Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Is equal ever equal?

Here's an idea.  I don't even know if I agree with it, but it's been on my mind the past few days...

I interviewed at a smaller district a few years back and at the end of the interview, I was told that they wanted a commitment from me.  They didn't want me to use their district as a "stepping stone" to get into a larger, better paying district in the area.  Small schools are constantly dealing with a revolving door of new teachers who start there and then move on to greener pastures with better pay. 

What if all schools had the same pay scale? 

State-wide?  Nation-wide?  I know cost of living differs in areas, so maybe nation-wide is a stretch.  What are your thoughts?  I'm not sure what mine are...


  1. First off, I think they were being unfair to you. If they are having issues keeping teachers, they have a problem and my bet is that it's not the pay scale. Most teachers don't do it for the money and will gladly trade higher pay for a better "quality of life." In fact there has been more than one survey indicating that pay ranks relatively low as to what brings about job satisfaction for the average teacher. Seems to me they might be making a major assumption in thinking pay was the reason people were leaving.

    But alas, I haven't answered your question. If all schools had the same pay scale, I don't think the change would be nearly as drastic as one might think, but it would certainly make the other job satisfaction issues much more looming.

  2. I think a standardized pay scale is a horrible idea. I think it is horrible even in the same district or school. How's that for answering your question?

    Why? Teachers don't all the same work ethic, results or effectiveness. I'm not going to get into the results piece though, that's a different argument about testing.

    My school is a Q-Comp school, specifically, we use the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). I'm evaluated informally several times a month and given feedback on my teaching in several areas. I'm evaluated three or four times a year formally using the TAP rubric by a TAP mentor and my principals.

    My scores the first year of evaluations averaged 3.2 out of 5. The second year, 3.4. This year, my average is close to 4.0 (still have one evaluation left).

    (3 is proficient, 5 is exemplary)

    I know that my scores are not the highest in my school or district. I also know that they are no where near the lowest.

    Generally speaking, I feel that these scores represent accurately the teaching ability of the teachers. It's a fair rubric, the mentors & principals are extensively trained and they know good teaching.

    I don't feel that I should be compensated the same as a teacher who has a higher or lower average.

    Okay, so let me answer your question: perhaps a universal pay scale, adjusted for cost of living, would work as a starting point. However, teachers need to be evaluated and that needs to adjust compensation for those high quality teachers.

    *Wow, it's only 6:45 in the morning and I put together a coherent comment. Must be passion.

  3. Teachers in the province of Saskatchewan bargain provincially and are paid on a grid regardless of location or position. Years of experience and qualifications are the only factors. Administrative allowances are consistent as well. I think that a good thing. So many factors effect job satisfaction and performance. I would be interested in seeing the criteria Knaus referred to above.

  4. Phillip-Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that other factors in a school weigh in to a decision to work there, but I've also seen great teachers leave a great place with money as a driving factor. Maybe money driven teachers aren't the teachers a district wants anyway?

    Knaus-Your district has an interesting evaluation technique. Would you agree with a standardized pay scale if it went along with your evaluation? Say, a teacher in district A with a score of 3.5 got paid the same as a teaching in district B with a 3.5 as well?

    Alan- That is neat that Saskatchewan already does this. Some Canadians seem like they enjoy equality for all by your example and your health care system.

  5. I think state-wide would be fair.

  6. I believe South Carolina has a statewide salary schedule, but I'm not sure if there are adjustments in it for cost of living.

    A universal pay scale may not be the solution, but I can tell you understand the crux of the problem. I see it as a "paper-rock-scissors" situation. A less affluent school pays teachers less, but typically has more students with greater needs. Wealthy districts pay teachers more and have fewer needy students. So why not just swap the salary schedules? Why not pay more for teachers in less affluent districts and less for teachers in wealthy districts? You wouldn't because this goes against the cost of living situations in those districts. Cost of living is also what drives the composition of low-SES vs. high-SES students in those less-affluent and wealthy districts. No matter which area you try to fix, it causes problems in another.

    Let me know when you get this figured out. I know a few education policymakers who might be interested. ;)