Independent Schools Raising Teacher Pay

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BOSTON--The Dwight Englewood School in Englewood, N.J., has raised its teacher salaries by nearly 20 percent in the past three years and is planning another 20 percent increase over the next two years.

But trustees of the independent day school, which regularly sends its graduates to Ivy League universities, are still worried that teachers will forsake their tree-shaded campus and small classes for work in the public schools.

With a top teacher salary of $22,000, Dwight Englewood's pay scale falls $16,000 short of offering what the same teacher could make in the New Jersey public schools. Beginning teachers earn $14,500, which is $4,000 less than a new teacher makes in public schools in New Jersey and New York, where Dwight Englewood does most of its recruiting.

"We're coming from behind, but we're trying to find as many ways as possible to put money into the faculty's pocket,'' said James E. Van Amburg, headmaster of the school.

And at the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, held here late last month, Mr. Van Amburg found many of his colleagues in the same predicament.

Mounting competition for new teachers, higher salaries in the public sector, and state programs to provide alternative routes to certification, participants said, have made teacher pay and other incentives a top item on the independent-school agenda.

A survey released at the conference confirmed this perception. It showed that 90 percent of the 416 independent schools whose officials were questioned last fall said their schools had raised salaries significantly in the past year. The average raise among the schools was nearly 10 percent, compared with 7.5 percent in the 1985-86 N.A.I.S. survey.

More than 80 percent of the administrators said they would spend even more on salaries if their schools were suddenly given more money, according to the survey, released on Feb. 26.

But the study also found that headmasters and trustees ranked working conditions, the student body, school leadership, and prestige as more important than salary in attracting teachers.

They also said that the most important consideration in determining faculty salaries at their schools was what other private schools are offering. Public-school salaries were ranked as least important in the list of considerations--an attitude that conference speakers described as "dangerous.''

"Many heads perceive no shortage of teachers, yet more and more are leaving teaching or going to public schools,'' said Paul Horowitz, chairman of the Charles River School in Dover, Mass. "Independent-school teachers are living on the edge.''

Sustenance Over Ambiance

The conference-goers said that the days of recruiting bright and energetic people willing to work for low pay for a lifetime career at one private school were over. In today's market, they said, schools must not only compete financially, but also offer a new set of reasons for joining a private-school faculty.

"We used to rely on our working conditions to attract teachers,'' said Agnes C. Underwood, head of the Garrison Forest School in Garrison, Md. "At Garrison, we called it 'decadent charm,' or 'charming decadence,' with rundown buildings and a jogging headmistress.''

"That's a changing pattern,'' she said. "I think the salary packages are going to be more important to the college graduates we want to hire than ambiance.''

The average teacher salary in N.A.I.S. schools this year is $21,043, more than $4,000 less than the average public-school salary of $25,313. And, said conference participants, since independent and public schools appear to be increasing salaries at comparable rates, that gap seems likely to continue.

In the 1985-86 school year, the last year for which comparable data for both sectors are available, salaries in independent schools rose by 7.5 percent and those in public schools rose by 7.3 percent.

There was some indication at the conference that independent schools may be making greater headway in narrowing the "incentive gap'' between public and private than the pay gap.

Results of a second survey released here, for example, showed that almost one-quarter of the N.A.I.S. schools may have some sort of intern program for new teachers in place. And other new strategies, such as child-care provisions, are on the ascendancy.

New Strategies

Until now, independent schools have generally funded pay raises by increasing tuition, participants said, but that practice may have limitations in the current financial climate.

"We always thought we could raise tuition and still raise enrollment,'' said Ms. Underwood, "but I'm not so sure anymore.''

With a declining secondary-school-age population, independent schools are trying to broaden their enrollment base, reaching out to students whose families have never attended private schools. And that, said participants, requires affordable tuition.

To fund its pay raises, the Dwight Englewood School launched a capital campaign last year designed to raise $6 million. It is part of a five-year plan devised in 1984, in response to reform efforts in the public schools and changes in the composition of the teaching force.

