Thursday, December 8, 2011

Setting a Higher Standard for Teacher Entry While Paying Less

Iowa Foreshadows Kentucky's Plan

20%, including minority candidates, likely to be turned away
from Teacher Education Programs

In the not-too-distant future teacher education candidates in Kentucky will be required to have a 3.0 GPA for admission to teacher education programs. What is the potential impact on the teaching force? Will the field of education be able to attract the brightest and best when the competition for salaries is still being won by private industry?

As Nicholas Kristof argued in the New York Times earlier this year, the idea the teachers are overpaid is a "pernicious fallacy."
Until a few decades ago, employment discrimination perversely strengthened our teaching force. Brilliant women became elementary school teachers, because better jobs weren’t open to them. It was profoundly unfair, but the discrimination did benefit America’s children.

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.”

Changes in relative pay have reinforced the problem. In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.
This from State EdWatch:
Securing a place in the teaching profession will become a bit tougher in Iowa, if Gov. Terry Branstad and the state's school chief, Jason Glass, have their way.

Branstad, a Republican, has proposed requiring a minimum 3.0 grade-point average for admission to teacher-education colleges in the state, as part of a package of proposed changes to school policy unveiled earlier this year, many of which would require legislative approval.

He's also called for creating a more rigorous screening process for candidates for teacher education programs; establishing new teacher-education scholarships with the goal of luring more educators into high-need subjects; requiring teachers to take more subject-specific coursework and classes in core academic subjects; and placing more of an emphasis on in-class training for aspiring teachers, and giving them access to mentors, among other changes. Selective admissions requirements for aspiring educators—coupled with ongoing training and support—is a staple of some high-performing countries' systems, as Ed Week has reported.

The governor has also called for overhauling the compensation system for educators more broadly, and raising starting teacher pay—though he recently said he wants to hold off on trying to get that piece through the legislature, as he seeks to build support for the plan.

This week the Des Moines Register takes an interesting look at the implications of the minimum GPA requirement.

By the newspaper's analysis, one of five teachers would have been turned away last year at teachers' colleges in the state, had the requirement been in effect. The Register was able to obtain information on applicants from three public university programs, though the vast majority of private institutions refused to provide it.

Critics of Branstad's proposal say it would exclude teacher-candidates who may have struggled as undergraduates but could still be effective teachers; others wonder if it will exclude a higher number of minority candidates, the paper noted.
Kristof concludes,
Starting teacher pay, which now averages $39,000, would have to rise to $65,000 to fill most new teaching positions in high-needs schools with graduates from the top third of their classes, the McKinsey study found. That would be a bargain.

Indeed, it makes sense to cut corners elsewhere to boost teacher salaries. Research suggests that students would benefit from a tradeoff of better teachers but worse teacher-student ratios. Thus there are growing calls for a Japanese model of larger classes, but with outstanding, respected, well-paid teachers.

Teaching is unusual among the professions in that it pays poorly but has strong union protections and lockstep wage increases. It’s a factory model of compensation, and critics are right to fault it. But the bottom line is that we should pay teachers more, not less — and that politicians who falsely lambaste teachers as greedy are simply making it more difficult to attract the kind of above-average teachers our above-average children deserve.

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