Tag: Teacher compensation


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Rewind: The Dropout Nation Podcast: Get Rid of Poor-Performing Teachers (and the System that Protects Them)


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As you wind down from the Thanksgiving weekend, listen to this Dropout Nation Podcast, on the need to get poor-performing teachers out of classrooms. The damage wrecked by ineffective teaching…

Photo courtesy of GothamGazette.org

As you wind down from the Thanksgiving weekend, listen to this Dropout Nation Podcast, on the need to get poor-performing teachers out of classrooms. The damage wrecked by ineffective teaching — and the culture of mediocrity they foster — is promoted and sustained by schools of education, collective bargaining agreements, state laws and cultures within districts.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download your iPod, Zune, MP3 player or smartphone.  Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast Network,  Zune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, add the podcast on Viigo, if you have a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone.

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Does Teacher Turnover Matter?


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Based on the talk about (and derision from defenders of traditional public education over) the level of attrition of Teach For America graduates after entering classrooms, one would think that…

We need talented people like Dwayne Thomas of Mandarin Middle School in the teaching and principal ranks -- even for just a short time.

Based on the talk about (and derision from defenders of traditional public education over) the level of attrition of Teach For America graduates after entering classrooms, one would think that university schools of education were stellar in this regard. But as the eminent teaching guru Martin Haberman points out, half of all aspiring teachers coming out of ed schools never make it into the classroom in the first place. As Richard Ingersoll also notes, half of those teachers who enter the classroom leave within five years (and one third of them leave by their third year). All in all, no matter how you slice it, you have high levels of turnover in the teaching profession and this is a problem.

Or is it? As it may turn out, little of this attrition may be troubling at least in the main. If one looks at the research on teacher effectiveness and the talent arc of the average teacher, it may not make sense for many teachers to be in the classroom for longer than two decades at most. As Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hanson have pointed out in their 2009 study, a teacher with 25 years in the classroom is no more successful in improving student achievement than an instructor working for only four years. Just as importantly, the research is suggesting that in some cases, the best teacher may not be a tenured veteran of three decades, but a rookie teacher who will only get better still over time.

This isn’t to say that young teachers are naturally better than their more-senior counterparts. After all, there is just as much chance that the rookie is going to be a laggard instructor and will not improve over time, while the more-senior teacher is one who has always been really good at improving student performance and is a master at this craft. What it means is that the concern should not be so much about attrition, but about luring high-quality teachers into the classroom and getting as much out of their talent for the benefit of their students (our children) as possible while they are in the job.

Think about it: At its best, teaching is difficult work. Those who undertake it should be thrilled by the challenges and opportunities to improve the lives of every child with whom they work. They should be happy to be in classrooms and anticipate success every day, not be depressed about working with children who may need a lot of help. They must be competent in the subjects they teach and care for every child before them. Those who aren’t interested in such challenges or don’t care for children shouldn’t be teachers. It’s best that they move on to other pursuits.

As for the highly-talented good-to-great teachers? Just because someone is stellar at teaching, cares for children and enjoys the profession today doesn’t mean they just want to be a teacher for life. The kind of talented and gifted people who are best at teaching are also the very folks who are interested in other challenges. Some of them may involve some form of economic or social entrepreneurship. It may include the desire to be the next Steven Evangelista, Marva Collins, Michael Feinberg or Dave Levin. It could even mean rising in the education ranks to lead or shape charters, private schools or traditional districts (like Jason Kamras), become the next John Taylor Gattos or even lead path-breaking teacher training programs like Haberman. Or, they may just want to stay in the classroom and be what the Jaime Escalantes (or for me, Everett Brawner and Dave Gilbert) are for so many children: The men and women who go above and beyond to teach every child what he or she needs to achieve their economic and social destinies.

The real problem isn’t so much the turnover, but a system in which too few high-quality aspiring teachers are recruited; which trains aspiring teachers abysmally for teaching in the classroom (and whose training usually involves pedagogy over subject-matter competence and how to work with kids from backgrounds different than that of those who teach them); which instills teachers with a rather dispiriting vision of classroom teaching (especially in urban classrooms); and then compensates them in ways that are contrary to stirring high performance. As seen in the careers of Escalante and Gatto, great work is barely tolerated while mediocrity is the norm.

