Teaching & Learning

January 21, 2004 4 min read
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Business, Civic Leaders Urge Higher Salaries

Districts that want to improve student achievement can begin by changing the way they pay and otherwise encourage those who teach, recommends a report released last week by a prominent group of business, civic, and education leaders.

The report “Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action” is available online from The Teaching Commission (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

That means offering substantial base salaries for educators, bonuses based on merit, and so- called “combat pay” for those who teach high-demand subjects or in hard-to- staff schools.

“The public school system currently offers virtually no incentives to reward excellence, and a system that does not reward excellence is unlikely to inspire it,” Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the chairman of the New York City-based Teaching Commission, said in a statement and a former chairman of IBM.

The concepts of higher salaries and differentiated pay for teachers are by no means new, and the report offers no suggestions about where the money would come from. But the commission argues that improved K-12 education would yield a big economic payoff.

“Significant improvements in education over a 20-year period could lead to as much as a 4 percent addition to the gross domestic product,” the report says. “In today’s terms, that would be over $400 billion, an amount that rivals total current expenditures on K-12 public education.”

Updated Standards

The largest association representing reading professionals has revised its standards for teacher- preparation programs to help ensure that new educators are better equipped to teach the subject.

The International Reading Association, a Newark, Del.-based organization representing more than 60,000 reading experts, teacher-educators, and teachers, consolidated its previous standards for the profession into a framework highlighting foundational knowledge; instructional strategies and curriculum needs; assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation; creation of a literate environment; and professional development.

The report, “The Standards for Reading Professionals-Revised 2003" can be ordered online for $12.95 from the Online Marketplace International Reading Association. “With the focus of the No Child Left Behind Act on quality teaching, performance standards for reading instruction are crucial,” said the IRA’s research director, Cathy M. Roller. “We’re hoping that through these standards, it will make it clear what it takes to produce excellent reading teachers.”

Moving On Elementary teachers in Texas transfer from one school to another not because of the lure of higher salaries, but to escape unfavorable working conditions, a report concludes.

The study examines why teachers leave schools with high populations of minority and low-income pupils. The study notes that, on average, teachers would not make significantly more money by transferring into a different district—regardless of the demographics of

the student population.

The researchers drew that conclusion based on districts’ average annual salaries for teachers in their first 10 years in the classroom, according to the report, “The Revolving Door.” The study, published in the Winter 2004 edition of the journal Education Next, a publication of the Hoover Institution, covered the years from 1993 to 1996. The average annual salary increase for all teachers in the study was 0.4 percent, or $100, the report says. Teachers who moved from urban to suburban districts actually saw their salaries decline by 0.7 percent.

Teachers who moved to different schools within the same district tended to go to schools with higher achievement levels and fewer pupils from low-income families, the report says. African-American teachers, however, tended to move to schools with higher populations of black students, according to the report.

Because salary is not a motivating factor when it comes to keeping teachers from transferring, very large salary increases would be needed to retain them in urban and low- performing schools, the study suggests. The report says that improving working environments “may prove both more effective and more realistic.”

Teacher TV

Cooking channels, travel channels, history channels. In the niche world of cable TV, those are familiar entries. But a channel dedicated to the teaching profession?

The education ministry for England and Wales thinks it can work, and is subsidizing a pilot of Teachers’ TV this year. One show in the works is modeled on the British hit “Changing Rooms,” which inspired the popular American program on quickie interior decorating, “Trading Spaces.” The Teachers’ TV version would feature a classroom getting a weekend makeover, with student reaction on Monday.

Another show, “Against the Odds,” would describe how schools overcame crises, while a third would give viewers a chance to see outstanding teachers in action. A weekly education news show is slated to be part of the mix.

A consortium made up of a documentary-production company, a major broadcasting business, and London University’s Institute of Education is running the channel, which commercial cable services would carry. The ministry’s role is to set the objectives and foot a bill of about £43 million (pounds), or about $23 million U.S., over three years.

If all goes well, the new channel will start operating in the fall. At full throttle, it would provide about four hours of original programming each day, with the block repeated through the day and evening.

—Julie Blair, Michelle Galley, Bess Keller, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2004 edition of Education Week as Teaching & Learning


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