Wisconsin Fails Federal Test for “Qualified Teachers”

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin officials take pride in being at the top of at least one list nationally when it comes to putting “highly qualified” teachers in classrooms, but Wednesday they found themselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to meeting federal rules for doing exactly that.
U.S. Department of Education officials announced they had rejected as inadequate every one of the responses Wisconsin gave when asked how it was dealing with six general requirements for assuring that every child has a highly qualified teacher.
Wisconsin, Hawaii, Missouri and Utah were designated by the federal department as being at “high risk” of not meeting the teacher quality rules. The four states were ordered to redo their plans by Nov. 1, “including specific steps to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught disproportionately by less qualified teachers.”

Anne Marie Chaker has more:

It is a problem that increasingly bedevils school districts around the country. Nationally, the demand for teachers continues to rise in a number of fields, such as physics, math, chemistry and bilingual education. At the same time, a flood of experienced, baby-boomer teachers who entered the profession in the 1960s and 1970s are retiring, and relatively few new teachers are sticking with the profession. One analysis of Education Department data by Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that 46% of new teachers leave the profession after only five years.
To help fill vacant teaching slots, a number of states are taking action, passing legislation with incentives to attract, train and retain more teachers. So far this year, 18 states, including Illinois, Connecticut, Virginia and Kansas, have passed measures encouraging teaching, according to the Education Commission of the States, which tracks education policy for state governments. The initiatives ranged from luring teachers out of retirement to offering scholarships to programs that forgive education loans. Tricia Coulter, director of the commission’s Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute, says legislative efforts gained momentum in 2000, with 21 to 42 state measures each year targeting teacher recruitment and retention.

10 thoughts on “Wisconsin Fails Federal Test for “Qualified Teachers””

  1. I am waiting for someone to clearly define what the phrase “highly qualified” means. If it means that the individual teacher has undergone 4 years of more of academic training to gain a license, has observed in various classrooms for a minimum of one semester, and has student taught for a semester in their subject area, then I guess I don’t understand what the phrase means. Perhaps it is time to recognize the hours and the anguish that goes into teaching, hours in and out of the classroom. Perhaps it is time to recognize that parents play a role in the education of their children. Perhaps it is time to pay these highly qualified individuals a wage that is appropriate to the number of hours spent in preparation and grading. Perhaps it is time to recognize that the teacher has mulitple duties taking on the role of educator and more and more frequently, the role of parent. It astounds me that the people who provide the foundation for ALL other careers are paid so miserably and ar treated with such contempt and disrespect. Teachers are not being compensated for continuing education credit requirements in all districts, they are not being compensated for the long hours spent dealing with growing discipline issues in the schools that stem from a myraid of causes including problems at home, they are not being treated with respect by the media and other governmental agencies at a time when they can most use the support. I ask you why anyone would willingly continue to work in an environment where there is little recognition or reward, but blame is in abundance? Teachers teach because they have a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of children, they want to help their communities grow and prosper and know that education is key to that success. Every teacher is well aware of the salary, or lack there of, and yet chooses this career anyway. Yes, there are an increasing number of people who upon completing their training leave to profession, but that happens in every sector. Yes, there are unqualified people in classrooms that don’t belong there and a licensed teacher will be the first person to tell you that those individuals need to either become qualified through the appropriate training and coursework, or be terminated. But, unfortunately, this is an unrealistic expectation in some regions as districts make the hiring and firing decisions and as money does play a role in the acceptance of a position. Money is tight in most districts and the federal legislation to improve learning (No Child Left Behind) was implemented, I hope, with the intention of improving education in this country, without funding. Unfortunately, because of the money problems many districts face, they are unable to pay “highly qualified” teachers and implement the required NCLB programs. For you see, the Feds (who I am sure have spent thousands of hours in the classroom) in their infinite wisdom instituted programs without providing funding for said programs. And as punishment for not meeting the requirements is to withhold additional funding. How, may I ask, does that help? Teachers are losing insurance and salary (often voluntarily) in many districts in order to fund NCLB programs. If YOU are so concerned about the health of your district, then pay the higher property taxes to help fund the educational programs you take for granted one minute and then lambast the next. Hold the federal government accountable for the funding that they once promised but never sent.
    Think about paying the teachers of this country what football players make. I think they deserve the pay far more than the athlete, don’t you? After all, the teacher is only preparing the football player to read his contract, write his name, and understand economics. But what do I know? I’m only a lowly high school teacher from Wisconsin.

