Monday, February 14, 2005

Quincy's Teacher Pay Proposal

I've blogged some on the subject of merit pay, here and here. Now, I've decided to lay out my proposal for structuring teacher pay.

The first issue is that must be addressed in structuring teacher pay is what qualities are desirable for teachers upon upon hiring. Here is my list:

  • Subject Knowledge: A teacher should be well versed in the subject(s) he teaches. For example, a music teacher should know theory, musical forms, orchestration, composition techniques, music history, period practices, and ethnic practices, as well as the standard repertoire for various ensembles. (Weight: 25%)
  • Subject Skills: In addition to having knowledge about the subject(s) one is teaching, a teacher should be well verse in the skills used in the subject he teaches. For example, a science teacher should know how to set up experiments with only one variable. A music teacher should be an able musician and conductor. (If I use music teachers as an example a lot, it's because I'm a musician.) (Weight: 20%)
  • Teaching Skills: Teachers should know how to create clear, logical, and explicit lessons for the subject(s) they teach. Teachers who will be teaching reading should know what the skills of reading are and how to teach them so that they will be grasped by all their students. (Weight: 20%)
  • Assessment Skills: The ability to test, formally and informally, what students have learned is vital to properly pace instruction. If a math class has not mastered multiplication and subtraction, moving on to long division will leave the class behind. (Weight: 10%)
  • Experience: A teacher who has the above knowledge and skills will get better as they gain more experience. The time a teacher has been teaching should be taken into account in when structuring pay. (Weight: 15%)
  • Classroom Demeanor: A teacher should treat his students with dignity and respect. This includes letting students know when they've done well and when they've done poorly and doing so in an honest, even-handed manner. A teacher should not favor or discriminate against students. A teacher should also remain calm and composed when running his classes. (Weight: 10%)
The items above are the criteria that should be used to determine a teacher's starting pay upon hire. The principal should have the power to make an offer to a prospective teachers based on the above criteria. The applicant should have the power to decline an offer if he believes he's worth more. Basically, teachers should be hired as professionals, with starting pay as the result of a negotiation and not of a formula.

The weights attached to each item are my recommendation about how the above factors should be taken into account for a normal school. An music magnet may weigh music knowledge and skills much more heavily than a normal school when hiring a choir director. Likewise, a charter focusing on troubled students may weigh classroom demeanor and experience more heavily than a normal school would.

The next issue to be dealt with is what areas should be accounted for when determining how well a teacher has performed his job. Here is my list:
  • Academic Advancement: How much have students advanced in the subjects that the teacher has taught? Ways of judging this include test scores from the beginning and end of the school year and work samples from the beginning and end of the school year.
  • Academic Rigor: Is the teacher assigning work of appropriate difficulty? This can be evaulated by periodically examining assignments given by the teacher.
  • Grading Practices: Do the grades given by a teacher match the level of achievement demonstrated by students? This can be evaluated by periodically examining samples of student work that have been graded.
  • Classroom Order: Does the teacher maintain an orderly classroom and hold students accountable for their actions? Are the teacher's discipline policies (and their enforcement) reasonable? This should be evaluated through peer or administrative observations.
  • Classroom Demeanor: This remains important once the teacher has been hired, and should be evaluated through periodic peer or administrative observations along with parental and student feedback.
  • Collegiality: While this does not have any bearing on classroom performance, a teacher who can get along with the other faculty is an asset to the school as a whole, while a teacher who causes conflict on the faculty is a liability. This should factor into a teacher's worth to the school.
The basic pay raise should be either indexed to inflation or fixed by contract upon hire. The above criteria should be used to determine whether a teacher deserves more or less of a raise. The principal should have discretion over which of the above criteria take priority, since different schools may have different missions.

The big point of this is that teacher pay should be determined at the school level, not by statewide formulae. Each school is different, and the school's leadership is in the best position to determine what a teacher is worth to the school. This is far better than the current system where the state dictates that all teachers who've spent X years in the classroom are worth the same thing.

This would also give schools an alternative way to get rid of teachers who are doing poorly. If a teacher did not recieve a raise, or had his pay cut, it would be a message that the school did not want him and that he should quit.

In addition to this new pay structure, the state should offer bonuses of $500-$1,000 per year to each teacher whose students do well on state tests.

TOPIC: Education