Teacher Compensation: Research and Policy
February 6, 2008
Teacher Compensation: Research and Policy
Janelle Callahan (Moderator):
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s live chat on teacher compensation with Joan Baratz-Snowden and Dan Goldhaber.
Janelle Callahan (Moderator):
We have many questions today, so let’s begin the discussion.
Question from Jim Payne, Ex Dir-HR, Blue Valley Schools:
It seems all the research and case studies in which teacher pay is linked to student improvement take place in settings in which students are not performing particularly well. Are there indications in research that linking pay to student performance is productive in an environment in which students are doing quite well?
Some of the pay for performance initiatives are in schools with students who are not underachieving. This is true of many of the TAP schools and in some of the Denver ProComp schools. The fact is that the research is scant as to whether such pay schemes actually make improvements. We need to separate the issues as to whether or not teachers and schools embrace teacher performance incentives from the separate issue from whether if they o there is a significant increase in student achievement. TAP has some research to show improvement. Denver’s pilot project that produced ProComp showed that there was a correlation between setting rigorous student learning objectives and increases in standardized test scores. But in general there is little research on the effectiveness of incentive programs, and even when scores raise they are far from a panacea in closing achievement gaps. Indeed, Professor Sonny Ladd, an expert on value-added research, reviewed the research and suggested that incentivized accountability was not likely to solve our educational achievement programs. She suggested an inspectorate system as an alternative.
Question from Maureen Yoder TIF Fund Manager Ohio Department of Education:
In a strong collective bargaining state, what might policy look like? Where might we look for examples? I am aware of Tennessee’s new direction.
The teacher performance pay legislation in Minnesota is a good model. It has many strong features: teachers develop and ratify the program, it is comprehensive, has room for an evaluation system that encourages improvement, professional development and the like; and importantly it is not imposed on districts. These programs are most successful when they are developed through the collective bargaining system.
Question from Jeff Farr, Teacher, Antietam Academy, Washington County (MD) Public Schools:
What data speaks for or against efficacy of employment incentives such as signing bonuses,loan forgiveness, housing assistance, etc. in both recruitment and retention of skilled teachers?
There’s really not a lot of empirical evidence showing that those incentives work, but that’s not necessarily because they don’t work, rather because there’s not much research on them. I do know of one credible research paper that looks at an incentive to keep math and science teachers in high-needs schools (see Clotfelter et al.'s research on NC), and it shows that an $1800 bonus has a small (about 12%), but significant impact on reducing attrition. Given the lack of data, to me it’s a question of the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know. I’d opt for more reforms of teacher compensation believing that the teacher labor market isn’t working all that well now, and that we can only learn what works if we have some variation (experimentation) in what is being tried.
Question from Jim Payne, Ex Dir-HR, Blue Valley Schools:
How strong is the evidence that the new generation of teachers will respond to a pay-for-performance system? On the other hand, is there evidence that the traditional pay system is discouraging the new generation from entering the profession or providing a disincentive to stay in the profession?
Well, there’s pretty strong evidence that younger teachers are more favorably inclined toward PFP (see work by Ballou and Podgursky, and Goldhaber et al.). I don’t think that’s too surprising since there have been real changes in the pay structure in the private sector so younger workers are likely to expect different things. That said, there is no empirical evidence that I know of to suggest whether PFP affects the type of people who would opt to enter or stay in teaching (there’s certainly a lot of speculation!).
Question from Bonnie Coppola, Spanish FLES Grades 2-6 (retired):
Besides money, how important do you believe ‘working conditions’ are to teacher retention? AND How important do you feel ‘staff retention’ is in providing stability, morale, pride, and consequently ‘good outcomes’ to a school system?
As the work of Eric Hirsch at the New Teacher Center (http://newteachercenter.org/index.php) and other researchers indicate, working conditions are a critical factor in attracting and retaining teachers. Money alone will not get teachers to dysfunctional, disorderly poorly run and resourced schools. Teachers value good leadership and the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues.
Question from Anna Leibovich, PhD. HS teacher:
What does the research reveal about the link between teacher compensation and performance in the NYC chancellor district (now defunct), where teachers were paid additional $15000 a year?