  2. Jeanne:
    You raise some good points regarding the notion of highly qualified teachers generally, as well as issues such as teacher compensation. Some related questions/food for thought:
    — If teachers should be paid like football players, is it OK for school districts to pay some teachers more than others, similar to what football teams do (quarterbacks vs. offensive linemen)? In order for school districts to provide more highly qualified teachers for their students, is there any role at all for pay systems that recognize that the marketplace varies in the education field? Is it easier or harder for districts to find a highly qualified teacher for a 4th grade position, as opposed to a high school physics position?
    — Should teacher compensation (pay increases, bonuses, movement up the pay scale) be related in any way to student performance — of any kind (be it state/national standardized testing or school district performance standards)? Pay-for-performance plans are being implemented in various places throughout the country (including neighboring Minnesota, a state not unlike ours) but not in Wisconsin. Should they be, even on a pilot/trial basis? If NCLB demands certain performance standards, and some teachers have their students achieve those standards better than others, should those teachers be financially rewarded in any way?
    — School districts in Wisconsin are limited in their ability to raise taxes to finance educational programs, be it teacher raises or anything else, absent going to public referendum. If, as the tone of your remarks indicates, that authority should be restored back to local school districts, is there also a role for local school districts to develop, for instance, alternative licensing programs to hire what they view as highly qualified teachers? If school districts are given broader authority to raise money for educational programs, shouldn’t they also be given broader authority on other issues that the district believes impact educational quality? Should a mid-career civil engineer, with a master’s degree from UW-Madison, be required to go through teacher licensing requirements if s/he decides to embark on a teaching career?
    — What measures should local school districts be able to develop to ensure that all teachers remain highly qualified, even after obtaining tenure with the district? Short of having all teaching staff be at-will employees, what kinds of programs should districts have at their disposal if their own reviews of teacher performance find inadequate teaching is occuring?

