Saturday, June 6, 2009

$125,000 salary for some teachers

It has been in the news, on the web and on television--a report about eight teachers being selected to teach at a charter school in New York.  They were selected from all over the country and will be paid $125,000 dollars per year.

Two of you have written and asked that I comment about this story.  I have several thoughts that have been raging through my mind in the last few days.  Let's first look at the obvious.  These teachers can't fail.  They are all good.....already.  A puzzlement in my mind is why did the CEO of this project go all over the country.  I suspect one could find just as good teachers in the New York area.   But that is the theme of this blog--that teachers in general are pretty terrific people.  Most could do many other jobs but prefer to teach.

Here is something else to consider.  These selected teachers will be teaching at a charter schools.  Charter schools are ones that get a little extra attention.  The administration will talk up their charter schools--like souping up a car or giving a restaurant four stars.  What does this do then?  Parents hear about this and want their children to go to that school.  Right there we have a variable that is important for success--parental involvement. Any time you can get the parents to come to your school, interact with the teacher, even help out in the classroom, then you will have a successful school.  Consider private secular schools that charge large tuitions.  Already you have de-selected your students.  You have students who already know that they will be successful.  I suspect that is why so many parents want to place their children in a private school if they can afford it.  Bill Gates and Paul Allen graduated from private schools.

I'm not knocking private schools--most are very very good.  And they have great teachers. What they don't have are students with single parents and students who come from a stressful environment.  What they do have is a homogenous student body.....that thinks alike.  I saw this in Norway schools--very few minorities.  And the parents were involved with the school.

I do give this project higher scores in one area.  They will hold a raffle to see what students will be admitted.  But given the fact that the parents will have had to fill out forms and submit them to the project already means a certain type of parent.  I see success written all over this school already. 

Also given the fact that this is a charter school with well paid teachers I suspect there are some other factors coming into play.  I suspect they will have enough textbooks for everyone, enough desks (and the proper size) for each child, and that the physical plant, the school building itself will be in good shape.  But I wonder--will they have blackboards or white boards or the new technology, Smart Boards (  I also figure they will have enough computers for all the children.  Why pay large salaries for a number of teachers and not give them the necessary tools to accomplish the task.  So it is not just large salaries that will make a difference--but it will promote a better environment for learning.

I do have another concern however.  The articles reporting about these teachers do not mention other teachers--how are they going to be paid?  Studies have been done in which a few teachers were paid a larger salary and interaction between the better paid and the lower paid teachers decreased.  If I were one of the lower paid and wanted to get a pay raise why would I share my ideas of teaching the kids with other teachers?  It just doesn't compute in my mind.
If I were a principal today, I would want my faculty to be a team--not individual stars.  

So I am delighted to see eight teachers getting a decent salary.  I wish we could do that for all the teachers in this country.  But I hope at the end of the first year we try to compare this charter school against other schools in the area.  We will be comparing apples and lemons...and you can't do that.

If you've read all this and are pondering what your education might have been with higher paid teachers, be sure to thank a teacher because you are doing the thinking that they wanted you to do.

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