The Chancellor’s district taught us a number of things, including the fact that pay alone will not motivate sufficient teachers. While the Chancellor’s district seemed to be making progress , unfortunately it was dismantled when Chancellor Klein took over the management of the NYC schools.
Question from Lisa Hunter, Teacher, Public School system:
Many teachers are continuing to exit under NCLB due to excessive testing. They are taking careers in the business world with higher pay. Why haven’t the powers that be figured this out? NCLB has lost many good teachers.
You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if teachers were exiting because of testing and accountability pressure, but the research I’ve seen on this issue suggests that that is not really happening. I’m not a big fan of NCLB (it’s got it’s good points, but it also has some significant flaws), but I do think that students need to be tested annually to see what kind of progress they are making (though I’m not sure we’ve got the best tests that we could have for this purpose, especially in some states). If it turned out that the testing was causing us to lose good teachers then we might think of upping their pay to help offset this.
Question from Cheryl Jaffe - Radar Engineer, Math Teacher, Proud Parent:
The Fair Labor Standards Act groups teachers in the same category with lawyers, doctors, and engineers, based on the level of education and degree of discretion and independent judgment required for these professions. Lawyers, doctors, and engineers, however, can command salaries many times higher in the private sector than the public sector can afford to pay teachers. The public sector does have a card it can play, namely tax relief. Can we hope to see local, state, and possibly federal tax relief measures to augment teacher salaries? By the way, I am a data point on this issue. I left a teaching position for an engineering position at more than double the salary and benefits. I wish I could afford to teach.
Answering this question requires some political judgment, which is not my strongest area. That said, I believe there are a few states where there has at least been discussion at the legislative level about granting tax relief for teachers (there may even be a state or two that does this) so I guess the short answer to your question is yes. Unfortunately, I don’t really think this indirect way to provide salary increases is a particularly good way to address the issue and I worry about the long-run implications of dividing people by occupation through the tax system (seems like it might be fraught with unintended consequences).
Question from Joe Petrosino, EdD, Vo Tech:
How can we get the public to believe that teachers deserve more money?
The public already believes this. Polls from the Public Agenda, Recruiting New Teachers and other reputable agencies all indicate that the public believes that teachers in general should be paid more, that excellent teachers should be rewarded and that they are willing to have higher taxes if necessary to pay for this.
Question from Marilyn Hofer, education specialist, Technology and Innovation in Education:
What actions would you advocate to enlist teacher support for pay that reflects tough assignments and student achievement?
Well, I have to start my answer by saying that this is not an issue where I can draw upon any empirical work to buttress my response. But, I won’t let that stop me. So, for what it’s worth, I think the first thing is that most people probably aren’t very aware of how inequitably teachers are distributed across students. No matter how it’s measured, it’s the most needy students who tend to end up with the least experienced, least credentialed teachers. Thus, getting this information out there will, I hope, help to increase support to do something about the issue (from teachers and the public at large). I also think it helps for teachers to know that this is one of the types of pay reforms that other teachers actually tend to view more favorably (I describe this in a report that you can find at www.crpe.org, also you might take a look at a paper I did for the Center for American progress, which can be downloaded from: http://www.crpe.org/news/pdf/GoldhaberCAR1212.pdf ), far more favorably then the reform that gets most of the attention: pay for performance. Lastly, and this isn’t really a direct answer to the question, but I’ve argued in a paper for the Center for American Progress, that the state has a real role to play here because the politics of local districts make it hard to move good teachers from advantaged to disadvantaged schools.
Question from Toby Holmes, Principal on Special Assignment, Clark County School District:
What are your feelings on the Milken TAP program? Both as a merit/performance pay system and as a career ladder for teachers? Thank you.
I think the TAP program is excellent. It recognizes the need for standards, it has an evaluation system that then can provide teachers more professional development, it creates new roles and responsibilities, teacher vote to participate, student achievement is a part of the reward system but not the whole thing. It is more a school improvement model than a simple finance change.