  3. Personally, I don’t have a need to be paid like a football player. In fact, I don’t think football players should be paid like football players, although I do appreciate the general sentiment in Jeanne’s post. I most emphatically agree with the comment about property taxes. I am concerned about property taxes only in so far as they force people out of their homes. I have little sympathy with people sitting in quarter of a million dollar homes (and on up), with multiple vehichles, yearly vacations and the ability to buy new toys, clothes, classes, and movies tickets on a regular basis. Would it be nice to have less of my income go to property taxes? Sure. It would also be nice if someone would leave free groceries on my porch. Most of us (myself included) live in much nicer spaces than we actually “need”. Rather than appreciate the good fortune that we–compared to most of the world’s population(and many in our local communities)–get to enjoy, we indignantly complain about the taxes we pay. I do not like the way many of my tax dollars are spent. I vote, in large part, based on who I think will make decisions (about using my tax dollars) that are most in keeping with my personal values. I also recognize that some of my tax dollars (in recent years, MANY of my tax dollars) are going to be spent in ways that I don’t support. That doesn’t change the fact that I want for nothing that I actually NEED, and therefore, I will continue to pay my taxes because I believe in the concept of community, and I will continue to support particular candidates that share my ideas about the best direction for our community. I expect that throughout my life I will have times in which I am happy, and times in which I am unhappy, about how my money is being spent. I hope I never lose sight of how lucky I am to have what I have, or begrudge doing my part to support the services that make a community strong, or to support the members of my community who have not been as fortunate.
    As far as how teachers are paid…. I am not a big fan of some of the differential payment methods brought up in Phil M’s post. Here’s why:
    **Paying people for test results is further incentive for strong teachers to work in relatively easy settings. We are all familiar with the data currently correlating test data to SES, race, ELL factors…etc. The “best” teachers can generally select where they want to teach because they are appealing to any principal. It already takes additional effort for teachers to work successfully with students in struggling schools. To then add the burden of lower pay does not make sense to me. Teachers who are good with high risk students don’t get the glory of the stellar scores, even when making great progress, if the student comes to them already two years behind grade level.
    **paying people based on how “in demand” their job is sounds good, but I wonder how much more money you would want to see go into special education. Better to forgive loans based on certain years of service or provide scholarships during college (perhaps that have to be paid back if certain years of service are not provided) for those difficult to fill professions, than to set up an inequity in the pay scale that might change every few years. Better yet to determine why people are not going into those fields and fix the underlying problems.
    I do agree that there need to be ways to deal with problems of teachers who are not performing adequately. Unfortunately, it is difficult to attack this problem when there are not enough superior teachers waiting in the wings to take their place. Frankly, I think that institutions who are certifying teachers need to spend significantly more time observing them, give significantly more rigorous feedback, and hold higher standards than “completing” the program, to recommend them for licensure.
    I do support the concept of alternative licensing systems. Personally, I find many of the required courses pretty silly, and adding certifications is quite expensive, time consuming and needlessly difficult. I think that teachers who are recieving their initial licenses should have spent significantly more time working alongside experienced teachers than they currently do–and I think that additional certifications should be more accesible based on demonstrations of competency. As far as people coming to teaching as a second career…sometimes their work skills are very transferrable and could replace any requirements for “content learning”. I do, however, think that it is critically important that they take classes in lesson design, differentiation, classroom management, child development, etc. before they recieve certification and try to teach students. Teaching is only partly about knowledge of content. It is significantly more about how to make sense of that content for a range of other people.
    In my dream world, there would 6-8 week certification institutes held during the summer. Adults who already had a portfolio of skills and experiences (and, who, through tests, demonstrated adequate knowledge about the subjects)would engage in intensive learning and opportunities to demonstrate competency teaching in those areas. Not a lot of adults can afford to make the career change to teaching–not when it requires becoming a full time student again. Stop recieiving a salary AND pay thousands in tuition? Sure. I’ll just ask my kids not to eat or grow for the next 15 months….:)

  4. TeacherL:
    Good comments. A few thoughts:
    — One of the criticisms (one I share) of NCLB is that it’s an “over the bar” approach to measure student learning — that is, the bar is “set” at some standard (established by states), and districts are required to have everyone eventually meet or exceed the standard. A number of school districts are implementing assessments that measure both a standard and measurable progress, or growth, toward that standard. Just recently, the US Dept. of Education has authorized two state pilot programs to assess state compliance with NCLB under these “growth models.” Couldn’t one establish a pay incentive program based on such a growth model? For instance, Teacher L works with 20 students, most of them poor/disadvantaged/EL needy. Teacher M works with another group, mostly non-poor, with solid reading/language skills. Most of Teacher L’s students don’t reach a NCLB standard, but show considerable progress under a growth model assessment. Teacher M’s students all meet the NCLB standard, but show little progress under the same growth model assessment. Doesn’t that get at your concern about teacher compensation related to student demographics? Under this system, Teacher L might get a bonus, or extra jump on the salary schedule, or wage increase beyond his/her peers. I’m not advocating no pay increases, or pay cuts, for teachers in relation to student test scores, but some kind of reward system based on some acknowledgement of student performance.
    — What’s more important — avoiding inequities in the pay scale or filling each and every teaching position with the most highly qualified person possible? I’d opt for the latter. I’d be all for spending more money on special education, if it meant creating a pay scale that compensates special education teachers at a rate commensurate with the challenges of that job. Which field, generally, has more turnover — elementary teachers or special education teachers? Might that somehow be related to wages? Don’t children with autism, to choose just one area, have the right to have stability and experience in their teaching staff, the same way that many “normal” elementary students do? I get back to my example of a 4th grade teacher and a physics teacher — someone who wants to work with 10-year-old children has few options, and public school teaching is (by far) the best compensated (wages and esp. benefits) among them. Someone who wants to work in the area of particle physics has many options, and public school teaching is often the worst compensated among them. Public schooling is arguably the most important single thing our society does — shouldn’t we worry less about inequitable pay systems and more about putting superbly qualified teachers in front of every single child in our schools?
    — I do like the idea of loan forgiveness for teachers going into difficult-to-fill positions. But I’d argue the “underlying problem” about high demand vs. low demand is very much tied to wages. What percentage of students currently studying civil engineering or chemistry at UW-Madison (some of the very best and brightest students in our state) are contemplating going into K-12 teaching? I’d guess very few of them, and that’s pretty sad. Why is that? One reason, perhaps the primary one, is that they can make a lot more money in the private sector straight out of college than in public K-12.
    — I really like the idea of summer academies, so to speak, for mid-career folks. I do think there is a whole range of folks out there — in their 30s and 40s — who didn’t go into teaching right after college, have a wealth of experience and knowledge, would want to work with students, and would be great teachers, and school districts miss out on them, because those folks — maybe tiring of the corporate rat race, or now motivated by something other than just wages — are intimidated by the time and commitment involved in the licensing game. We ought to find more ways to attract folks like that.

