Teacher Effectiveness as a Function of Time

Over at The Quick and the Ed, Chad Aldeman maps teacher effectiveness measures against a representative salary scale.  The result is as you would expect, given the existing body of research: on average, teachers become much more effective during their first few years of teaching, and professional growth levels-off substantially after that.  While that is happening, however, salaries increase linearly as a function of time and professional degrees accumulated.  How to deal with that imbalance is something policy makers, educators, and administrators are grappling with across the country.  I think Chad slips up when assigning agency, though:

“Unfortunately, districts have yet to utilize this research in any way. Instead, they set arbitrary teacher salary schedules that are based purely on a teacher’s years of experience and education credentials. They mostly do not reflect actual teacher performance year-to-year, but they don’t even take into consideration the career paths of the typical teacher.”

I think it’s important to note that in most jurisdictions, salary schedules are either collectively bargained or established through compensation legislation at the state level.  To suggest that districts are arbitrarily setting anything ignores the lack of unilateral authority most districts have over this dimension of management.  Even if some superintendent decided that s/he wanted to create the platonic ideal of a compensation system, there are few (if any) places where that can be done without the consent of other parties, whether a collective bargaining unit or a state legislature.

That said, Chad does something important here.  There’s a lot of discussion about “merit pay” in teaching, wherein individual compensation is differentiated based on performance.  That’s a very important debate, but there’s an equally important discussion about the structure of compensation on the average.  It’s an inherently less “sexy” issue, and I’m glad he’s calling attention to that.

2 Responses to Teacher Effectiveness as a Function of Time

  1. L. Howell says:

    The thought on pay as we all know, is that increased compensation through salary increases, bonuses, and/or merit pay are short “booster shots”. As an alternative and arguably lower cost alternative. How about taking the Google approach and tap into the interests or strengths of teachers. For instance, teachers could be granted time (for those that want to participate and criteria) to work on outside projects that cater to their personal interests. This could be structured loosely like the great folks at Google or more narrowly.

    Let’s say one teaches history and restores cars on the side as a hobby, how could this passion be translated to those young people who might be interested in restoring cars (the science behind the process, teamwork, communication skills for the students). The math teacher who likes to design websites. This could address potentially the “performance drop-off” as pay increases and less ROI is received from the viewpoint of the district. There are no magic bullets to be sure, but worth an experiment or two.

  2. Pingback: Extreme Situations … « Meeting the Turnaround Challenge

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