The union work rules that limit the amount of work teachers can do, along with the lack of performance management and rigorous evaluation, means that top performers get little feedback, support or recognition. Meanwhile mid-career professionals — who may have the stuff to work in the toughest urban classrooms — struggle to even get into the profession because of the emphasis on licensing instead of on quality of work and talent.

This isn’t just a problem within teaching. The school reform movement has shown the importance of fostering and coalescing entrepreneurship, system leadership and practical problem-solving. But it has only begun to crack traditional education circles. Far too many within traditional public education lack curiosity about how matters are solved in areas outside of education; if anything, they are hostile to anything that seems to smell of “hedge funds” or “Corporate America” or even Main Street, even though all three are the main generators of economic and social activity. There is no iPad or iPhone without Apple and Steve Jobs; no Windows without Bill Gates and Microsoft; and no Facebook, Warner Brothers or Hewlett-Packards without entrepreneurial activity. This anti-intellectualism results in an unwillingness to think outside of the traditional concept of unions, districts, and school boards.

The solution to these problems lies in recruiting and training high-quality teachers who can serve in the classroom and, if they so choose, foster new programs, nonprofits and ideas within education, Right now, however, it is afterthought, not the norm. Thanks to TFA, similar alternative training programs, and reformers within and outside of traditional public education, this is changing. But it is changing too slowly. We must reform smarter and faster.

Attracting great teachers must begin long before they enter the classrooms. As Arthur Levine has pointed out ad-nauseam, most ed schools do a terrible job of screening out teachers. Almost none use the Haberman method — put an aspiring teacher before a kid and watch how he or she interacts with them — or use PRAXIS I or the SAT to screen out the high-quality candidates from those who aren’t (although one state, Indiana, is making that a requirement for its ed schools this year). Nor do ed schools recruit in the same manner as Teach For America, seeking out black and Latino collegians for classroom careers. It is one reason — besides the dropout crisis — that we have so few minorities in the classroom.

Once the teachers get into the classroom, they must be rewarded early and often for great work. This means the traditional teacher compensation system — with its emphasis on near-lifetime employment and seniority- and degree-based pay and privileges — must go out the door. Performance pay is one way to reward teachers. Another is to provide them start-up money to start their own social entrepreneur programs — including schools, teaching fellowship programs or even the next Black Star Project. Spreading out the Chad Sansings of education into the wider world will help boost teacher quality — and the quality of education for every child.

At least these are my thoughts. What are yours? Feel free to respond.

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Rewind: The Dropout Nation Podcast: The High Cost of Teacher Pay


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Amid the battles over tenure reform in Florida, D.C. and elsewhere, this Dropout Nation Podcast from earlier this year explains one of the key reasons why such overhauls are needed….

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

Amid the battles over tenure reform in Florida, D.C. and elsewhere, this Dropout Nation Podcast from earlier this year explains one of the key reasons why such overhauls are needed. Dropout Nation will discuss more about the Florida teacher quality reform battle and the implications of Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto on other efforts nationwide this weekend.

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Voices of the Dropout Nation: Teacher Quality This Past Week


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Comments, observations and declarations from people advocating for and fostering change: “No capable and dedicated person wants to work in a quality-blind profession, but that’s what’s gradually happening to education……

Comments, observations and declarations from people advocating for and fostering change:

