Value of Teachers and the 1%

Last week, the nytimes listed several job markets where one would find the top 1% in this country. It also went on to list the degrees in which the top 1% graduated from. It was interesting that they were also running articles on the value of teachers based on the Harvard/Columbia study that came out recently:

Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain

Value of Teachers

And an interesting debate about value and measuring teacher effectiveness followed.

The 1% articles talked about the various professions. In the print version, teaching didn’t even make the graphic. On the online graphic, they were there, but a clear side note mentioned that teachers in 1% households were there because of marriage.

And here’s What the Top 1% Majored In. My undergrad degree is in biology, but after that I chose to pursue education (not listed). These two letters responding to those graphs, one by a teacher, and one by a father of two teachers say a lot.

There’s something amiss in the way teachers are compensated. I’m not pro- or anti- union, but see the benefits and challenges with both systems when it comes to teaching. There are districts, charter schools, and independent schools trying a number of schemes and some doing better than others. It be great to look at all the possibilities, find out which ones are working best, try and guess why, and start to try it out. That’s how innovation happens; You look at all the ideas out there, develop your own compensation prototype, take a risk (a calculated one, of course), analyze, modify, and keep looping back refining and revising the prototype. There’s a good chance it’s not going to work right away and will ruffle a few feathers, but I think it’s worth the risk. As long as one acknowledges and learns from mistakes, something good will eventually emerge. That’s part of what innovation is all about. School culture in general is invisible, deep, complex, and very conservative – it’s not an easy task.


4 thoughts on “Value of Teachers and the 1%

  1. “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain”

    Did they really have to study that?????

    In Los Angeles, teachers are quite well paid, and get generous retirement benefits. (The students, however, continue to suffer – the dropout rate is at least 33%.)

    Example: (major surprise to follow):

    “TCHR,MATHEMATICS,FOUNDATIONAL” “High School” $40k to $73k

    $85k for Middle school.

    LAUSD is one of the worst performing districts, in one of the worst-performing states: California.
    And still they plead for the voters to vote in more money for schools.

    The surprise for me was the number of positions in the database; Here’s the link:

    Click the pull-down for Job Title – it looks like there’s over 100.

    The bottom line, for me, is that teachers ought to be paid based on their value to society (and to kids, directly). And, of course, like everybody else, how well they do their job. It makes no sense for a teacher to be paid less than a janitor.

    But the education system (and I can’t blame teachers for this) has been short-changing our kids for decades.

  2. I have taught in California public schools, in urban centers similar to Los Angeles, as mentioned by ZZMike above. The 85K that was quoted is the top of the top, for long-term veteran teachers on the salary schedule. Try living on 85k in Los Angeles. You are by no means wealthy. I would challenge folks to spend a year or even a month in a Los Angeles Unified School District classroom, even just as a casual observer. As with all urban public school districts, there are some wonderful, amazing teachers, administrators, students and parents, along with the opposite. Those teachers, in addition to managing a nearly 50% student tranciency rate per year (or more), have typically five, ten or more languages in their classrooms. What a wonderful experience, until the federal goverment mandates that all of those children need to take standardized achievement tests in English, show a certain percent of annual growth, or it is the teachers and administrators who are at fault and held responsible. It is true, some teachers do need to improve or leave the field of eduation. My main point comes from my experience after working in that system for nearly 20 years. Veteran teachers in Los Angeles earning 85K annually, are not being overpaid, in my opinion. These teachers have a wealth of experience and could assist at the grassroots level in meaningful, local educational reform, if only our federal and state elected officials would let go of the reins a bit. Until then, it will be the catch phrases of campaigning politicians, designed to garner votes, that will ultimately drive our public schools, not the teachers. Committed, professional public school teachers who continue to teach in spite of these odds are incredible people, in my opinion.

  3. David: Thanks for the reply. I’m looking at all this from outside – way outside.

    I think that one of LAUSD’s problems is the number of administrators and managers, all of whom get paid more than the teachers.

    Your point about “federal and state elected officials would let go of the reins a bit” iss right on the mark.

    Education is a two-way process: students need to want to learn. That part is missing in large segments of the school population.

    Like all complex problems, there are no simple solutions.

  4. Thanks to both of you for your comments and adding to this debate. It is indeed a complex issue. Our school is currently looking at revamping its compensation policies. I’m glad I don’t have that responsibility.

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