  5. Phil M,
    The twist you put on differential pay is interesting and certainly more fair than the simple “pay for test results” idea I hear people talk about. However, although you addressed the concern that I raised, I find that I still can’t get enthusiastic about it. I think that although better salaries might attract people to, or keep people in, the profession, it is not likely to lead to better teaching. At least, I don’t see it doing that in Madison. The implication of incentive pay is that teachers just aren’t working hard enough, and if they were paid for results, they would “step it up”. I’m not seeing that, and therefore, I don’t see the pay off for what could be a very subjective and divisive practice.
    More importantly though, I just plain think it would be very expensive to manage. Given a choice between having precious education dollars going to even more testing and monitoring,I’d rather see the dollars go to materials or continuing teacher education.
    I CERTAINLY agree that children with significant disabilities deserve the same stability and experience as their typically developing peers. I don’t think pay differentials are going to make that happen. Teachers leave special education because they are burnt out–not from working with the students themselves, but from all of the other responsibilities and the lack of time to carry them out. If extra money is going to go towards special education teachers, I think it should go towards improving work conditions (e.g. adequate numbers of support staff, extra planning time to deal with paperwork, subs who can actually step in and do the job, etc…).
    I think inequities in the pay scale are complicated. What I wonder is this:
    if physics teachers, for instance, are recruited through higher pay–and that works to bring them in to the schools–more and more people would be certified in high school physics. Eventually then, no shortage of high school physics teachers. Meanwhile, perhaps, because college students who want to teach are gravitating towards physics, they are no longer getting certified in math. Now there is a new shortage. Is the differential now offered to both math and physics? Or, since there are now plenty of physics teachers, will the physics teachers stopped being paid extra so that the money can shift to the recruitment of math teachers? I am not convinced that people with expertise in particle physics are the same people who want to teach it in high school, and I don’t think it is about the money as much as it is about what people want to do. Working in an applied physics field or doing physics research is fundamentally different than teaching it to high school students. This was apparent to me as a college student when I took classes from TA’s or professors who were knowledgeable and had love for their subject, but not for teaching.
    I am not saying that money doesn’t matter. People have to feel that they are being adequately compensated for what they are doing. I’m just not convinced that differential pay provides enough bang for the (educational) buck 🙂