  • “No capable and dedicated person wants to work in a quality-blind profession, but that’s what’s gradually happening to education… There is at least one teacher on every staff that makes us all wonder, “How the heck did they get in, and why do they still have a job?” Somewhere in that teacher’s past timeline, a college professor or principal did not have the guts to say, “This person doesn’t meet the standards of the teaching profession.” — San Gabriel (Calif.) Unified teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron in Teacher (password-required) questioning the value of “last-hired, first-fired” policies and other aspects of the current teacher compensation and evaluation system.
  • “Renaissance teachers have been betrayed by their own union. Despite paying dues—and maybe even more importantly, embodying the very essence of teacher voice deployed in the furtherance of student achievement (and not just their own paychecks) that the UFT always talks about—the UFT has more or less told Renaissance’s teachers to eat cake:  the UFT backed last year’s unfair, disproportionate double cut funding freeze on charter schools; and despite promises from its former President, it refuses to advocate on these teachers’ behalf this year.” — Charter school advocate James Merriman observing a protest by charter school teachers represented by the American Federation of Teachers against the union’s New York City local.
  • “If I could make one single reform nationwide, it would be this: make every building principal completely and personally responsible for hiring and firing teachers. If the school board determines that the principal is capricious or incompetent, then they should fire her or him. This shifts the burden of advocacy from students vs. teachers to teachers vs. principals… why we shouldn’t try something new. Is protecting the jobs of marginal teachers and principals worth sacrificing the potential of some students?” — Charter Insight‘s Peter Hilts on ways to improve teacher quality and hold administrators accountable.
  • “The only way to generate increased performance is to structure the incentive system in such a way that the mean is raised. This means abolishing tenure and seniority, thereby removing the safety net for failure. Then find ways to give the best performers a piece of the economic action for increased productivity. If a man can increase the institution’s net income, give him a larger percentage of this when his output increases… We understand this economic incentive system when it comes to business, yet most people fail to understand it in the field of education.”– Gary North offering another teacher quality solution in his obituary to the work of the late Jaime Escalante. [Dropout Nation offers its own thoughts.]
  • “It took me several years to understand how Garfield’s AP teachers, and the many educators who have had similar results in other high-poverty schools, pulled all this off. They weren’t skimming. It wasn’t a magic trick of test results. They simply had high expectations for every student. They arranged extra time for study — such as Escalante’s rule that if you were struggling, you had to return to his classroom after the final bell and spend three hours doing homework, plus take some Saturday and summer classes, too. They created a team spirit, teachers and students working together to beat the big exam.” — Jay Mathews, who wrote the series of stories and books that made Escalante a household name, on how the teacher succeeded in improving the odds of his students making it in life.
  • “These are freshmen, used to a transactional model of education predominant in American high schools. The fact that this model — the teacher tells the students what to do; students follow teacher’s directions; students get good grades — is the predominant one is a serious problem in our schools, but that’s another issue. Whatever the case may be, I am getting these folks in the final four years of their formal schooling (for the most part) and if I don’t get them thinking on their own, they will crash and burn in the real world.” — Robert Talbert of Casting Out Nines on his process for getting his students to become well-prepared men and women.
  • “But here’s my question: why does it matter if they are public or private as long as students are getting a good education and are not being forced into religious instruction?” — Hechinger Institute boss Richard Lee Colvin on the constant (and often, rambling ed-schoolish dribble) efforts of some to argue that charter schools aren’t public schools. The answer is: It doesn’t matter to the children or the parents or to anyone who cares about improving their lives.
  • “The Pessimist complains about the wind, The Optimist expects it to change, The LEADER adjust the sails! Which are you?” — Dr. Steve Perry offering a much-needed reminder on leadership and school reform.

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By the way: Out of Chalk


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Just to let you know, check out my latest American Spectator column, this on battles over fixing umderfunded pensions and reforming how teachers are compensated for their work. As you…

Just to let you know, check out my latest American Spectator column, this on battles over fixing umderfunded pensions and reforming how teachers are compensated for their work. As you have read here, battles in N.J., Pennslyvania, Vermont and even Utah are harbingers of battles (and possible teachers union reverses) to come. Also, listen to the Dropout Nation Podcast on the taxpayer motivations for revamping teachers compensation. Enjoy and keep warm.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: The High Cost of Teacher Pay


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss what will likely be the most-important driver for reforming how teachers are evaluated, compensated and given tenure: The high costs of traditional…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss what will likely be the most-important driver for reforming how teachers are evaluated, compensated and given tenure: The high costs of traditional teacher compensation being borne by America’s taxpayers — including more than $367 billion in unfunded retirement healthcare liabilities for teachers and million-dollar lifetime retirement payouts — as seen in battles in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod or MP3 player. Also, subscribe to get the podcasts every week. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley and the Education Podcast Network.

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