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Monday, March 31, 2014

Dan Weisberg: Dont Pay All Teachers The Same


How to keep great teachers

Retain the best.
There aren’t many things in life you can count on, but here’s one: Whenever it’s time for the city to negotiate a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers, the union will sound the alarm about teachers fleeing to the suburbs because of low salaries.
So it came as no surprise when, earlier this month, amid news that the two sides have begun working on a deal, the UFT released a report warning of a “mass exodus” of teachers in recent years, especially to suburban schools, and suggesting that the only solution is a big, across-the-board raise.
But there’s a big hole in the union’s logic. It turns out that the vast majority of the city’s 75,000-plus teachers actually aren’t going to the suburbs — or anywhere else, for that matter.
In 2012, my organization studied teacher retention in New York and three other large urban districts, and found that the city actually keeps close to 90% of its teachers every year and over 90% of its senior teachers. The UFT’s own report found virtually no turnover among the most experienced teachers, and asserted that only 12% of teachers who leave before retirement end up teaching in the suburbs (allegedly because of better salaries and working conditions, although the union offered no data to support that theory).
More importantly, the UFT isn’t asking the crucial question about teacher retention: Are the teachers who are leaving the ones we want to keep?
It’s a tragedy when a great teacher leaves a school, but research tells us that same school would actually be better off when a consistently ineffective teacher leaves. When you are retaining 90% of your teachers, what matters isn’t just how many teachers are leaving, but which teachers are leaving. Focusing on the overall retention rate without regard to performance is a little like reviewing a book based on its word count, instead of whether you enjoyed reading it.
Viewed on these terms, the city really does appear to have a teacher retention problem. Our research found that the city loses almost half of its very best teachers — ones so good that they are nearly impossible to replace — within the first five years of their careers.
At the same time, it keeps nearly all of its least effective teachers, leading to a situation where thousands of teachers in the city with more than seven years of experience struggle to get the same results as the average rookie teacher.
The good news is that Mayor de Blasio has said he wants to make retaining the city’s top teachers a “personal crusade.” But to deliver on that commitment, he will need to push the UFT to accept some major changes in the new teachers’ contract.
Consider teacher salaries. The UFT’s priority is ensuring the same treatment — and the same raises — for all its members, as though one teacher is as good as any other. However, if the goal is keeping more great teachers in the city’s classrooms, giving the same raise to everyone isn’t the best use of scarce taxpayer dollars.
Instead, the city should provide especially large increases for the group that is leaving too soon: outstanding teachers who are in the first five years of their careers. These teachers have a proven track record of success in the classroom but are earning $60,000 a year or less. A substantial raise could convince them to stay longer than they might otherwise.
We’ve seen that happen in cities like Washington, where the best teachers can earn six-figure salaries early in their careers. We found that almost none of D.C.’s best teachers leave over dissatisfaction with their compensation, whereas low pay was one of the top three reasons why great teachers leave New York City.
The city could afford larger raises for outstanding early-career teachers by giving smaller raises to veteran teachers — who are already making $80,000 or even $100,000 a year, and who rarely leave before they reach retirement age regardless of their salary — and to early-career teachers who haven’t yet become stars. The city can then lay the groundwork for ensuring that high-performing veterans receive future increases that recognize their extraordinary talent and experience.
De Blasio will have to do some hard bargaining with the UFT to change the city’s one-size-fits-all teacher pay scale in the upcoming contract. But if he’s serious about helping schools hold on to more of their best teachers, he can’t let this opportunity pass him by.
Let’s hope he has the courage to do what it takes to solve the city’s real teacher retention crisis.
Weisberg is executive vice president of TNTP, a national nonprofit organization focused on effective teaching. He formerly served as chief executive of labor policy at the city’s Department of Education.
Dan Weisberg

1 comment:

Unitymustgo! said...

While I understand the general gist of the author, it is predicated on some magic ability of somehow knowing who the best teachers are? Who are these great teachers leaving in the first five years? How does the author know that the best are leaving and the worse are staying? Is this some new phenomenon or has this always been the case, because high teacher turnover in the first five years has been around essentially forever. That would presumably mean that most teachers with more than five years of service suck?? That doesn't seem to vibe well with some of the author’s own comments about good veteran teachers who will stay no matter what. Sorry, but the author reads like deformer BS, with no proof or detail about how exactly he supposedly knows that the best are leaving in the first five years, nor any evidence that paying more to them would in fact lead to greater retention? Going in, any new teacher knows what their pay is going to be and accepts that. A superficial Google search on reasons why new teachers leave teaching turns up research after research showing that when surveyed most exiting teachers cite just about everything but pay as the primary reason for leaving. Cited reasons: feeling overwhelmed, feeling isolated and unsupported, feeling unclear about expectations, finding their own expectations don’t match up, etc… Nowhere do I find salary as the issue. With that being said, lets go back to the just how one determines who are these best new teachers that seem to be leaving in droves. Any help here? If the answer is test scores then please just go jump off a bridge. First, if that’s your main measure then how are you measuring all the grades that don’t have a test? Second, VAM is total crap enough said. Sorry, but this article is premised on something the author couldn’t possibly actually know and that evidence suggests isn’t true.