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Reactions to Starting Teacher Salary of $100,000

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My last post, "Want More Quality Teachers? Show Some Respect." prompted a mixed response. No surprise there, since I suggested a significant increase in teacher salaries to start a new cycle to bring top talent into the profession.

A sampling: "If the teaching salaries had been attractive when I went to college I would have gone into education without a doubt as that was my first love," wrote a 35-year-old woman who said she had been classified as a gifted student near the top of her high school class.

And from a baby boomer: "Come on Stu, $100,000 for a teacher? Isn't that a little farfetched?"

Both are powerful messages. I wonder about the impact that talented woman would have had on students during the past decade had she pursued the profession she rejected because of the low salary. Again, as the Center for Public Education reports, "There is research that has shown that students of teachers who have greater academic ability--be it measured through SAT or ACT scores, GPA, IQ, tests of verbal ability, or selectivity of the college attended--perform better." We lost this quality candidate from the field of teaching and continue to lose so many top students. Clearly, we must reevaluate - immediately - how we compensate our teachers! (The recent study mentioned in the earlier post shows us how we can do this within current budgets.)

A lack of value for teachers rang loud and clear through the other message, from someone who found it inconceivable that a teacher could be worth $100,000 a year. At the same time, he demanded that we compete successfully with other countries. I wonder if he would have had the same opinion if a high starting salary for teachers had been in place all along. I hope that he and others who share his views will eventually come to understand and accept the idea of the top talent cycle I described and the positive impact it will have on our future.

For good or ill, it is a reality in our society that many people pay more respect to professions that pay higher salaries. A case in point: One response to my recent post described the writer's feeling greater respect for physicians' assistants after seeing a televised report on their salaries. Since the job paid well, it was clearly important and had value, she said. Yes, these professionals need extensive education, and there is competition for the jobs they hold. But I believe that the same would be said of teachers if higher salaries resulted in the creation of a high-performing talent pool similar to places like Finland.

As we think about engaging around issues to have a positive impact on school reform and working to improve our competitive position in the world, we simply must address the issue of respect for the profession of teaching. Creating a "talent pool cycle" with higher compensation is one way to address this need. Among all the education reform efforts underway, the one that will mean the most will be attracting top talent into our classrooms. As I noted earlier: "It is time for Americans to embrace a new approach to improving education - outspoken support of our teachers. I encourage you to start a campaign in your community, or to share information about one already underway, that overtly expresses strong support for our teachers and the critically important work they do."

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