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Bruno: Teacher Pay, Part 1: Should It Rise With Experience?

145582915_ff0099d650The 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)

 

Comments

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The best post I have read on teacher experience unsurprisingly was written by Matt Di Carlo at the Shanker Blog:

http://shankerblog.org/?p=1319

Also, we need to be clear that we are discussing pay raises, not salaries (which are determined by the labor market). And even the research showing diminishing returns to additional yrs of experience as measured by test scores is debatable:

http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2012/03/eric-hanushek-testifies-in-school.html

"Regression studies have generally shown a positive relationship between teacher experience and student achievement. Period."

PSB... I'm much more interested in what you think an ideal evaluation of teachers would look like than in watching you parse Alderman. What kind of system would fairly represent your work and how should experience, students' achievement, and duties such as mentoring be weighted? In your current system, what works well and what doesn't work well and what changes would you like to see?

What the reform movement and all the tinkerers seem to forget is that the salary schedule comes out of a process of collective bargaining. It is none of your business how it is structured unless you are offering management some advice about future negotiations.

Back off, leave it to the boards and the unions.

@Art - It's really not just Alderman; his complaint is a common one, and one that motivates a lot of compensation reform proposals. If it's a misguided complaint, I think that's important.

In terms of compensation reform, I think cash compensation needs to be significantly higher and probably differentiated by teaching assignment (e.g., subject, student population). I don't have strong feelings about evaluation reform except to point out that as far as I can tell both teachers and administrators generally seem not to think that formal evaluations are great opportunities for teacher improvement. I think there might be some collective wisdom in there.

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Well, it should be to be fair. Experience equates salary...

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