Question from Evie Barber Science Teacher Rich Central HS:
Why do I never see any discussion regarding the compensation for people who leave corporate America (working scientists/engineers) to come back to teach in disciplines that say they are short qualified teachers? Starting people with advanced degrees and years of experience working in their respective fields at a starting teachers salary is ludicrous. No other industry in the world would disregard an individual’s previous experiences, except education.Yet educators who go “corporate” have, and expect, their years of teaching to factor into their salaries.
I don’t know what to say here, because I basically just agree with the point you are making (if I’m reading it correctly, which is that experiences outside education should matter when deciding how much of a salary to offer). I would argue that this is one of the shortcomings of the single salary schedule. It’s simple, but it also ignores a lot of things that we might wish to consider when determining a person’s salary.
Question from Joel Stewart,Finance, Westview School,Houston:
Seems that performance evaluation is the tougher part--how do we do that? If we can evaluate correctly and fairly, the pay is the easy part!
See, I think the two go together, especially in the case of PFP. It’s pretty meaningless to have PFP if money is not allocated in a fair way (we could talk forever about what “fair” means). On the other hand, I would argue that evaluation matters a whole lot more when there’s something real (read: money) at stake in the case of the outcome. There are a lot of different evaluation models out there, but few have been evaluated themselves (to see how well they work). There’s a terrific new report out about evaluation by Tom Toch from education sector. http://www.educationsector.org/research/research_show.htm?
Question from Donna Horsford, Resource Consultant, Parochial Elementary, St. Charles, MO:
Is there an agreed upon method of determining the characteristics of a “good” teacher?
When I became VP for Assessment at NBPTS in 1987 I was startled to learn that there were no commonly held standards for excellent teaching. They have a set of core propositions -- e.g., teachers know their subject ad how to teach it to students, teachers monitor student learning, etc. The NBPTS spent considerable time developing a set of standards (http://www.nbpts.org/the_standards) and over the years they have been recognized by many colleges that prepare teachers they are the basis of Charlotte Danielson’s work on teacher evaluation (http://www.danielsongroup.org/Bookspubl.htm), and the CCSSO Interstate licensure program (http://www.ccsso.org/projects/Interstate_New_Teacher_
Question from Miles Myers, Senior Researcher, ISCA:
Joan, you pointed to NBPTS as a guide for performance measures. But why does this agency hide its examples of good and poor teaching? Reputable agencies have transparency on how performance is measured (College Board Advanced Placement) NBPTS does not. Many districts avoid transparency by simply not firing anyone. So why use NBPTS as a guide?
NBPTS has publicly posted its standards for teachers by level and field, and has also posted rubrics that help teachers distinguish between excellent performances and weaker ones. They have not posted videos of teachers because of the legal constraints under which they were collected and the privacy issues of students. Nonetheless, like the College Board they do include examples of exemplary and weak work for their assessment center activities. They are currently working on a project that will allow them to post videos of teachers who meet their standards.
Question from Kirstin McCarthy, Assistant Director, Business Higher Education Forum:
The corporate sector often sees the issue of teacher salaries as central to the teacher shortfall. How can the corporate sector (corporate philanthropy and advocacy) contribute positively to the debate on teacher salaries, and develop or support programs that align with their view that higher earnings will attract more capable talent, while also recognizing research that indicates that the debate is not so simple?
I’m not really sure what you mean by “contribute positively.” I can tell you that big philanthropies, like Gates, are spending a lot more time thinking about teacher quality and the systems that govern human capital in education. My guess is that this focus will result not only in more research on these issues, but efforts to get involved directly (e.g. experimentation with incentives designed to induce people to teach). Newer research has shown just how important teacher quality is to student achievement so it makes sense that philanthropy will increase efforts to figure out the most effective ways to upgrade the skills of the nation’s teacher workforce.
Question from Brett Helm, NBCT:
By its nature, a state controlled corporation reduces the incentive to excel - a quick history of socialist economies substantiates this. How is it possible to introduce competitive market forces into a state controlled environment where the profit incentive is non-existent and decision making authority is spread across multiple actors?
I think we’ve seen some examples of efforts to introduce market forces, charters, vouchers, etc., but the evidence about these efforts certainly does not show them to a panacea. Of course, I do think that one could argue that the market incentives have not been properly designed to create the right incentives. That’s a much longer conversation!
