(CBS News) With state after state confronting massive budget problems, several governors have been looking to extract whatever they can from public employees like teachers, going after benefits packages and guaranteed job security that unions have won for them. But would teachers be willing to give up those protections for a chance to earn a lot more money?
There’s a school in New York City that’s trying to prove just that. TEP aims to prove that attracting the best and brightest teachers and holding them accountable for results is the essential ingredient to a school’s success. Zeke Vanderhoek, the school’s founder and principal gets to decide who he hires and how much he pays them.
I don’t think paying people more makes them a better teacher. You take a mediocre teacher, you double their salary, nothing’s gonna change. So, if you wanna attract and retain talent, you have to pay for it. And that is ultimately how student achievement will be impacted. Their ability to produce some evidence that the students in their classrooms move from point A to point B, Vanderhoek explained. In order for students to demonstrate that growth, they have to be into it. And so the teacher has to be able to engage students. Unlike most schools, those who don’t meet Vanderhoek’s standards will be shown the door.
Vanderhoek is able to pay his teachers well by reallocating resources. There are no state-of-the-art facilities – classes take place in trailers. And the money that would go to pay for an assistant principal, reading specialist and other staff goes into teachers’ salaries. But that means the teachers have to do those jobs as well.
Most charter schools like TEP are not unionized and don’t offer teachers tenure.
“The idea that somebody could have a job for life no matter how they perform is not good for people in that job, much less for the students who have to suffer if that individual has gone downhill,” Vanderhook said.
Asked if he thinks tenure should be abolished in general, Vanderhoek said, “Yes.”
Now, some states are considering a new pay system that has caused quite a bit of controversy – performance-based pay. This week, lawmakers in Florida are discussing a merit-based pay system for teachers. And the governor has already told newspapers he will sign the bill into law if it passes the House this week. Idaho is on its way to a “pay for performance” law for teachers. Utah is currently trying out a merit-based pay system in five schools.
I am not now nor have I ever been a teacher. That said I do like the movement toward a performance-based pay for teachers. Adding risk as a factor means there is an opportunity for reward just as much as there is for failure. I compare performance-based pay for teachers to major league baseball players. Derek Jeter earns 15 million and teammate Boone Logan makes 1.2 million. There are no issues for Derek earning more, and the same can be applicable to two teachers at the same school earning different amounts. If Steinbrenner shows a player the door it is not about being vindictive. It is just business, and a teacher shown the door should also not feel any stigma attached to it. No baseball player has tried to successfully argue that the equipment or the ballpark or the mix of different teammates is the reason for his poor performance. This kind of reasoning is what some teachers are trying to use to explain their poor performance. As the song goes…
Can you hear and do you care and
Can you see we
Must be free
to Teach the children
If we must be free, then there must be a risk factor that allows us a reward opportunity. It seems American to me.
Cross-posted at The Minority Report