Over the past several years, one of the central issues that has driven my work has been helping to redefine how teachers are paid. Watching colleagues walk away from our profession dissatisfied with compensation models built on single salary schedules and growing tired of constantly searching for extra dollars to pad my income, I can’t think of a more urgent issue for educators to wrestle with.
That’s why I was so excited to be invited to serve as an adviser to a new effort known as The Teacher Salary Project designed to raise awareness about the challenges that lagging salaries pose for our schools. Led by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, co-founder of 826 National Nínive Calegari, and writer Dave Eggers, The Teacher Salary Project plans to use digital tools to create a shared documentary bringing transparency to the work of classroom teachers.
As momentum builds behind The Teacher Salary Project, our hope is to bring interested stakeholders together around a shared table to discuss practical ways to pay teachers differently.
Most exciting to me is that I believe we’ve reached a tipping point where changes to the ways that we reward teachers are truly possible. Parents and policymakers alike both recognize the importance of quality educators and seem willing to pay more for accomplishment. What’s more, today’s young professional has no expectation of a long-term career that provides job security instead of competitive opportunities to earn more money.
Both of these trends place pressure on the antiquated compensation system that many established educational decision-makers continue to advocate for. Once we can identify legitimate methods of measuring accomplishment, we’re bound to see movement towards progressive and rewarding compensation for educators.
Having worked with the Teacher Leaders Network and the Center for Teaching Quality to develop an alternative model for teacher compensation a few years back, I’ll be advocating for:
- Additional compensation for teachers willing to accept positions in hard to staff schools or subjects.
- Additional compensation for teachers who are able to document the impact that their instruction has on student achievement—and who are willing to amplify the results of their learning beyond their classrooms.
- Additional compensation for teachers who pursue professional growth opportunities that are targeted towards district goals or identified community interests.
While I believe that there is a central need to raise salaries for all educators—consider that the average starting salaries for educators currently stands at $31,753 while the average starting salary for college graduates in non-education majors stands at $42,229—I also believe that blanket increases for all educators regardless of performance cheapens our profession.
And with the power of a national organization built with the social tools of the web behind us, The Teacher Salary Project just might be the lever needed to push conversations about compensation in the right direction.