Question from David Anderson, New Prague School District:
I find it interesting the teachers unions take hardline opposition to any new incentives to pay teachers like performance based compensation which in reality is what and how the rest of the world gets paid. How do you suggest that states address the teachers union interfering with real reform in the class room?
It is a myth that the “rest of the world” get paid through successful pay for performance schemes--see the work of Professors Edward Lawler, USC business school, and Jeffery Pfeffer at Stanford. I reject your notion that teacher unions interfere with real reform in classrooms. The AFT has been an agent of change for years. It was Al Shanker who was an early champion if not the father of the standards based reform, he first introduced the notion of charter schools, the Toledo Federation developed the first meaningful peer assistance program for teachers; the United Federation of Teachers worked with Rudy Crew to create the Chancellor’s district in NYC. While some union leaders are wary of “the reform du jour,” it is unfair to blame teacher unions for the many difficulties that beset education in America today. If they were to disappear tomorrow, the policy makers who habitually underfund education and the administrators who often distribute scarce resources inequitably, would just have to find another scapegoat for the underinvestment of our nation in the lives of children and in the schools that are charged with educating them. Research has shown that strong unions contribute to student performance (see Milbrey McLaughlin and Susan Moore Johnson). Labor unions, long before teacher unions existed, have historically been advocates for public education, and have worked hard to address issues of poverty and social justice, so critical to improving the lives of our most disadvantaged students.
Question from Hal Portner, consultant:
What are the AFT and NEA positions on pay-for-performance policies and how do those positions compare with your research?
The AFT policy passed in 2002 states that the union “encourages and will support local unions and/or state federations that choose to explore fair, flexible, labor/management-designed teacher compensation proposals that: 1) provide adequate competitive base salaries, including entry-level pay; 2) encourage collegiality and improve professional practice and student learning.” While some districts and local unions have been moving in this direction for several years, others are just beginning to consider these issues. Depending on local circumstances and experiences with teacher compensation proposals, and mindful of the urgency of providing an adequate salary base to attract new teachers and retain qualified teachers in our profession and our schools, exploration might include increased professional compensation for: knowledge and skills that advance and/or address high-priority educational goals; schoolwide improvement; achieving National Board Certification; mentoring new and veteran teachers, providing peer assistance and review, serving as lead teachers, etc.; teaching in shortage areas; agreeing to teach in hard-to-staff and/or low-performing schools; assuming additional responsibilities; and instructional practice that meets mutually agreed-upon high-quality professional standards.” I do not know NEA’s official position on this matter. As I have said the research on teacher incentives (what kinds of incentives and how much money will interest teachers to change behaviors) is in its infancy (see Mathew Springer at Vanderbilt) as is the research on the effectiveness of such incentives.
Question from Jonathan Lee, Vice Principal, Valley Christian Elementary:
Isn’t the real issue how can we convince teacher unions to get on board and be instruments of change on this issue ?
Teacher unions are rightfully wary about these proposals. They are un proven and also often advanced in an adversarial manner to achieve punitive ends. If experiments in changing pay systems are to be successful they must be done with teachers not to them. They must be part of a larger effort at school improvement and reform, not a narrow pay reform, and they should address the conditions articulated in the AFT resolution cited above--e.g., include agreed upon standards, fair measures of performance, adequate salary base, sufficient funding and the like.
Question from Robert willoughby NJEA:
What are your thoughts on raising all starting salaries to a minimum of $40K nationally ?
Well, let me give a good pointy headed academic answer: I think that over time higher salaries would attract more able people into the potential pool of teachers (getting them into the workforce depends on school systems doing a good job of teacher selection), but I’m not convinced that an across-the-board increase (to $40K or any other number) is the smartest way to spend educational monies. There are a lot of reasons I believe this, but one simple one is that educational costs are not the same across the country so $40K is worth a lot more/less in some places than others, which means the attractiveness of the job would be quite different from one place to the next.
Question from Patricia S Holliday, Director of Recruitment with The Met Schools:
Has your research shown any major differences with districts and school systems that use different step rates or pay scales for teachers who have full teaching credentials versus those professionals who have initial teaching credentials, substitute certificates or district supported teaching certificates? Has your research shown variation with this differential in pay where its affected the quality of service provided to students?
