Teaching Profession

Honored Teachers Want More Pay and Respect

By Julie Blair — May 17, 2000 3 min read

Aretha Franklin isn’t the only one clamoring for “a little respect.” The nation’s top educators also feel unappreciated, underpaid, and overworked, all factors that they say contribute to the inability of school districts to retain classroom teachers.

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The survey is available for free by calling Scholastic Inc. at (212) 343-6565.

Their laments were captured in a poll of 400 educators, honored as national teachers of the year over the past 50 years and state teachers of the year over the past 10 years. It was conducted by Scholastic Inc. and the Council of Chief State School Officers and released last week.

“Scholastic/CCSSO Teacher Voices 2000 Survey” was constructed to discern why teachers leave the classroom, illuminate changes that would encourage them to stay, and identify methods to recruit new talent, Carl C. Andrews, a project associate for the Washington-based council, said in an interview.

The survey shows “that our nation’s leading teachers speaking in near-unison voices on the issues most important to them,” Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the state chiefs’ group, said in a statement. “Our council urges policymakers, educational leaders, and the public to take a close look at these compelling results, and to help elevate teachers to the high degree of respect and compensation they deserve.”

Scholarships and Loans

Some 90 percent of respondents reported a need for support from school administrators, according to the survey. About 70 percent said teachers needed to take a more active role in school decisions, and 50 percent said they believed staff morale was strained.

Other challenges that they cited as contributing to a frustrating work experience included a deluge of paperwork, the burden of nonteaching responsibilities, beleaguered colleagues, and a lack of parental involvement.

“These are issues that affect all of us across the board in every geographic region and in every school district, ... whether or not they are affluent or poor,” said Faith G. Kline, the current Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, who teaches 4th grade in Philadelphia.

In addition, a majority of the teachers polled said they needed more planning time with colleagues and more professional development. They also agreed that mentoring programs were imperative for beginning teachers.

At the same time, the respondents believe they are not being justly compensated for their efforts. Eight out of 10 educators polled said that teachers—beginners and veterans alike—must be better paid.

The average national salary for teachers was $42,500 in 1998-99, according to the National Education Association, and $25,000 for beginning teachers.

“When, in some places, your salary qualifies you for food stamps, that’s an issue of respect,” Ms. Kline said.

Scholarships and Loans

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the nation will need 2 million new teachers by 2002, and the educators polled suggested handing out perks to help recruit them.

According to the respondents, the most successful tactics would be to provide scholarships and loan-forgiveness programs for students. The teachers also support the idea of bonuses for educators who agree to teach in urban or rural communities.

The job of recruiting should not be left to colleges, state education departments, and school districts, the teachers said. Instead, a majority of respondents recommended that educators take part in recruitment, along with business and industry, local, state, and federal governments, and community and parent organizations.

“With a keen insight, veteran teachers have identified the serious cracks in the teacher pipeline and what our nation needs to do to attract and keep talented professionals in the classroom,” Bob Chase, the president of the NEA, said in a statement. “At the heart of the teacher- shortage crisis is the fact that teachers often are badly treated, burn out quickly, and leave the profession.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 2000 edition of Education Week as Honored Teachers Want More Pay and Respect

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