Teacher Preparation Opinion

Pay Teachers What They’re Worth

By John Wilson — December 15, 2011 2 min read
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Education Secretary Arne Duncan said teachers should be paid six figures. That’s visionary.

Marc Tucker said that teachers in only three countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were paid less than teachers in the United States. That’s embarrassing.

A recent controversial study said teachers were overpaid. That’s ridiculous.

The National Education Association (NEA) has proposed a new system of different career paths of Novice Teacher, Professional Teacher, and Master Teacher. That’s promising.

The NEA plan begins with creating a new organization that will be called the National Council for the Teaching Profession (NCTP). This new group will establish national standards for teacher preparation programs, teacher educators, teacher evaluation, and advancement within the profession. One supposes that once this group determines standards for being a Professional Teacher or a Master Teacher, local districts or states would attach a salary to that certification. New Mexico has used a similar approach to compensation for several years.

I think this is a good idea, but it’s an idea that will take too long to implement. Setting up this entity would require a tremendous amount of funds that only the government or the Gates Foundation can afford. I propose that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards consider incorporating these recommendations into its work. A tremendous investment has already been made in research, infrastructure, branding, and reputation by NBPTS. This is the best pathway for affordability, sustainability, and workability.

For 25 years, the NBPTS has set standards for accomplished teaching and an assessment process for making that determination. The requirements to be a Master Teacher and a National Board Certified Teacher should be the same. The requirements to be a Professional Teacher should be consistent with the new standards established by the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC). A Novice Teacher should be anyone who has graduated from a teacher education program accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). All others should be designated as “temporary” until they meet the requirements of at least one of these tiers. With new leadership at the NBPTS, it is time for leveraging these standards to elevate the teaching profession in the United States to one that is world class.

Change is difficult. Change involving someone’s pay is even tougher. I have been in more battles than I care to remember about the number of steps in a pay plan, pay for degrees that are not relevant to a teaching area, the amount of pay for a master’s degree or national certification, and recognition of experience outside of the district. I welcome a pay system based on tiers that reflects experience, knowledge, skills, effectiveness, leadership, and contribution to research.

Teaching is hard work. America should be ashamed that it has devalued this profession that drives the economy, teaches American values, and what is most important, prepares our children for the future. It is time to do something bold and different. It is time to pay teachers what they are worth. The NEA proposal offers a new opportunity to do that. Districts and states should not wait to implement this concept. NBPTS should take the NEA idea and run with it.

The opinions expressed in John Wilson Unleashed are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.