Higher Pay for High-Needs Subjects?

A report issued recently by the Business – Higher Education Forum asserts that we can increase the number of US college graduates in math and science by increasing the number of qualified teachers in those fields. However, these are among the most difficult teaching positions to fill, creating a catch-22:

To make teaching a viable career choice, the report proposed a package of financial incentives, including scholarships, signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, housing subsidies and differential pay to teachers who work in high-demand subjects or those willing to work in high-poverty school systems, where shortages are being felt most acutely. link

Differential pay, except on the basis of credentials and experience, is of course a topic of constant controversy. It would not be fair, certainly, to lock in science teachers at a permanently higher rate of pay simply because they are in short supply. However, signing bonuses are a practical way of addressing the real market forces that drive people who would otherwise choose K-12 education into other professions. These signing bonuses can be renewed each year as long as there is a shortage.

Public-sector employment policy often suffers from an inability to respond to market realities. If we set as fixed the qualifications required for a certain job, we will have to vary the salary of this job in order to attract qualified candidates, who can and will pursue private-sector work if the pay is higher. If instead we fix the salary at a level that isn’t competitive with private-sector employment, the qualifications will have to be flexible, based on the applicant pool. When there is a shortage of qualified applicants, this policy leads to a lower-quality workforce in education, higher rates of exodus to the private sector, and a stronger perception that teaching is merely “something to fall back on.”

In related news, A June 21 panel informed congress of the causes of this problem, and outlined potential solutions:

Shortages of well-trained math and science teachers create a domino effect of problems across the United States, said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Education.

Because math and science often are not taught well, the nation’s schools are producing math-phobic citizens who increasingly are unprepared to pursue higher level math and science instruction in college, Darling-Hammond said. As a result, she said, there are far too few majors in those fields in college, which means schools are competing with the private sector for fewer college graduates with a math or science degree. And because teachers earn much less on average than programmers or engineers, graduates often opt for the higher-paying jobs.

“There isn’t a shortage of teachers in this country; there’s a shortage of people who are willing to work for too little salary and in poor working conditions,” Darling-Hammond said.

“We must ask ourselves why we have these recurring problems, and why other nations with whom we compete do not,” she added. “What do other nations do, and what would it take to create a foundation for excellence in mathematics, science, and technology education here?”

Darling-Hammond said high-achieving countries that rarely experience teacher shortages–such as Finland, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Germany–have made substantial investments in teacher training and equitable teacher distribution in the last two decades. link

The panel pointed out, though, that salary and working conditions are not the only opportunities to recruit more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teachers:

College graduates in the STEM disciplines might not even consider teaching a possibility unless it is brought to their attention, said Valdine McLean, a science teacher at Pershing County High School in Nevada, who said she majored in biology in college and never thought of teaching until she took a career placement exam that displayed “science teacher” at the top of the list. link

The article goes on to point out the importance of retention as well as recruiting. This brings us back to the importance signing bonuses, including those offered on a recurring basis.

Will teachers in low-shortage fields such as language arts and social studies be happy with signing bonuses and other incentives for STEM teachers? Probably not, but it may be time to challenge the longstanding assumption that experience and education are the only valid bases for differential pay.

Retaining High-Promise, High-Ability Young Teachers

In order to retain the most talented and promising new teachers, Michael Fullan (Change Forces, 1993, p. 58-59) indicates that we need to understand what talented young teachers value:

  • Job security is less important than growth opportunities, leadership opportunities, and a focus on student outcomes
  • The relatively low status of teachers in our society is a source of dissatisfaction for promising teachers
  • Work structures, incentives, teaching and learning, and performance outcomes must be tightly linked.
  • High-ability teachers see their career options as more open-ended, and do not see themselves as being locked in to their current roles. They are committed to making a difference, but only if the school is structured in a way that makes this feasible.