  6. Teacher L:
    The concerns you raise about differentiated pay scales strikes me as as a fairly fundamental philosophy about how pay should be determined for public school teachers. From the standpoint of teachers, it seems to me that the pay scale of a (every single?) school district is driven by the desire for equity. That is, Teacher A with XX years of experience and XX degree is paid exactly that same as any other similary situated teacher — regardless of what field they teach, and regardless of how well they teach students. That’s not surprising — the (apologies all around, but I have the say it…) unionized nature of teachers and contract bargaining, and the salary schedule that comes with it, reflects an “all for one, one for all” philosophy with regards to compensation. Everyone’s equally qualified and equally capable, so everyone gets paid exactly the same. That’s a laudable philosophy, in many respects, but I wonder if it continues to serve the best interests of students in our 21st Century world, particularly one in which our broader society is demanding (NCLB is pretty good evidence of this, regardless of whether you think the law is worthy or worthless) more accountability from schools.
    I think differentiated pay scales would work much like they do in the rest of the world — the district would pay more for tough-to-fill, high-turnover, priority fields than others. Surely you wouldn’t argue against the notion that school districts have more difficulty attracting quality candidates, and keeping good teachers, in some fields more than others? If, as you cite, special education turnover is related to a host of non-pay issues, wouldn’t higher pay for those teachers be at least an incentive to stay?
    You seem to indicate that schools should continue to rely on the good intentions of people who want to work with children to attract people to the profession. (“I am not convinced that people with expertise in particle physics are the same people who want to teach it in high school, and I don’t think it is about the money as much as it is about what people want to do.”) I think people who would want to work with children, and would be really good teachers, are sometimes not attracted to the field because of wage issues. I think that’s particularly true, these days, in fields like science and math. I know of a few folks like this, and entry-level wages were a primary disincentive for not going into teaching.
    As for testing and pay, remember that I’m not saying teachers should be paid wholly by test results of students they teach. The current traditional pay scale system would stay in place, with bonuses/step ups/higher raises going to those whose students perform better on agreed-upon assessments. Is student performance on assessments entirely and solely related to student ability? Isn’t teaching ability at least some component of student performance? Aren’t some teachers better at teaching than others? Shouldn’t they be compensated in a manner that reflects their ability? Know any teachers (public K-12) making $100,000 a year? I don’t. Know any who should? I do. Know any teachers who get 10% raises because of how well they teach students? I don’t. Know any who should? I do.
    This is not a terribly radical idea; differentiated pay scales, of all manner and type, are being piloted throughout the country. But not in Wisconsin, a state previously known (kindergarten was invented here, after all) for some level of educational innovation. I find that odd.

  7. Phil,
    This is a good discussion. I have to start by saying how much I appreciate your willingness to focus on ideas rather than positions.
    What has the outcome of differential pay been in other states?
    If my comments suggested to you a belief that all teachers are equally skilled, that wasn’t my intent. I fully acknowledge that there are differences. Whether that should be reflected in pay differences is another question.
    I think, based on your original post, that can we agree that teachers who are performing inadequately need to find a different career (hopefully after someone has first made a serious attempt to bring their skills and approach up to par). As I said in an earlier point, I think that this is at least in part a function of the certification process. It seems that the answer politicians and universities want to jump to is more classes (cheaper to deliver than internships or apprenticeships, I suppose). In my experience though, weaknesses are less likely to be a function of not enough “knowledge”, so much as they are about not enough rigorous supervision and feedback. I’m repeating myself though, so I’ll move on 🙂
    In general, higher pay makes the field more appealing to people who are considering entering it. So I am supportive of that. I think I could even be supportive of a limited type of pay differential to bring teachers into a district (for instance, crediting a teacher in a hard to fill field, or a teacher with superior credentials, with a couple years of experience on the pay scale).
    I am not a fan of trying to keep burnt out teachers in the field. The teachers most likely to provide inadequate service to students are the ones who no longer enjoy teaching, but stay in the field to collect a paycheck or benefits. I would be a fan of improving work conditions so that teachers did not feel burnt out. I should also say, that I might feel differently in districts with substandard pay. Since I think that MMSD offers a reasonable compensation package at the moment, my views are informed by that experience.
    I think another place that teaching breaks down comes into play when people enter the field imagining that their job is about the subject rather than the process of reaching students. It is a lot of fun to lecture about topics we have a love of–particularly in rooms full of students who share that love. Unfortunately for us….most classes are filled with students who find our academic loves (and the sounds of our knowledgeable voices) to be less mesmerizing than we think they will find them. Teachers who go into the field due more to love of subject than to love of teaching can become very resentful of their students. These teachers tend to be effective only with high achieving students who share their love of the topic and of academia generally.
    I do understand what you were saying about not just relying on test scores. However, the progress students are making will still have to be measured in some way, yes? It seems to me that the alternatives would be either another system with some kind of objective criteria (in which information would have to be collected and analyzed by someone on a pretty large scale and presumably at some expense); or else a subjective system in which someone (principals?) would reward the teachers they believe are having the best results. My concern in that scenario is that it would squash open dialogue and challenges about educational approaches. In my building I frequently speak up and question our teaching philosophy, our interpretation of data, the efficacy of what we are doing, etc… If as a teacher, I know that my principal (I am speaking generically here, not about a specific administrator) favors a particular approach, and that my support of that approach is going to do more for my pay than my questioning of it, will I be more hesitant to question? Even if I, personally, am not, will other teachers hesitate to question? I believe that schools in which rigorous discussions occur are stronger than those in which teachers are silent. There have been many different educational approaches discussed in this forum, some favorably, some not so much. Those same discussions have to occur within our schools if we are going to be reflective, competent, improving teachers. I also find that there are times when the teachers who “look good” in front of their administrators leave something to be desired in their classrooms, and where very strong and effective teachers are overlooked. Having team taught in a variety of classrooms I have been surprised more than once (although fortunately not often) by the disconnect between what someone thinks is occurring and what is actually occurring. Principals are stretched pretty thin. They rarely have the time to sit for extended periods (over the course of a year) in each classroom. In either case (expensive, objective criteria or less expensive, subjective criteria) I worry that the impact is more negative than positive. I should probably add at this point that I am speaking as someone certified in a high demand field and working at a school that (by Madison standards) has a challenging population.
    Do you envision an approach in which teachers are objectively recognized for their accomplishments without adding a significant expense administering that system? How would you see it working?

