Opinion
Education Opinion

Performance Pay: What do Teachers Say?

By Anthony Cody — July 08, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This week Barack Obama repeated his call for teachers to be paid for performance. He stated “Under my plan, districts will be able to design programs that give educators who serve as mentors to new teachers the salary increase they deserve. They’ll be able to reward those who teach in under-served areas or take on added responsibilities. And if teachers learn new skills to serve students better, or if they consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.”

I was involved in discussions and research on this issue last year, when I participated in the TeacherSolutions project, Performance-Pay for Teachers; Designing a System that Students Deserve. The report we wrote was the first to put forth the views of leading teachers from around the country. I think there is room for discussion here, and teachers should engage in an active dialogue about what these systems should look like. This is not a new idea, however, and we can learn a lot from mistakes that have been made in recent years.

I read an insightful comment in an online forum last week, from a colleague in Oakland, who works at one of our middle schools. She writes:

Here’s the big thing I think should be linked to performance pay. I absolutely believe that more experienced/more successful teachers who choose to teach in under-performing schools should be paid more. I am increasingly finding myself in a hopeless place in Oakland where I’m afraid that my conclusion is basically that schools here can’t improve significantly until the teaching force is more experienced; until the district can attract skilled teachers and retain the new ones who are lured here. I’ve been working on hiring at my school this spring. I’ve listed job postings all over the country, on alumni sites all over the country, I’ve done job fair after job fair, I’ve contacted teaching credential programs…and in the end, we had a pathetically tiny batch of teachers apply for positions. Most had never taught; a few had 1-2 years experience. All were women; none were African American (which is the majority of our student population). My school can advertise itself well; it has curb appeal—small class sizes, arts integration coach, instructional coaching (that’s me), individualized summer PD opportunities, a lot of ways for teachers to make extra money, a beautiful garden, safe neighborhood, etc. It looks good on paper. And even so, we couldn’t get any experienced teachers interested…When I talk to friends in other schools, they are seeing the same thing. We all end up with TFA teachers who leave after 2 years, or now in Oakland we have the Oakland Teaching Fellow or Oakland Teacher Corp, very similar to TFA and with just as high of a turn-over rate.
Since I’ve started coaching, I’ve been reminded of how little we know in the first few years of teaching. It’s humbling. And frightening. While it makes me think a lot about what teacher preparation programs need to look like, I also need to put that aside, roll up my sleeves and get into the teaching/coaching of our new teachers. I enjoy it; many are eager and spongy. But it’s really hard when they leave after a year or two, for grad school, another district, another position in education. And so over and over and over our kids get teachers who don’t really know what they’re doing.
We need experienced teachers; OUSD needs to be able to pay experienced and effective teachers (and I know we need to define what effective means) a LOT to come here, and a LOT to stay.

I agree with this perspective. Many of our experienced teachers play a critical role in our schools, offering essential guidance to novice teachers. Even the best-prepared novices struggle to respond to the challenges they face their first few years. And when there are too few with experience at a school, the burden becomes overwhelming, and the support network gets stretched past the breaking point. Then the novices are left to sink or swim, with little guidance. Our schools need defined roles for mentors, with solid compensation to support this work. Going beyond mentoring, we need to expand the roles that teacher leaders play, in collaborative planning, curriculum, assessment and instruction, providing more of a career ladder for our profession.

Teachers need to be full partners in the process of designing these systems. The objective should be to motivate and reward initiative and commitment to the profession, so we have to be sure the rewards activate and inspire, rather than divide and demoralize. The biggest mistake education reformers have made in the past decade was in viewing teachers (and our unions) as obstacles to be overcome, or even eliminated. Teacher leadership can transform our schools, but we must be given a voice for it to emerge.

So what do you think? Is there a place for alternatives to the traditional pay scale? Or should educators take a stand against such proposals?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP