Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant started an interesting strand of conversation today when he shared a collection of facts showing that the smartest teachers often leave the classroom first, leaving schools with collections of “low ability educators” who have little impact on student achievement.

Scott’s central question:

Let’s assume that, generally speaking, these studies are correct: 1) smart people are less likely to stay in teaching (thus resulting in a concentration of teachers with lower academic ability), and 2) the academic ability of teachers impacts student learning outcomes. Now what?

The conversation in the comment section of McLeod’s post has been lively to say the least, drawing out some of the edusphere’s most active thinkers.  For me, the Eduwonkette’s comments had particular resonance.  Among other things, she wrote:

Re what to do: Teachers with high scores have better salary options out of teaching, so we will need to change compensation practices if we want to keep these folks in education.

Do you think this is the key issue in the whole conversation? Are we woefully unprepared to keep top performers in education because we have a stagnant compensation system—and our professional organizations fight to protect that system at every turn?

Think about the benefits that teaching offers: affective rewards, job security, pensions (in most places). Pretty attractive to a candidate in 1973, right? After all, that was an era when pretty much everyone got one job and held onto it for life.

Today’s professional has no expectation of the 30 year career at all. What’s the statistic? Most people have 8 different jobs by the time they’re 30?  The top performers in education today don’t find inherent value in the kinds of perks offered by our profession—-and they don’t have any qualms about walking away from job security and a pension.

The kicker, then, seems to be redesigning the compensation (which includes more than simply salary) system in education to more accurately reflect today’s vision of a “career.”

Does this resonate with anyone else? Is it a pipe dream that we’ll never be able to bring to reality?

What’s the first step towards seeing compensation redesigned—and who’s got to take it?

(Image credit:  Mo Money Mo Problems by greggoconnell, licensed Creative Commons:  Attribution)

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