The theme of challenge and performance is a thread in all six findings of Hart and Murphy (1990), whom Fullan cites as his source. The most talented young teachers have to choose between teaching and other professions, and usually teaching is not the highest-paying option. Therefore, the opportunities for growth and recognized achievement, measurable through student outcomes, are important motivators for promising new teachers.

Career mobility is also much higher now than it was when veteran teachers entered the workforce, so new teachers often do not plan to spend their entire working lives in one career field. The pay ladder, wherein teachers earn more as they accrue years of experience, does not present a compelling future for talented young professionals.

Harry Wong says “You can have any job in education in three to five years, with a raise in salary of 25 percent or more” (First Days of School, 2004, p. 25). While this may not be completely accurate, as a 27-year-old is not likely to be appointed superintendent, it is critical for young professionals to have a clear sense of the prospects for career advancement within education. Their friends from college who now work in the business world have opportunities for advancement, and in some cases an entry-level employee in the corporate world earns more than a teacher with six years of experience.

New teachers who are well-rounded, having the skills to compete in a variety of fields, no longer see education as their only career option. However, many in the corporate world appreciate the “giving back” feeling that being an educator provides, and find no meaning in merely working for money. Teaching certainly has something to offer talented young professionals.

For men in particular, issues of status, leadership, and growth are critical. If they do not have room to pursue these drives as educators, they will leave education in search of an outlet for their ambition.

Seattle Public Schools Launches Program to Recruit Teachers of Color

Seattle Public Schools, the largest district in Washington, has announced its “class-to-cert” program, in partnership with City University.

The program aims to increase the number of teachers of color by recruiting instructional assistants to be special education teachers. Since instructional assistants are usually members of the local community, this initiative promises to make the teaching workforce more reflective of the diverse student population in the city.

Here is the press release in its entirety:

SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO INCREASE DIVERSITY AMONG TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOM
School District Partners With Professional Educators Standards Board,
Seattle Education Association, and City University

SEATTLE – Over 100 different languages are spoken in Seattle Public Schools, and 24 percent of the district’s 46,000 students are bilingual speakers. To meet the increasing need for bilingual teachers in both general and special education classes, Seattle Public Schools has partnered with the state’s Professional Educator Standards Board, the Seattle Education Association and City University to provide a dual certification program for the district’s paraprofessionals.

Through the program, which was designed by City University under the guidelines of the Washington State Alternative Routes Program, paraprofessionals can obtain their BA in education with endorsements in K-8 Elementary and K-12 Special Education.

This fall, 21 Seattle Public Schools’ paraprofessionals began a two-year degree program through City University that is expressly designed for them. Half of the cohort is comprised of experienced special education paraprofessionals while the other half works in bilingual programs — both areas that the Professional Educator Standards Board, or PESB, identified as needing more teachers. The PESB is administrating funding for alternative routes to teacher certification in Washington.

“Committed, highly qualified teachers will go into Seattle schools as a result of this partnership,” said Dr. Margaret Davis, Dean of City University’s Albright School of Education. “City University is gratified by the quality and diversity of the candidates, because this program is a major step in meeting our goal of providing teachers who reflect the students they will serve.

“Children deserve teachers who look like themselves and who understand the barriers of learning in a second language,” Davis continued. “Moreover, this partnership fulfills the mission of City University, which is making quality higher education available to those for whom access is difficult. This four-way collaboration with the district, the state and the education union is particularly meaningful. It will change lives of the candidates and their students.”

Each year, Seattle Public Schools has openings for trained professionals in 50-75 special education classes, and the district’s human resources department struggles to fill each position with qualified candidates. Through the first City University cohort of the Washington State Alternative Routes Program, Seattle Public Schools would gain 21 new special education teachers, many who have years of experience working in special education as paraeducators.

“I am so pleased that we are partnering with these high-quality organizations on such a worthwhile goal – investing in our people, who are in turn investing their talent and caring by working with children the classroom,” said Superintendent Raj Manhas. “Helping these employees earn their teaching certificates is a benefit to all involved, and the district couldn’t have done it without the collaborative efforts of these organizations.” The alternative routes program provides the district with a pool of bilingual paraeducators that will be better able to understand the challenges bilingual students face each day, Manhas added.

“It is critical that very intentional steps be taken to increase the diversity of the teacher work force to better match the diversity of the students in districts where they work,” stated Dr. Lin Douglas, PESB Director of Alternative Route Programs. “This partnership represents an important step in developing locally responsive pathways by which paraprofessionals can achieve teacher certification. The Legislature is commended for its continued support of alternative route to teacher certification programs ensuring that programs like this can be sustained and expanded to other regions of the state.”

According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or OSPI, the percentage of students in special education classes statewide has risen every year since 2001. Currently, 12.4 percent of the state’s K-12 students are in special education programs, and the number is even higher – 13.7 percent – at Seattle Public Schools. In addition, 11.5 percent of the Seattle Schools’ student population is considered transitional bilingual. OSPI also notes that special education continues to show a substantial shortage of teachers, and concerted efforts are needed to meet a growing demand.

“The SEA membership believes in closing the academic achievement gap and that having classroom teachers that reflect our student population will help in accomplishing that goal,” comments Wendy Kimball, President of SEA. “Support for paraprofessionals and secretaries/office personnel is critical given the difficulty of going back to school to earn a teaching certificate and working full time.” Kimball continues, “SEA is committed to supporting staff with the resources of time and money so they can earn a certificate. The funding for this program came from reallocating money during the 2004-2009 contract bargaining from the sabbatical funds and a settlement agreement.”

Paraprofessionals who successfully complete the program will be placed in the displacement pool and will be able to apply for any Seattle Public Schools position that they are qualified to teach. Successful candidates will have a three-year commitment with the district.

About Seattle Public Schools
Seattle Public Schools serves 45,800 students in a dynamic, standards-based learning community of 97 schools citywide. SPS offers a broad range of programs and learning opportunities, enhanced by strong support from parents, volunteers, and community members. Seattle Public Schools is the largest public school system in Washington, and the 44th largest in the United States.

About PESB
As a public board created by the Legislature with members appointed by the Governor, the Professional Educator Standards Board sets and upholds high standards for the profession, ensuring that students encounter high-quality educators throughout their school experience. The scope of the work of the PESB covers every aspect of the profession – policies and requirements related to preparation, certification, assignment, and continuing education of certified educators.

About SEA
The Seattle Education Association is an educational union that represents 5,500 employees, which include certificated staff, paraprofessionals, and secretary and office personnel. SEA is affiliated with the Washington Education Association and the National Education Association.

About City University
Founded in 1973 in Seattle, Wash., City University is a private, not-for-profit university with over 41,000 alumni worldwide. City University’s goal is to change lives for good by offering high quality and relevant online and in-class education options to any person in the world with a desire to achieve. The university is comprised of three schools: The School of Management, The Gordon Albright School of Education, and The School of Arts and Sciences. Headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, City University offers classes at locations throughout Washington, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and China.

Recruiting Teachers In High Schools

Prince William County, VA is partnering with several universities to recruit students of color into the teaching workforce. The program seems well-funded enough to provide realistic incentives and supports to students:

Once the students are accepted, the nonprofit organization, Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers, will link them with paid mentoring teachers in their schools, place them in SAT preparation courses and help them apply to a select group of colleges that promise to reduce the students’ tuition by at least 50 percent.

Students would apply by writing essays about why they want to be teachers, and they must maintain a B average and have a good record of class attendance. Having some minority or ethnic background is required.

After being admitted, participants would shadow a teacher and be required to tutor other students for at least two hours a week, for which they would be paid $10 an hour. The mentoring teachers would receive a stipend of about $1,000.

Students also would get SAT preparation training in a six-week course conducted by Kaplan Inc., which is owned by The Washington Post Co.

Read the whole article from the Washington Post

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