Teachers being shown 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.