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“Bold new strategies … put on the table without delay”

The Raleigh News & Observer, my state’s capital paper, reports today (N.C. Teachers Given Raises) that…

Every teacher in North Carolina’s public schools will get an extra $75 each month beginning in November and a promise from state political leaders of more to come.

Under a plan Gov. Mike Easley announced Tuesday, the average pay for teachers in the state will be raised by the 2008-09 school year to the national average, projected to be $52,206 by then. To get there, Easley and legislative leaders have committed to average increases of 5 percent in each of the next three years, amounting to about $150 million a year. 1

If our governor and legislature believe that getting North Carolina’s teacher pay on par with the nation will solve our education problems, then they know much less about our classrooms than they claim.

Our problem is that we do not have enough teachers. An August 2004 press release from The Teaching Commission, refers to a report from the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, which…

…details teacher turnover rates for each of the state’s 117 city and county school systems and concludes that “a 20 percent or more annual teacher turnover rate in some school districts will take the teacher shortage to crisis proportions if the state does not act quickly to get more teachers in the pipeline now.”

The press release continues…

…while North Carolina must hire about 10,000 teachers per year to staff existing classrooms, the state’s public and private universities produce a combined total of just over 3,000 teachers per year—just 2,200 of whom end up teaching in North Carolina. With enrollments growing, that problem will only grow more dire, unless bold new strategies are put on the table without delay.

Again, if our government believes that mere salary hikes will solve the problem, then we have a bigger problem. Our teacher shortage is not happening because they do not make enough money, though they certainly deserve more, and most of us acknowledge this. Teachers are leaving the classroom because they can not succeed. Our students are performing better on standardized tests. But intelligent, dynamic, talented communicators do not enter the teaching profession to boost test scores. They become teachers because they want to help children to grow into productive, insightful, adaptive, and self-fulfilled citizens. Good teachers know what success in the classroom looks like. We need to return the confidence that we once had for our teachers, and we need to establish an education system that provides for success, not simply punishes for lower than expected test scores.

We need to ask good teachers what they need to succeed. Their answers will include relevant and dynamic curriculum, freedom to explore innovative and inventive teaching strategies, technologies appropriate for 21st century learning, ongoing professional development, and above all, significantly more professional time to plan new lessons that address the needs of a rapidly changing world.

If we set up our classrooms for success, then we may find that there is only a very thin line between a mediocre teacher and a good teacher and we may even get more talented young people entering the teaching profession.

2¢ worth


  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org Wesley

    I agree David. We need the public to give trust back to educators, and empower them to do the job they (we) are called to do. Somehow principals need to be empowered to let educators go who are not doing a good job, however, and this is quite a difficult issue– where a big rub comes in, to day the least. We all know people like this: teachers who are doing the job, but are not teaching with passion, are not doing everything they can to help students succeed. Part of this is the supply problem you mentioned: many districts can’t afford to let teachers go, because they have trouble hiring enough teachers overall. I think part of the answer lies with our teacher preparation programs, which need to graduate digital literacy ready teachers who have a passion for teaching to change the world. But real-world expectations play into this also. One of our Texas gubernatorial candidates made comments recently about how our accountability system is broken. We have to look at more than test scores. Higher salaries do sound good, but you’re right, there is a lot more to it than money.

  • http://www.huffenglish.com/ Dana Huff

    I agree, too. Respect for teaching has eroded to the pointt that no one really wants to do it anymore. My student sneer and laugh when I suggest that education is an option for them. I think that’s sad.

  • http://www.theeducationalmac.com/blog KellyD

    There is another avenue that may severely reduce the teaching numbers as well. At least it will have an impact in Utah. The change in GASB rules for accounting for retirement benefits means that districts have to restructure how those benefits are paid for. The bottom line looks to be that many of those benefits will be lost. Teachers that are close enough to get something out of the retirement will leave now rather than stay an extra few years. I am personally estimating in our district we will lose an extra 30-40% of teachers beyond those who would normally be retiring. The competition for those new teachers is really going to heat up.

  • http://jeff.scofer.com/thinkingstick/ Jeff Utecht

    I agree, show me one teacher who likes their name on top of the class score that comes back at only 35% of her/his class passing the math portion on a standardized test.

    My first job was as a 4th grade teacher, because that was the year students took the standardized test and nobody wanted their name on that report (so lets hire a new guy to do it!). “Only 22% of Mr. Utecht’s students met or exceeded the standard” who would have respect for teachers after reading something like that? And who would want to teach knowing you have that type of pressure to perform? Or course nobody mentioned that it was a 5% increase from the year before or that we had a free-and-reduce-lunch population of 90 something percent.

    It is pressure like this that causes teachers to throw out the innovative and intriguing lessons and focus on the basics, which is backwards from where we should be going. The teachers at my school gave 3 different reading tests in the first 3 months and had to score them and triangulate the date between the three tests. Now it’s report card time and student conferences after that. They hardly have time to plan a lesson out of a set curriculum, let alone come up with an innovative way to incorporate technology, or another subject for that matter. I am all for accountability but not at the cost of loosing the innovation and inventive ways that make teaching fun. I’m lucky, I’m just a technology teacher, I get to have fun wit things like blogs, flickr, and podcasting. If everyone had as much fun at their work as I did, everybody would want to teach!

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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