"I lost a good biology teacher to a neighboring public school district,'' recalled Mr. Van Amburg. "As upset as I was, I understood. Like more and more of our teachers, she had a family to support.''

But like other administrators at the conference, Mr. Van Amburg said his school had augmented attempts to boost salaries by adding new, non-monetary incentives for teachers. At Dwight Englewood, he said, one of the most successful has been the addition of a state-certified day-care center for the children of faculty members.

"It was a minimal cost to us--basically just a use of space,'' Mr. Van Amburg said. Two of the school's mathematics teachers, he said, had had children this year but decided to continue teaching because of the facility.

"The question for them was not whether they would be at home with the child, but whether they would be at I.B.M., where there is day care,'' he said.

The school also offers half-price tuition for the children of faculty members, and allows teachers to take a sabbatical at any point in their careers. Teachers who decide not to take a year off can receive an extra $1,000 in pay.

Providing additional incentives has also meant, for some schools, redefining the sometimes sticky area of what constitutes a "full-time'' teacher. In most independent schools, nearly all full-time teachers are required to take on coaching or advising assignments in addition to their instructional role.

Because Dwight Englewood had no clear policy, Mr. Van Amburg said, discrepancies between teachers often existed, with some taking on additional loads in the extracurricular department with no added compensation. The school's new policy requires, for full-time pay, that a teacher maintain one major or two minor coaching assignments. Teachers who take on more get an additional $1,000 in pay for each extra assignment.

Internship Programs

As part of their teacher-incentive efforts, independent schools also appear to be taking the lead in devising internship programs for beginning teachers, according to Arthur G. Powell, a co-author of The Shopping Mall High School and director of the N.A.I.S. commission on educational issues.

Several national education-reform reports have said such programs could substantially improve the skills of first-year teachers.

But, according to Mr. Powell, "there's a remarkable vagueness in the reports of what a good induction program is.'' The N.A.I.S. commission, he said, began a study of such programs last year.

According to survey results released by Mr. Powell at the conference, 14 percent of N.A.I.S. schools reduce the workload of new teachers and claim to give them some form of teacher education.

About 20 percent, or 138 of 677 schools surveyed, offer an internship program, and 60 more schools are in the process of developing such a program. "It's likely that nearly one-quarter of the [N.A.I.S.] schools offer some sort of apprentice program,'' Mr. Powell said.

But he was quick to add that the figures do not show a nationwide trend. "Those schools reported hiring only 1,000 rookie teachers--and all American independent schools together hired about as many rookie teachers last year as Dade County [Fla.],'' Mr. Powell said.

The quality of some of the programs is also suspect, Mr. Powell said.

Internship directors surveyed said they hoped the programs would encourage better teaching among younger faculty members, but a majority also said the program was a way to indoctrinate new teachers into the traditions of the school. For some, the programs were also seen as another step in the selection process.

"The most striking thing is how marginal the pedagogical training is in these programs,'' Mr. Powell said. "The goal is to create home-grown teachers, not to give them portable teaching skills.''

In schools with such intern programs, new teachers have a median workload of 30 students, and teach a median of 10 classes a week. In contrast, experienced teachers at the same schools teach a median of 63 students.

The interns' extra time seems, in the main, to be devoted only to "relaxed talking'' with other teachers, or with a mentor teacher who is more supporter than critic, according to the study.

"All [the intern teachers] do is sit and chat,'' Mr. Powell said. "They aren't forced to examine what they are doing.''

Only 20 percent of the programs allow interns an opportunity to watch other teachers, and only 9 percent of the programs videotape the interns teaching. In addition, only six internship directors said they devoted more than one-fifth of their time to the program.

"If all schools reduced the workload of rookie teachers, it would be a radical and constructive change,'' Mr. Powell said. "But my idea of a good program would incorporate more pedagogical training.''

Vol. 06, Issue 24

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