Teacher’s Pay – This is “Fairness”?

Lately I have been spending a lot of time with teachers.  It is encouraging and frustrating at the same time.

Many of them are highly skilled, engaged, and enthusiastic.  There is that bunch in the middle – some are learning and improving, some are slacking a bit.  And there are teachers who should find a line of work that is not so crucial to our families and our nation.

It’s not surprising.  If you look at any group of employees you will find a mix of talent.  But here’s something that concerns me:  in the business world, where survival depends on real-world results, managers are selected, compensated, promoted and released based on their talent and contributions to the organization’s success.  Successful businesses use this natural, competitive human resource development process to improve their performance on an ongoing basis.

Unlike business professionals, teachers are paid based on years of service and college credits, without regard for their teaching skill and success with students.  Why?  Is success in business more important than success in education?  Is it too difficult to evaluate the performance level of teachers, compared to business managers?  Do teachers not have the same proven motivations that all other humans do?

It surprises me that good teachers are so willing to have their earnings reduced to the lowest common denominator.   I can understand that a hundred guys installing widgets on an assembly line are pretty interchangeable, and the only way to distinguish them is reliability and loyalty.  But education is much more complex, and teacher performance is much more variable.  It seems wrong that the top performers are held to the earning power of their weakest counterparts, who just happen to have the same tenure and step level.  Wrong for those teachers who overachieve, wrong for the professionals who choose a different career where their talent and effort is rewarded, and wrong for our nation at a time when we are searching for ways to leverage our educational results.

If I owned an NFL team and chose to pay my players the same, based on their years on the roster but disregarding individual talent and contributions to the “W” column, how many games would I win?  How long would I survive against the competitive teams?

The concept of “fairness” is a top priority of Democrats, the party in power.  The teacher’s unions are rigidly supportive of the Democrats, and vice-versa.  I can’t think of anything less fair than everyone being paid the same, regardless of their talent and contributions to success.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Well, I try my best to be just like I am
But everybody wants you to be just like them
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

Maggies’ Farm – Bob Dylan

3 thoughts on “Teacher’s Pay – This is “Fairness”?

  1. It’s hard to determine teacher success because their little charges are so variable.I’ve had wonderful classes where I looked like a star and very difficult classes when everything didn’t always look so perfect. Principals have to determine if a teacher is working hard, covering the material, and relating well to his/her students. In this world of teaching a little of this and a little of that it is much harder for the principal to determine if the teacher is covering the material.Teachers should be teaching to their own teaching style but classes should be fast paced and interesting by and large. Evaluating teachers is very subjective and with the new Common Core open ended questions for tests evaluations will be even more subjective. Most teachers try to keep their mouths shut and go with the flow, or better yet kiss up to the administration- that’s how you get a superior evaluation in the teacher world in public schools.Some charter schools look like they may have a better program for teacher evaluation. That’s where I would go to get good ideas for teacher evaluations. Education Lady

  2. While I tend to agree with you, Tom, on teacher evaluations, I think I will come at this from a different angle. First, teachers have to teach three years to earn tenure, while people in most professions have a six-month probationary period. . In those three years, a teacher can be released for no reason. It would stand to reason that most teachers are just learning to hone their craft in those three years; hence, those are the years that, despite all their enthusiasm and youthful zeal, they will be at their weakest. If they haven’t figured out how to teach in those three years, the teachers shouldn’t earn tenure. They can go to another school and try again if they want, or they can go into another field if they think teaching isn’t their bag. I did that four times before I earned tenure. I even took a year off and did something else but I think I enjoyed working with young people, so I came back to teaching. A friend of mine who went into administration said that teaching keeps us young because we hang around with young people, and I tend to agree with him. I think people who work in retirement homes probably have a different take on life because of their clientele. ( Sorry, sidebar there) Anyway, I don’t think anyone stays in a career they don’t enjoy, teachers included. Generally, they work their way into a career they enjoy. I know lots of people who started out as teachers, but who changed careers after one or two years. My daughter happens to be one of those people. When I asked why she didn’t stay with it, she said, “It’s too hard of work for the money they pay.” I don’t think I ever considered that when I was a young teacher…but the thought crossed my mind the last few years when I was carrying approximately 100 essays home to grade over a weekend. That’s what washed me out, the paperwork.
    I also agree with Barbara Rush’s statement about teacher evaluation being subjective. I certainly wouldn’t want my evaluation to be based on some of the students who came to school lacking the motivation to learn anything, but I also wouldn’t think it fair to the district if my evaluation was based on the best and brightest that come to school enthusiastic to learn. So the evaluation process falls somewhere in between. That’s the main reason for the salary schedule. That, plus the shortage of science, math and music teachers who are in short supply. I don’t think a math teacher should get a higher salary than the English teacher earns, esp., it the English teacher has been there for several more years. Educators have been discussing this issue as long as I was in education, 34 years. School board trustees have been trying to find a better way to evaluate teachers, and I hope one comes about. We need to make evaluations more objective. I think teachers want to settle this problem just as much as administrators and school trustees do. Good luck!
    I apologize for the length. Sometimes I get a little wordy, probably because of my English teacher background.

  3. I recently read about Schools that brought in proofreaders to check teachers’ spelling. In the UK we have the same problem. Teachers need to be tested…

    But my favorite teacher in school wasn’t the cleverest teacher, but he had a natural ability to inspire us children to learn (now i love science!). I wish there was a simple answer to this issue, but there isn’t.

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