• from the Florida Times-Union - "Paying Teachers Competitively is Key for Struggling Schools"

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Paying Teachers Competitively is Key for Struggling Schools

Thursday, March 23, 2006

By William L. Bainbridge

It has been 23 years since the publication of " A Nation At Risk, " the unprecedented report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education that launched the modern school reform movement.

Evidence, however, indicates little has been done to provide effective schools for our nation's disadvantaged students.

Regrettably, our school systems are focused on traditional ways of doing business rather than providing students with the teachers they need to turn the situation around.

Dedicated, highly educated and valued teachers, recognized as such through differentiated compensation, are central to effective schools.

The Association of Employment in Education (AAEE) has documented critical shortages of qualified teachers in fields such as mathematics, physical sciences, technology education and special education.

Many students in inner city and rural schools are in classrooms with ineffective, unqualified or under-qualified teachers.

In case after case, schools our research auditing teams have visited which have large numbers of students with low test scores are proliferated with teachers who lack college training and preparation to teach subjects such as chemistry and calculus.

This grim picture is further complicated by the fact that teaching professionals are employed on the same salary schedule regardless of the market for their specialty.

Unfortunately, teacher compensation is based upon seniority and education level alone, not upon marketplace demand. Few or no opportunities for advancement are provided teachers unless they leave the classroom for administrative positions, and few or no incentives are provided for teaching excellence.

The current pay formula in most public school systems is a lock step grid through which all teachers receive the same starting salary. As additional experience and education are gained, their salaries advance through pre-set increases in uniform increments.

Although teacher unions are frequently blamed for this socialistic "salary schedule" system, in the first half of the 20th century it was school administrators and boards who adopted such schedules.

Unfortunately, all college graduates going into the teaching field are treated as if they have the same marketplace value. This practice was present before collective bargaining even entered the school workplace.

Today only a few forward-thinking teacher union leaders will even consider alternative forms of compensation for teachers such as pay for marketplace demand or performance. Most, however, hold fast to the traditional salary schedule rather than risk any qualitative criteria for salary adjustment

The idea of marketplace pay for teachers is based upon a well-known and common sense business practice that rewards individuals whose skills are in the greatest demand.

Most people understand that specialists in more demanding college majors are usually more highly compensated than generalists. People in technical fields such as chemistry, engineering and mathematics typically are paid more than history, sociology or physical education majors.

College admissions directors are keenly aware that entry-level students majoring in physical science fields, for example, have higher entry-level SAT and ACT scores than those majoring in social sciences and humanities.

Public education should be no different in terms of compensation than the modern workplace. In fact, most universities already employ a differentiated marketplace-driven salary model.

We need to pay teachers what they are worth in the marketplace to encourage dedicated people to enter and remain in our schools.

The time is right to implement "marketplace pay" for teachers.

With critical teacher shortages in most schools, we may no longer be able to afford NOT to pay teachers more for working in those fields where they are needed most.

is Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Dayton and is President & Chief Executive Officer of SchoolMatch®, a Columbus based educational auditing, research, data firm.

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