    I don’t foresee schools producing any more with any less than they already do, but I can see you’re looking at continual improvement in a systematic manner. I personally believe schools as a whole should be rewarded for improved scores rather than individuals, but no one really seems to be discussing that locally.

    Most people with whom I speak use private schools as models, but they are not reality-based because all students are not included; they can be selective with their admissions and what they charge.

    I guess I’m still not seeing how your competitive business model would work in public education. What are you suggesting should specifically happen? What would it look like?

  18. Steve Rosenbaum

    When you get a competitive business model and really open things up for innovation, you really don’t know what it will look like. You will have many different models perhaps. Some will succeed and some will fail. The one’s that fail close quickly as opposed to the public schools which continue to stay open and actually get more money. Having each school do everything for everybody isn’t really a workable model. In that setting the only way to give an equal education is to give a mediocre one to everyone.

    I think Fred Smith from Fed Ex explained it well. He said the problem when government runs something is that they are risk adverse. Most changes are seen as too risky. As business on the other hand will weigh risks against benefits and take action much more often. He said the riskiest change strategy is actually to resist change.

    Here’s one thing I’ve seen with those who working corporate training and development. Most have really good ideas of what could be done with schools but they feel it’s like pulling teeth. Those who have tried have meet a brick wall and others just don’t think it’s worth there time to get beat up trying to help.

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