I’m not sure I really understand the question so to make up for that, I’m going to try to answer two different questions. I haven’t seen any evidence on whether different pay scales work to attract teachers who hold different types of credentials. But, I’ve seen lots of evidence that suggests that teaching credentials (licensure status) do a good job of predicting teaching quality. See, for instance, work by Goldhaber and Brewer (1997) on licensure, Decker et al. (2005, I think) on TFA versus non-TFA teachers, and more, recently, Kane et al. (2006, I believe).
Question from Michael Clark, Teacher, Ridgeview Elementary:
In my state (Washington) institutional cheating appears widespread, and unethical attempts to influence test scores near universal. If you tie pay to student performance, how do you keep from further rewarding cheating and driving all the honest educators out of the business?
While I don’t buy the notion of widespread cheating and unethical attempts to manipulate test scores, it is true that an unhealthy emphasis on test scores alone as a reason for rewards or sanctions can have deleterious effects and undesirable, unintended consequences.
Question from Brian Stecher, Researcher, RAND Corporation:
Assume for the moment that the policy is to reward teachers extra for extra accomplishment (however defined), does anyone know what kinds of rewards teachers would prefer? P4P systems are all built around cash, but are there other benefits that would be more motivating?
You are correct money is often insufficient. Over and over, surveys of teachers indicate that they want to teach in buildings with effective principal leadership, sufficient resources, safe and orderly schools, and opportunities to collaborate with other teachers.
Question from Adrienne Watson, teacher CPS:
One of the problems in retaining talented teachers in the Chicago Public Schools is the recognition of the most underpaid staff in the system... Substitute Teachers. We stand in the gap when teachers are sick, at conferences, and receive the lowest pay in the building. ESP’s (clerks, maintenance and security - without an undergraduate degree) make more than Substitutes. What does the research say about Substitutes? What are your policy recommendations?
Funny that you should ask because there is new research that is hot off the press about the implications of having substitute teachers. I don’t have the links handy, but I think you can find the work if you search on Reagan Miller and Clotfelter et al. The bottom line is that students don’t seem to learn as much when their regular teacher isn’t in the classroom (no surprise), which illustrates the importance of trying to limit the use of substitutes and making sure that the quality of subs is high.
Question from Michael Hartney, Policy Analyst - National Governors Association:
It is often contended that pay is one of the least powerful incentives for improving the quality of candidates that consider a career in public education. Perhaps this is true, but it doesn’t seem to tell us anything about college graduates who never consider teaching as a career. Do we have any sense of the power of money as an incentive for young college graduates who might be more inclined to go into the profession if starting salaries were very lucrative? Is money a greater motivator among younger educators as opposed to senior ones?
Well, I guess I don’t buy the argument that pay doesn’t matter much. I think that it does, perhaps because people indirectly associate pay with prestige. I’ve seen a number of studies that show that pay does affect occupational choices, mobility, and retirement. Take a look at a review I did on pay reform for the Center for American Progress (you can find it at www.crpe.org), it will provide a lot of the references.
Question from Frank J. Hagen, Adjunct Professor - Wilmington University (Retired Principal):
If higher teacher salaries, pay-for-performance and financial incentives were the “silver bullet” to solve the problem of recruiting and retaining high quality teachers for poor performing and struggling schools, then we would simply need to throw more money into the pot and all schools would be high performing. However, the problem of poor performing and struggling schools is much more complex and the fact remains that teacher tenure protecting ineffective teachers may be a more significant factor than teacher pay. What does teacher research say about these two competing factors and which is more important to improving poor performing or struggling schools?
The solution to improving poor performing schools will not be solved by removing tenure protections for teachers or by imposing pay for performance schemes, although the compensation system is one lever for change and improvement. Without attention to school safety issues, principal leadership skills, curriculum reform, better teacher evaluation and meaningful professional development, for starers, it is unlikely tht we will arouond low performing schools. I do not see tenure and pay for performance as “competing” issues. I know of no research linking the absence of tenure to school improvement, and as I mentioned in earlier responses, the literature on pay for performance improving student learning is scant at best.
