Keeping Teachers in Challenged Schools

Andy Rotherham’s TIME column for the week looks at some recent studies on teacher effectiveness. The whole thing is worth a read, and I want to expand on one part, which deals with expanding the number of National Board teachers in challenged schools:

Simpkins found that the number of National Board teachers in challenging schools is increasing … but mostly because teachers in those schools are earning the credential — not because teachers with the credential are changing schools. He also found that National Board teachers are no more likely to stay in those schools than other teachers. These results are disappointing for proponents … of tying National Board bonuses to service in high-poverty schools as a way to improve equity for low-income students.

It’s important to recognize that compensation alone rarely is the reason folks make professional decisions or express job satisfaction. There’s a fairly dense body of research that illustrates this point. Compensation is a factor in job satisfaction, but it usually ranks lower than things like having the opportunity to use one’s skills/abilities, feeling like there’s more potential for learning in one’s role, maintaining manageable levels of stress, and being a part of something meaningful. All of those things are REALLY hard to accomplish in a chronically under-performing school, and additional compensation will never be sufficient to drive the most effective teachers to teach in those schools.

Putting those things in place, however, is easier said than done. In short, that’s “culture change,” and it’s nearly impossible to do in the old district structure that treats challenged schools as a scourge. We need new organizational units within districts that can flip that mentality on its head and make failing schools the place where rockstar teachers go to get even more effective.


One Response to Keeping Teachers in Challenged Schools

  1. Neesi says:

    This is an interesting point and good for education reformers & laypeople interested in education reform to keep in mind, (even if I’m commenting on it long after Time published the story). It’s hard to figure out what exactly motivates people, and certainly, in the for-profit world, we are beginning to experience a revolution (I hope). But drastic changes will happen slowly, and will take even longer to trickle down into the government sector, unless attention is called to the matter, creating a sense of urgency about the education sector.

    I like this RSA video speech-and-animation, given by Dan Pink:

    It talks about motivation, and how money doesn’t always motivate people– sometimes the stakes/monies are too high, which sets people up to fail, because it stresses them out. Of course, that’s probably not the problem we have in regards to paying teachers in the education sector, but the ideas about motivation are useful as a launch point for thinking about what we can do to figure out, and adapt to the needs/desires of teachers … there’s certainly need for reform and it seems, there’s enough steam to do so, but the great question is: “What shape will that reform be?”

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