Teachers being shown the money

June 26, 2008 at 12:00 am 3 comments

Show me the money

“Oh, that is so wonderful! I wish I could do something like that. But… you know.”

“You are such a good person!”

“Those that can’t do, teach.”

“I always wanted to be a teacher. But I also want a certain amount of financial security as I raise my family and build my home.”

Public perception of public school teachers is streaked with an odd mix of admiration, pity, patronization, and guilt. Some people think that those that enter the teaching profession are missionaries or martyrs, sacrificing their own financial self-interest for the sake of others. (Some teachers are guilty of believing this, too.) And because everyone has sat at a desk in a classroom managed by a teacher in a school, a lot of us think we know what it’s like to work in education and (wrongly!) believe we know what it’s like to be a teacher.

Does the salary of a public school teacher contribute to this conception of life as a professional educator? In our society, the esteem of certain jobs is positively correlated with the earnings-potential of that profession.

Would more of the most ambitious and accomplished among us seek a career in teaching if the compensation package was competitive with the salaries offered in the fields of law, medicine, and business?

Would a higher salary attract better qualified, able, and effective teachers?

The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School in New York City thinks that the answer to these three questions is, Yes! And they are doing something about it.

Starting salary for public school teachers at TEP: $125,000 a year, with bonuses approaching another $25,000.

The TEP philosophy is based on research that reveals,”Teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in the academic success of students, particularly those from low-income families.” [Source: Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony, “Teacher Quality and Student Achievement,” ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Urban Diversity Series No. 115, May 2003: 1]

And their premise is that you have to pay to get good people. So pay they do.

It’s a radical — even revolutionary — experiment, one that I am eager from which to learn the results.

When I look back on my own student life, it was never the content, the format, the curriculum, nor class size that determined how much I engaged with my peers and the material. It was the teacher!

Some of my most important learned lessons — some of my best “life” classes — did not take place in the classroom at all, but in conversations that unraveled over the dinner table, while watching a baseball game, on a road trip, in a dorm room, on the phone, and via email. I am fortunate to be surrounded by friends, family members, and peers who are passionate about discovering and communicating ideas. Sometimes I ask them point blank, because it would be a magical, wonderful site, if they would ever teach. Most say they would like to, used to want to, will when they retire… When the concept of money didn’t matter, when they can dream that money doesn’t matter, when money won’t matter. Then they will teach.

Or, offers The Equity Project Charter School, you can teach now. Because right now, money does matter.

To learn more about the philosophy of TEP and their teacher recruitment efforts, peruse the The Equity Project website.

Play, think…
J.R. Atwood


Entry filed under: etc, think. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rory @ parentalcation  |  July 3, 2008 at 6:56 am

    How does TED ensure they are really choosing the best teachers? There are very few value added systems out there to get reliable information, so I imagine that they will probably end up making subjective judgements, or just choosing teachers that have had the fortune to teach in affluent upper middle class schools.

  • 2. J.R. Atwood  |  July 6, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Hi Rory,

    In response to your question, and from The Equity Project Charter School’s Website at http://www.tepcharter.org/rigorous-qualifications.php

    Rigorous Qualifications
    Meta-analyses of studies of teacher characteristics show that while the effects of some teacher characteristics (e.g. degree level, teacher preparation, teacher certification) on student achievement are inconclusive, other characteristics such as teacher academic proficiency [i], teacher verbal ability [ii], and teacher content-area knowledge [iii] are strongly related to improving student achievement. In addition, a certain threshold of teaching experience has been shown to have important positive effects on student achievement, since teachers tend to improve dramatically in their first few years in the classroom. [iv]

    Using this research on highly-effective teachers, TEP has developed 8 requirements that its teachers must meet in order to demonstrate their qualifications in 4 major areas. The 4 areas are:

    (1) Expert Subject-Area Knowledge demonstrated through
    (a) a 90% or higher standardized test score in relevant subject area*
    (b) significant undergraduate and/or graduate coursework and excellent grades in relevant subject area

    (2) Outstanding Verbal Ability demonstrated through
    (a) a 90% or higher score in the verbal section of the GRE or GMAT or LSAT*
    (b) two writing samples, one long-form and one-short form

    (3) Teaching Expertise and Experience demonstrated through
    (a) a portfolio of achievement of past students, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data
    (b) three live teaching auditions
    (c) an essay describing personal pedagogical beliefs and approach

    (4) Strong Curriculum Development Ability demonstrated through
    (a) one originally developed and refined curricular tool of any form (e.g. written materials, instructional methodology, technological innovation).

  • 3. Dad  |  August 5, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Hi Jason,

    As always, you’re writings are well thought out, intriguing and oftentimes deep – you’ve got that great gift!



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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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