Thursday, December 08, 2011

Setting a Higher Standard for Teacher Entry While Paying Less

Iowa Foreshadows Kentucky's Plan

20%, including minority candidates, likely to be turned away
from Teacher Education Programs

In the not-too-distant future teacher education candidates in Kentucky will be required to have a 3.0 GPA for admission to teacher education programs. What is the potential impact on the teaching force? Will the field of education be able to attract the brightest and best when the competition for salaries is still being won by private industry?

As Nicholas Kristof argued in the New York Times earlier this year, the idea the teachers are overpaid is a "pernicious fallacy."
Until a few decades ago, employment discrimination perversely strengthened our teaching force. Brilliant women became elementary school teachers, because better jobs weren’t open to them. It was profoundly unfair, but the discrimination did benefit America’s children.

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.”

Changes in relative pay have reinforced the problem. In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.
This from State EdWatch:
Securing a place in the teaching profession will become a bit tougher in Iowa, if Gov. Terry Branstad and the state's school chief, Jason Glass, have their way.

Branstad, a Republican, has proposed requiring a minimum 3.0 grade-point average for admission to teacher-education colleges in the state, as part of a package of proposed changes to school policy unveiled earlier this year, many of which would require legislative approval.

He's also called for creating a more rigorous screening process for candidates for teacher education programs; establishing new teacher-education scholarships with the goal of luring more educators into high-need subjects; requiring teachers to take more subject-specific coursework and classes in core academic subjects; and placing more of an emphasis on in-class training for aspiring teachers, and giving them access to mentors, among other changes. Selective admissions requirements for aspiring educators—coupled with ongoing training and support—is a staple of some high-performing countries' systems, as Ed Week has reported.

The governor has also called for overhauling the compensation system for educators more broadly, and raising starting teacher pay—though he recently said he wants to hold off on trying to get that piece through the legislature, as he seeks to build support for the plan.

This week the Des Moines Register takes an interesting look at the implications of the minimum GPA requirement.

By the newspaper's analysis, one of five teachers would have been turned away last year at teachers' colleges in the state, had the requirement been in effect. The Register was able to obtain information on applicants from three public university programs, though the vast majority of private institutions refused to provide it.

Critics of Branstad's proposal say it would exclude teacher-candidates who may have struggled as undergraduates but could still be effective teachers; others wonder if it will exclude a higher number of minority candidates, the paper noted.
Kristof concludes,
Starting teacher pay, which now averages $39,000, would have to rise to $65,000 to fill most new teaching positions in high-needs schools with graduates from the top third of their classes, the McKinsey study found. That would be a bargain.

Indeed, it makes sense to cut corners elsewhere to boost teacher salaries. Research suggests that students would benefit from a tradeoff of better teachers but worse teacher-student ratios. Thus there are growing calls for a Japanese model of larger classes, but with outstanding, respected, well-paid teachers.

Teaching is unusual among the professions in that it pays poorly but has strong union protections and lockstep wage increases. It’s a factory model of compensation, and critics are right to fault it. But the bottom line is that we should pay teachers more, not less — and that politicians who falsely lambaste teachers as greedy are simply making it more difficult to attract the kind of above-average teachers our above-average children deserve.


Joseph Carriero said...

There were many interesting aspects of this article, but the main focus is on how to get highly qualified students into the teacher program. Teachers do not make enough money to drive students out of other fields, and the prevailing thought is that our children will suffer because of it. 47% of teachers were from the bottom of their class. That is inexcusable. Teacher salary cuts are not going to strengthen the profession by any degree. Hopefully there will be future incentive for students wanting to become teachers.

Anonymous said...

As the McKinsey report shows, attracting the best candidates is about more than money. Schools have to be places where the best and the brightest want to work. What do those schools look like? And by the best and the brightest, I mean more than what can be seen from grades and test scores alone. The criteria for more competitive entry standards into education schools should include evidence that candidates value children and have the character traits necessary to be effective in teaching them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with previous responder. I can help teacher's grow stonger in content and pedaogy but I can help them if they don't have the right disposition. That can't be taught or measured by a GPA or SAT score.
Seems like Iowa's governor is putting the cart before the horse in raising standards without raising compensation. I drive to the store that has the product on sale, not drive to the store may or may not have the product on sale today or ...?
It is not just a pay issue either, it is work conditions and public perception. If you want to talke about teachers acting like professionals, then you have to create working conditions which support that expectation, not treat them like hourly workers that punch time cards to prove they were at work. Equally, we have saddled the profession of teaching with being responsible with every social short coming from childhood obesity to global economic failure. Why would an academically strong student elect to go into a field which is percieved as failing, where conditions don't sufficiently support the goals of the position and you are undercompensated while spending multiple hours outside the work place completing work related tasks. Basically you want a professional to be a savior but treat them like a factory worker.

Aaron Hall said...

While I do agree with what everyone is saying, it's important to have a balance with this type of work and compensation. Being a teacher is not something everyone can do; it takes a special heart...a heart that is not driven by the compensation of money, but by the compensation of a full heart. Too much compensation might lead to people wanting to be teachers merely for that. Right now, anyone who goes into the teaching field realizes that the pay isn't great, but generally has a different goal altogether. We all are discussing how teachers need this and there aren't qualified teachers..but what are we doing? We're going to be teachers despite the obvious problems. We see the problems, yet realize that there is something more important than that. Those are the kind of people we need.

Kayla Henson said...

I agree with the comments above. I feel that teaching is a special gift and not everyone is given the ability to teach effectively. Because of this, the salary is not going to be the main reason a student decides to major in education. It is more about passion for teaching than the money received from working. Teaching is a career that is extremely important in our society, but it is unfair to set standards for the education departments that are exceptionally high and difficult for some college students to reach in undergraduate work. Teachers should be hired based upon being well-rounded individuals that are able to manage a classroom and provide knowledge to the students they teach about the particular subject as well as how to solve "real world" problems. GPA and test scores are not relevant to the ability of a person to teach in my opinion.
I also think a salary increase to draw the higher tier of college students into an education major is unfair. Shouldn't current teachers be paid more for the outstanding job they are doing in the classroom today, instead of drawing students that may not be cut out for teaching into the field just because of their higher GPA and test scores?

Richard Day said...

December 8, 2011 10:40 PM: As another commenter indicated, we do look at what we call our candidates' dispositions. Candidates who present attitudes that are inconsistent with the ability to be effective with all kinds of students are typically counseled out of the program.

December 12, 2011 1:26 PM: Agreed. Perhaps the worst thing about high-stakes assessment is its tendency to discount teachers and turn them into cogs. In much the same way that teachers are presently being unfairly evaluated [mostly in other states], and muscled into quick fix schemes, there is now talk of "compounding the felony" and evaluating university faculty according to the test scores of their student's students - grandstudents, if you will. As a principal, I never gave two hoots about anything my teachers' college professors said when it came to implementing our programs. And holding them responsible (or giving them credit) for our progress would have never crossed my mind. Now it would seem that some would have professors become cogs.

Anonymous said...

Yes I have heard of proposals to try to assign Colleges of Education rating based upon teacher performance (?) within a school based upon the percentage of alumni from that university.

Might I suggest that they go back even farther and see what primary and secondary school the new teacher attended and then assign yet another score to that public school as yet another element in this measurement gone made environment we are existing. As they say - not all measurements are important and not all important elements are measurable.