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How Should Teachers Be Paid?

How Should Teachers Be Paid? Arguments around changes to teacher compensation have been heating up all across the country. In Tennessee, for example, education officials just put a new plan in place that eliminates annual step raises given solely for experience and advanced degrees, asking districts to also consider factors such as test scores and whether a teacher works in a high-needs school. The state's teachers' union has come out firmly against it, saying it could lower teaching requirements and overall teacher pay.

Meanwhile, places like The Equity Project Charter School have experimented with innovative approaches to compensation, including starting teachers’ salaries at $125,000.

How do you think teachers should be compensated? Should "effectiveness," leadership, degrees, and/or years served be part of the equation? If so, how? To what extent is differentiation in teacher pay feasible? How could teacher compensation change to better support student learning?

Creating a Career Ladder for Teachers

Brooke Peters Marsha Ratzel brought up an important point: Teachers need job descriptions that accurately reflect what we are expected to do. I would also add that we need room to grow within our teaching roles and we should be compensated for the additional projects or responsibilities we take on. In order to create differentiation in responsibilities and compensation, some schools, like Denver Green School, have created career-ladder systems for teachers that enable them to remain in the classroom while also exploring projects of interest or responsibilities based on their prior experience. Denver Green School is a teacher-led school that ...


Teacher Benefits Should Be Fair, Not Necessarily Equal

Ryan Prosser Growing up, my identical twin, John, and I shared everything. Even if we only had one M & M left, we'd bite it in half to be equal. Although I was never asked to do so, I like to think I would have done the same for my other brothers, too. John and I took all of our classes together in undergrad, grad school, and law school. We team taught together for two years, and now we work in the same office as instructional facilitators. Fairness is in my blood. Last week, I wrote about the potential to use ...


Brewing Up a Plan for Better Teacher Compensation

Megan M. Allen As I process last week's posts and comments, I get a little adrenaline-filled. Why? Because what's brewing is an outline of how to move forward with teacher compensation. I embrace the fact that I'm a little bit of a Pollyanna, but I see some actionable steps cooking. Here's what I'm thinking: Find the funding as Matthew Holland suggested in his piece and as I heard in a lunch address from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year conference. Duncan's comments? Rethink money allocation ... especially for ...


Detroit: A Teachable Moment on Teacher Compensation

Matthew Holland There have been many ideas floated around about how best to compensate teachers for their work. Some ideas link teacher pay to student performance, some rely on a step scale connected directly to teacher tenure, other ideas are a mixture of both proposals. Regardless of what compensation method you propose, however, the reality is that there must be funding to support such compensation. In today's economy, that funding is shrinking, and cities and towns can no longer hand out the benefits they once promised government employees. Readers need only look at the financial mess facing Detroit for a ...


Making Job Differences Matter in Teacher Pay

Marsha Ratzel Once you have the baseline job description written for each kind of classroom that will be offered in a school, you could then start defining how each one of these categories changes over time. It is simply unrealistic to believe that a first-year teacher's job description should be similar to that of a 20-year veteran. As witnessed in the conversation throughout last week, that may be kind of a controversial statement. But nevertheless it's a topic that more and more teachers are willing to consider. Differentiating teaching positions on the basis of skill levels and experience will certainly "rock...


Before Changing Teacher Pay, Examine Current Ed. Spending

Matthew Holland I'm a teacher. Due to tax increases and increases in health care and retirement costs, I took home less pay this year than I did last year. That is with a step increase in pay. The cost of living, from gas to groceries, has continued its upward climb. Nothing is getting cheaper so this should be a no-brainer, right? Pay me more. Well, not exactly. Before demanding more money for my services, I want to know, and other teachers should ask, "Where is our money already going?" As a nation we spend roughly 7.3 percent of our ...


With Teacher Pay, Context Matters

Brooke Peters Spending time in schools across the country this year as part of The Odyssey Initiative has opened my eyes to some of differences in teaching contexts that exist in our 50 states. We visited schools where teachers have prep time every day and also have adequate time in their workday for professional development and planning meetings. On the other hand, we visited a few very small schools where teachers are with their classes for the entire school day and do not have prep time or planning time during the work day. Many schools have one teacher in each ...


To Fix Teacher Pay, Start With Job Descriptions

Marsha Ratzel Teachers are not the same. No, really. We're not. We should be paid based on the skills, knowledge, and expertise that we bring to the position. While test scores could be one component of the pay equation, there are many more important factors in compensation. Factors that vary by teacher. But before we get into any of that, let's talk about base expectations. What any teacher must be able to know and do. Right now, in many places, the same job description can cover a position teaching math, science, or social studies. As if the content knowledge and ...


Beyond Salary: Innovative Benefits to Attract and Retain Teachers

Ryan Prosser Innovative teacher compensation does not need to be limited to considerations of teacher salary. During the past six months, I took the opportunity to advocate for paid maternity and paternity leave when working with my district's assistant superintendent for human resources, addressing attendees at Tacoma Public School's Innovation Summit, and speaking to the Washington State delegation at the NEA Representative Assembly. To recruit and retain high quality teachers, I argued, districts need to consider making available creative benefits to meet the needs of their current and future workforce. The United States is one of the few United Nations ...


Let's Increase Teacher Base Pay

Megan M. Allen I fell out of my chair this morning. Right there at the breakfast table as I was sipping my morning coffee (and no, my collapse wasn't due to lack of caffeine), my eyes had landed on a blog post going viral among teachers and parents alike, by National Board-certified teacher Erica Speaks of North Carolina. Speaks examined changes in the average public school teacher's salary in each of the 50 states over the past decade. Her beautifully crafted infographic made me sick to my belly. I wasn't queasy because these facts were new—it was just a little...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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  • Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu is vice president of teacher excellence and leadership at Teach For China where she leads teams to train and develop more than 300 fir...

  • David B. Cohen

    David B. Cohen

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    Patrick Ledesma

    Patrick Ledesma is a middle school technology specialist and special education department chair with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. A N...

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    Marilyn Rhames

    Marilyn Rhames is a middle grades teacher at a charter school in Chicago and runs a nonprofit called Teachers Who Pray. Her Ed Week blog called "Ch...

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    Larry Ferlazzo

    An award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., Larry Ferlazzo is the author of Helping St...

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    Noah Patel is a 7th-year middle school math teacher in the Boston Public School District and a National Board-certified teacher. He received his ba...

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    Rebecca Schmidt

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    Bill Farmer

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    Ryan Kinser

    Ryan Kinser is a 2012-13 teacherpreneur at the Center for Teaching Quality. He divides his time between teaching English to sixth graders at Walker...

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    Dan Brown

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    Sarah Henchey

    Sarah Henchey is a National Board Certified Teacher and a 2012-13 Teacher in Residence at the Center for Teaching Quality. Sarah has taught middle ...

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    Marsha Ratzel

    Marsha Ratzel is a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, where she teaches middle school math and science....

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    Jessica Keigan

    As a teacherpreneur, Jessica divides her time evenly between teaching English at Horizon High School in Denver and supporting results-oriented effo...

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    Michael Moran

    Michael Moran is a former sixth grade teacher currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington's Evans S...

  • Ryan Niman

    Ryan Niman

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    Ariel Sacks

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    Nancy S. Gardner

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