Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Generational Divide Over Teacher Pay

Interesting story in today's Washington Post about the continuing saga over D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's teacher compensation proposal.... Based on anecdotal evidence, the article suggests that support and opposition to Rhee's plan is breaking down along generational lines, with younger teachers generally supportive of the Chancellor's plan to base salaries, in part, on student performance and older teachers opposed.

I've always thought that union opposition to moving away from the traditional steps-and-lanes teacher salary schedule would lessen over time as a new generation of takes over leadership of national, state and local union chapters. That day hasn't quite arrived in most places. But the debate in D.C. certainly exposes the generational rift within the teaching profession and within union membership. And the ranks of younger teachers are swelling as the Baby Boomers retire.

I have to wonder how many potential teaching candidates we lose by our failure to recognize performance (based on student achievement or anything else) at any point in most of our teacher compensation systems. How many forsake the teaching profession entirely because of the design of the compensation system? The steps-and-lanes approach to paying teachers (based on years of experiences, advanced degree and PD credits) certainly doesn't warm the cockles of the younger generations' hearts. Have districts like Denver with differentiated compensation systems attracted individuals to teaching that might otherwise gone to another field? Perhaps it's too soon to tell, but I think this is an area that warrants further research.

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