The Future of Teaching
The report calls for dramatic changes to the teaching profession. Significant among its proposals are changes to the education and compensation of teachers. The report recommends that traditional four-year, undergraduate teacher education be discontinued and that a state agency become responsible for authorizing performance contracts with teacher training organizations. The compensation of teachers is encouraged to be linked closer to professional performance and farther away from seniority. What should be made of these proposals? Should teacher pay be linked to professional performance? Are performance contracts in teacher education a good idea?
To help facilitate discussion, the following excerpt provides a general point of reference :
It is simply not possible for our students to graduate from our schools by the millions with very strong mathematical reasoning skills, a sound conceptual grasp of science, strong writing skills, world-beating capacity for creativity and innovation, and everything else we talk about in this report unless their teachers have the knowledge and skills we want our children to have.
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Commentary and Critique
The report calls for big changes in teacher compensation:
To succeed we must recruit many more [teachers] from the top third. To get this group requires us, first, to change the shape of teacher compensation, which is currently back-loaded, in the sense that it is weak on cash compensation, especially up front, and heavy on pensions and health benefits for the retired teacher. This is what one would want if the idea were to retain the teachers with the most years of service, but it makes no sense if what we are after is to attract young people who are thinking most about how they are going to get the cash they need to enjoy themselves, buy a home, support a family, and pay for college for their children. The first step in our plan is to make retirement benefits comparable to those of the better firms in the private sector and use the money that is saved from this measure to increase teachers' cash compensation. We would add to this a substantial amount from what is saved by changing the progression of students through the system. These changes would enable the nation to pay beginning teachers about $45,000 per year, which is now the median teachers' pay, and to pay about $95,000 per year to the typical teachers working at the top of new career ladders for a regular teaching year and as much as $110,000 per year to teachers willing to work the same hours per year as other professionals typically do.
Are there good reasons to oppose raising the salaries of teachers? Are there good reasons to oppose making teacher compensation performance-based? Is the report clear on the criteria that would allow teachers to move from one compensation tier to another? Is the specification of such a criteria important? Does it need to be transparent to the public? Or should it be based upon local managerial decisions, in much the same way compensation increases work in many other professions in the private sector?
The report proposes that states become the sole authorizers of teacher training institutes, encouraging that performance contracts be established with such institutes, thereby adding another challenge to the already threatened position of education schools:
The current policies regarding teacher education would be scrapped. The state would create a new Teacher Development Agency charged with recruiting, training, and certifying teachers. The state would launch national recruiting campaigns, allocate slots for training the needed number of teachers, and write performance contracts with schools of education, but also teachers' collaboratives, school districts, and others interested in training teachers. Those providers that meet the state's performance requirements would get a larger number of slots than providers whose graduates perform less well. To get listed by the state on its register of available teachers, candidates would have to show that they had at least a bachelor's degree in the subject they propose to teach and would have to pass a rigorous teaching performance assessment.
What should be made of this? Should teacher education organizations be held accountable? If so, what might be good measures for doing so?
Notes and References