Teaching Profession

Governors Urged to Push Pay Strategies

By Bess Keller — February 08, 2008 1 min read

New ways of paying teachers launched by districts such as Denver and Houston are alone unlikely to produce the sweeping change that is needed on the compensation front, a report from the National Governors Association says.

Calling Houston and Denver “outliers,” Bryan C. Hassel said governors and states can both encourage districts to get experimental in smart ways and to move money out of the traditional system into pay that will produce fresh incentives.

“Governors are in a position to provide the bold leadership because they sit above the political fights that can bog down district-level reforms,” said Mr. Hassel, the report’s co-author with Emily Ayscue Hassel.

Among states, Florida, Minnesota, and Texas have the most comprehensive approaches to changing teacher pay, according to the recent report.

The authors decry the “continued investment” in the status quo because, they say in the report, it “encourages the lowest contributors to remain in teaching and discourages the highest potential contributors from entering, performing, and remaining in the profession.”

The paper urges policymakers to consider a host of ways teachers can contribute to student learning, from working at schools others shun to gaining needed skills or knowledge. Teachers can potentially be paid along each of those lines, but policymakers should think in terms of total pay differentials of 15 percent or more to make a significant difference.

Among the moves the report suggests governors might support:

• Improving state tests and data-tracking systems so teachers can be assured of fair measures of their contribution to student performance;

• Studying the “deep attributes” of teaching;

• Helping with implementation, such as training principals for new compensation systems and organizing the design process for staff buy-in; and

• Evaluating new pay systems. Finally, the authors note that considerable research on compensation has accumulated from fields other than teaching and can be of use to policymakers.

“We shouldn’t figure all of this out ourselves,” Mr. Hassel said. “Let’s start with what’s been learned already and adapt and modify that.”

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A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2008 edition of Education Week as Governors Urged to Push Pay Strategies

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