Bruno: Teacher Pay, Part 1: Should It Rise With Experience?
The strike and new teacher contract in Chicago has given rise to another round of debate over how much teachers should be paid and how that pay should be distributed across their careers. I'm all for having these conversations and think that the standard models of teacher compensation could use some reform, but many of the objections to the status quo seem to me to be incompletely thought out.
Over at The Quick and the Ed Chad Alderman raises two objections to the CPS salary schedule, both of which would need to be laid out more thoroughly to really be compelling. I'll address his two points in separate posts.
Alderman's first complaint results from considering the raises teachers in Chicago (as in most places) receive for experience and points out:
These increases are not based on what we know about teacher effectiveness over time. In fact, the research on experience suggests teachers improve dramatically in their first years on the job. But a teacher with 4-5 years of experience is virtually indistinguishable from a teacher with 20-25 years of experience. Chicago and other districts with late-career raises built into their salary schedules are merely rewarding longevity, not effectiveness or performance.
In other words, if teachers aren't getting any better as they accumulate experience, why should we pay them more? I appreciate that this is superficially compelling logic, but there are at least two problems with it.
First, it's important to remember that those studies evaluating teacher effectiveness and experience use an extremely narrow definition of "effectiveness". I actually have no problem with measuring teacher effectiveness based in part on student standardized test scores, but virtually no other industry takes such a narrow view of employee value.
Of course, it's possible that teachers really don't become more effective in any way as they gain experience, but the "research on experience" does not in any way suggest this. It's just as likely, for example, that teachers continue to become more efficient, freeing up more time for them to mentor colleagues, support after-school activities, etc. Alderman is right that there appear to be some ways in which teachers do not improve with experience, but his argument depends on teachers failing to improve in all ways. The research suggests only that the former may be true, and is mostly silent on the latter.
Second, is it really so remarkable that teachers make more as they accumulate experience? I'm not sure, but my vague sense is that it's pretty typical for workers to receive salary increases as they gain experience and seniority, and for more-experienced employees to be paid more than less-experienced coworkers (on average). If so, then critics of teacher experience bonuses need to articulate more clearly what we're supposed to find so objectionable.
I'm happy to concede that teacher pay schemes would benefit from reform, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence that a major problem is teachers earning more money as they gain experience. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)