There's an interesting report on teacher incentives out today. It is different from many reports which focus on merit pay or pay for performance on standardized tests. Unlike the usual debris associated with traditional merit pay, the report focuses on incentives that will actually attract and retain teachers.
As you read the clips I've provided, I encourage you to visit the entire report and take a closer look.
The report begins with a simple asertion:
We must reward expertise in ways that move beyond recruitment bonuses or pay for improved student test scores.As I've stated many times, teachers are a different breed. Financial incentives and raising scores on arbitrary high-stakes tests aren't motivating factors. I challenge you to find a teacher whose main desire to teach was driven by test scores.
Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity is the title of a new report out today by Barnett Berry, the Center for Teaching Quality and Jon Eckert, Wheaton College in Illinois.
Barnett Berry, contributing author to Teaching 2030, is founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality—a nonprofit that seeks to dramatically improve student achievement nationwide by conducting timely research, crafting smart policy, and cultivating teacher leadership.
"What most teachers desire is the know-how to teach their subjects as well as the autonomy and supports to best meet the needs of their students," according to the Berry and Eckert, a former Teaching Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education.
In this brief we have tried to move the discussion of incentives beyond the usual policy tools, often built on faulty assumptions about teaching and learning, to a broader conception of what it takes to recruit, retain, and support effective teachers for 21st century schools.This report accomplishes much of what Berry's organization aims to accomplish. Smart policy on developing the teaching force.
Creating Teacher Incentives discusses how current approaches to teacher incentives fail to take into consideration outside forces, such as poverty and wrap-around programs for families. Current approaches to incentives often ignore the need to attract high-quality educators to high-needs schools.
Often, because of the environment and poor rewards associated with high-needs schools, talent goes elsewhere.
The pair also point to the limitations of current proposals, and a general lack of proven research in the area of teacher incentive programs.
Teacher incentive proposals are rarely grounded on what high-quality research indicates are the kinds of teacher incentives that lead to school excellence and equity.With the large amount of time being focused on teacher effectiveness, accountability, and incentives. It seems that many reforms being pushed by the education reform community ignore basic problems in society. Conditions and factors that aren't on the tests, but show up on test scores.
Few of the current approaches to creating teacher incentives take into account how specific conditions influence whether or not effective teachers will work in high-need schools and will be able to teach effectively in them.In short, because of the failure of most incentive programs, the report is looking at ways to improve current incentive programs.
The report makes four key recommendations:
- Use the Teacher Incentive Fund to Spread Teaching Expertise for High- Needs Schools.
- Expand Incentives in Creating Strategic Compensation.
- Create the Working Conditions that Allow Teachers to Teach Effectively.
- Elevate Best Practices and Policies that Spur School Excellence and Equity.
In crafting our recommendations we follow the wisdom of Lee Shulman, who called for "exercising judgment under conditions of uncertainty" while avoiding the "dangers of simplicity" in improving our schools and the teaching profession.I encourage you to continue reading.
Few people argue the need to attract more teachers in the coming years. But how can we elevate the profession, encourage more young people to enter the profession, and create a teaching force capable of motivating tomorrow's learners?
To many the simple answer is a policy of accountability on test scores, and opportunities for teachers to make more money. And to accomplish this, only one answer has been given, merit pay for performance on test scores.
The evidence suggests that teacher bonuses in isolation will not increase student learning. In addition, not all incentives matter the same for all teachers. And those incentives that matter for recruiting teachers to high-need schools may not be the same ones needed to retain them.Very little evidence exists to support the claim that merit pay, as traditionally defined, has any noticeable impact. In an earlier diary (Merit Pay, Merit Pay, Merit Pay...), I discussed several recent reports regarding merit pay. And the conclusion then and continues to be, there simply isn't enough evidence to support merit pay for performance.
Berry and Eckert discuss the multilayered problem of finding the right mix of policy to create incentives that work.
However, these policies must also take into account how teachers, students, schools, and community-based organizations interact in ways that allow learning to occur. Supporting both the individual and the system is not a simple task. While recruiting quality teachers may require mandates and incentives, ensuring teaching quality also calls for an intricate mix of capacity-building and system-changing policies.After reviewing the research, Berry and Eckert make the following assertion:
While it remains unclear what level of financial incentive might be enough to help recruit and retain effective teachers for high-need schools, researchers have found that such financial incentives alone do not yield increased student achievement.So if financial incentives alone do not yield student achievement, what will? Perhaps, the question of attracting more and better teachers to the profession lies in what drives people from the profession? Why do teachers leave?
The pair looked at Richard Ingersoll’s analysis of national teacher turnover survey data.
Ingersoll found that teachers who leave because of job dissatisfaction do so not only because of low salaries but also as a result of poor support from school administrators, the lack of student motivation, the lack of teacher influence over decision-making, and student discipline problems.In other words, instead of focusing on the low-pay and lack of financial rewards, policy makers should be focusing on "fixing" the other problems that teachers have.
According the the report, policymakers should be focusing on the conditions that allow teachers to teach effectively, including:
- Principals who cultivate and embrace teacher leadership
- Time and tools for teachers to learn from one another, instead of competing with their colleagues
- Specialized resources for high-need schools, students and subjects
- The elimination of out-of-field teaching assignments
- Teaching loads that take the diversity of students into account
- Leeway to take risks
- Integration of academic, social and health services for students
- Safe, well-maintained school buildings
Eleanor Fulbeck highlighted similar findings over at Shanker Blog last week with Teacher Retention: Estimating The Effects Of Financial Incentives In Denver.
The incentives teachers are more likely to respond to involve school leadership and working conditions. This study does not allow a comparative judgment between these various types of incentives, but it does suggest the value of an incentive plan – and evaluation thereof – that offers these non-pecuniary incentives as part of the menu.According to Berry and Eckert:
What most teachers desire is the know-how to teach their subjects as well as the autonomy and supports to best meet the needs of their students.Few, if any, policies coming out today focus on teacher know-how or autonomy. In fact, most policies coming out today focus on reducing autonomy and simplifying know-how.
Perhaps they put it best with the conclusion?
As a nation, we know far more about how to create school quality, equity, and incentives for teachers and students in high-need schools than one would surmise based only on the limited and often ill-advised actions of policymakers and practitioners. It is time to jettison faulty assumptions and be honest about the half-measures policymakers take in the name of expediency. It is time to do the right thing for students and the teachers who serve them.In addition to the report, Scott Bauries at the University of Kentucky School of Law published: Proposed Legislation for Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity.
The full report, "Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity," was produced by the National Education Policy Center, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice and the Ford Foundation.