Question from Robin LaSota, Chicago based education consultant:
According to McKinsey’s recent research on the world’s best education systems, the top performing OECD countries hire among the top 10% of each teaching cohort, value teaching as one of three top career choices, conduct rigorous checks on teaching potential, and have competitive starting salaries. Once the best teachers are hired, teachers in the top performing systems receive more than 20 weeks of coaching on average, spend approximately 10% of their time in professional development, and work in systems investing $50 per student per year on improved instructional practice. What must be done on the federal level to promote such practice in the US?
I’m not sure the federal level is the right place to start. I’m also not sure it’s the wrong place, but I guess I just doubt that the federal government is likely to play a big role in this regard. What’s interesting about a lot of these countries is that they aren’t spending more per pupil than in the U.S. They simply spend the money differently: more on teacher quality and less on reducing class size. My guess is that change will come slowly (at any level) and will be driven by what we learn about the trade-offs between teacher quality and teacher quantity (the class size argument).
Question from Josh Boots, Director, American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence:
In a great many professions performance bonuses and raises are determined by direct supervisors or as part of 360 degree evaluations. What kind of role should principals play in any performance pay program, if at all? And what about effectiveness of using 360 evaluations that include supervisors, colleagues, parents and students?
I don’t think we know “what works,” so I would advocate trying several different pay systems. In the case of PFP, using principal evaluations as a component in an overall judgment about teachers makes sense to me (same with a 360 eval). I think we probably don’t want to overly rely on standardized tests to assess teacher performance so principal or peer evaluations are a means of getting a broader perspective of what individual teachers are contributing to their students (and schools). The bottom line is that we have to try some different things, and then evaluate those experiments to see what seems to work best.
Question from Marge Foreman, NCAE/NEA, Research Specialist:
Why do so many school districts long salary schedules with 30 or more steps to pay teachers, which takes an entire career to begin earning professional salary compared to the business/corporate world, where most college educated workers are paid top money after about 15 years?
This is a good question! I don’t think the system makes much sense, and my guess is that it has simply grown out of the way that schools tend to do business/the negotiations that take place under the single salary schedule. Not all school systems have the same steps in their schedules so there is an element of local politics, but I would bet that it’s possible to trace the shape of the schedule to the nature of the negotiations (and who is doing the negotiations/demographics of the teacher workforce in the local system) that take place in each district over time. Like the way we structure the school year (based on an agrarian economy), what may have made sense at one time, may not in today’s radically different world.
Question from Tina Dove, Legislative Advocate, ASCD:
What is your perspective on the teacher compensation ideas included in the House discussion draft of NCLB reauthorization? Do you have any policy recommendations or best practices (based on the research you have done) aimed at helping to get the best teachers in front of our kids, particularly those who are in the greatest need?
When Sandy Feldman was president of the AFT she said that it was time to experiment with other forms of the teacher compensation system because the current one did not yield the salaries teachers deserve. Experiment is the key here as is the notion of developing alternatives WITH the teachers, rather than imposing untried models on them. I believe the federal government can play a role by providing funds for experimentation but should not mandate models or needs for change. As to getting the best teachers in classes with our neediest kids. Too often maldistribution is blamed on the union and seniority clauses (which many contracts do not have and even in districts without collective bargaining the inequitable distribution is present). That is not the major issue in solving this problem. As a NTP report indicated, often the hiring procedures of the district cause them to lose strong teacher candidates. And more importantly, while incentives for excellent teachers to go to hard to staff schools is a start and some states and districts have provided them as an encouragement for NBPTS teachers to move to underserved schools, money alone is not the answer. We shouldn’t have hard to serve schools -- it is not the kids that make them hard to serve so much as the neglect by the system that often assigns new or poor performing principals to those schools (good leadership is something that excellent teachers value a great deal), does not fix or replace decrepit buildings; often does not give teachers the books, labs and other materials they need. If we addressed the working conditions in hard to staff schools we could go a long way to solving this problem.
Janelle Callahan (Moderator):
Unfortunately our time is up. Thanks for all the great questions, and thanks to Joan Baratz-Snowden and Dan Goldhaber for joining us.
Janelle Callahan (Moderator):
You’ll be able to read a transcript of this chat soon. It will be posted on www.edweek.org.
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