  8. Teacher L:
    Your last question is certainly one of the most problematic, in my view, with regards to differentiated pay scales. In all probability, you’d likely have to have some sort of pronounced increase in administrative oversight to do it well. (It’s obviously much more difficult in schools than in Company Y which sells widgets, and gives bonuses to Jane Doe who sells $1 million worth of widgets a year, as opposed to John Doe who sells half-a-million and gets only a commission. I really don’t abide by the notion that schools ought to be run like businesses.)
    Teachers are evaluated, annually, in many districts, and particularly so for probabtionary teachers, where it’s been my impression that they are closely scrutinized and evaluated, largely for the purpose of determinining whether they will attain tenure status. So, it is done in many districts. But, probationary teachers represent only a small percentage of a school’s faculty, and you’d probably have to have similar levels of scrutiny/oversight to establish a reliable and trustworthy (by both sides) differentiated pay system. I could envision something like a “wage council,” comprised of both administrators and teachers (esp. including non-building administrators, evenly divided in numbers between administrators and teachers) who might do the oversight, and make recommendations on pay increases/bonuses/the like. Differentiated pay scales might struggle with evaluating teachers in fields such as music, physical eduation, and certain special education areas (cognitively disabled, e.g.), where it’s hard to “measure” student progress because of the lack of standardized testing for their students. And I do struggle with the notion of relying just on assessments in a few areas to create pay differentials. I’ve known plenty of teachers who might not do a great job in getting their students to take tests well, but serve as solid role models, take leadership roles in clubs and activities (some of which are more important to student success than anything that goes on in the classroom), and contribute to the overall success of a school. We ought to have a place for folks like that in our schools.
    My thread on this issue is somewhat bifurcated (but related) — differing entry-level wage scales for teachers, based on some sort of demand model, AND a differential pay scale (bonuses, bumps in pay, steps up the scale) based on some kind of recognition of student performance. I do see a pretty immediate need for the former — I think schools are losing out on potentially hundreds? thousands? more? good teachers because districts treat the entry-level wage of a 4th grade teacher the same way they treat the wage of a high school math teacher. (And I agree totally with your view that teaching is more than just content; teaching strikes me as incredibly complicated, requiring a range of skills that must be taught/learned in someway, and one that demands a desire to reach students and not just teach subjects.) I think there is a whole subset of potentially great teachers out there that we (public education) lose out on, right from the start, when 18-20 year-olds start thinking of career choices, because of entry-level wage concerns. That’s true of teaching in general, yes, but I’d argue it’s especially true in areas such as math and science, where job opportunities beyond public education are there in abundance. I don’t have any doubt that there are a bunch of great civil engineers out there, who just love building bridges and designing cool buildings, who would love just as much to be sitting in front of a group of high school kids teaching, and don’t, largely because of wage concerns. One of the earlier posters talked about how teachers seem to be “blamed” for a lot of what is viewed as the shortcomings of public education, and I think she’s on to something. I do worry about the attractiveness of teaching as a profession, and think the time has come for some recognition of the difficulty in attracting the very best and brightest yound students to our schools as teachers.
    Differentiated pay scales, with some sort of recognition related to student performance, is a much stickier widget. I do know of experiments/pilots going on in places like Denver, Houston, Cincinnati and Minnesota. I think many of them are too new, or just getting off the ground, to develop a sense of how they are working, and their successes/pitfalls. I’m most interested in the ones taking place in Minnesota — a state very much like ours, when it comes to demographics, public education, and parental/community expectations.
    I note with interest that one of (if not THE) leading experts on differentiated pay systems for public K-12 education works about five blocks from MMSD’s Doyle Administration Building. He’s behind many of the pilot projects going on nationally; I wish he’d get more attention in Wisconsin.

  9. Well Phil,
    I think you’ve sold me on the idea of using some incentives to attract teachers to the field. I’m not sure I agree with you as to which jobs are harder, but that’s another discussion 🙂
    There was a short piece in the Parade Magazine insert (Sunday, WI state Journal) about some districts that have succeeded in turning their performance around. One did use incentive pay as one of its tools.
    It’s still hard for me to imagine feeling good about incentive pay. I don’t think that our students gain by having teachers in competition with each other (in my building we share ideas freely with one another–in competitive systems people have a greater tendency to guard their “tricks of the trade”) and I can’t support diverting the amount of resources it would take to administer a fair system. Mostly, I continue to believe that the difference between excellence and basic competence is related to factors that incentive pay won’t impact. I’m all for increasing the presence of excellence, but would put my money into interventions that are more likely to produce it.
    Who knows, if you get your way on differing entry level wages, and I get my way on more rigorous supervision/evaluation in the certification process, perhaps we will produce a system with excellence from the get-go 🙂 For my part, I’m waiting for someone to develop those summer certification institutes for adding certifications. I do know good teachers who leave the field just needing a change of focus/new challenge.

  10. Maybe we should (together) lobby the dean of the UW-Madison School of Education to initiate the summer certification idea. The mid-career issue is a real challenging one (folks looking to get into teaching from other professions, teachers looking for a new direction), but one that seems doable without a lot of/as much of the (surely to develop) politics surrounding the pay issues.
    I don’t necessarily view certain fields in the teaching profession as harder, in terms of the effort/skills/knowledge needed. All of teaching strikes me as hard and challenging, and it’s been my impression that certain kinds of individuals gravitate to certain positions (working with elementary children, holding fort over middle schoolers, teaching advanced math and science) because of their own interests and own skill sets. (Some of the most gifted high school teachers I know strike me as not necessarily having the same set of skills/approaches/techniques as some of the most gifted elementary teachers I know.)
    But I do think certain teaching fields currently — generally, math and science at the middle/high school levels, special education broadly, and some specialized areas such as ESL — don’t have the depth of quality of candidates entering the profession as you might find, generally, for elementary education, or high school English. Some of those — you highlighted special education, and my sense is that you’re probably correct about the challenges there — may simply be “wage-resistant” in terms of a school’s ability to attract and keep good folks. But others, math and science in particular, strike me as wage-sensitive, most critically at the entry level.
    You raise many good points about the incentives of pay, and the impact on student performance, and the competition that might ensue among teachers. I tend to view it more as a glass half-full scenario, where teachers excelling at obtaining top-tier student performance (backed by administrators willing to finance release time, workshops and the like) share their insights/techniques/methods with their school, district and broader education communities. Those efforts are duplicated, year after year, and the entire school/district/system is oriented toward continually seeking top-notch performance among students. (I suppose you could argue that happens now anyway, but my sense is that true excellence and innovation in teaching is rather piece-meal and not as widely shared as perhaps it ought to be.) The administrative oversight — time and effort and money — is a legitimate concern.
    Anyway, it’s been a good discussion. If you’re headed back to the classroom in a few days, good luck and do well. Your students are fortunate to have such an engaged individual in front of them.

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