Blue Ribbon consultant: “Getting a degree is not related to student achievement.”
(Baton Rouge – September 12, 2009) If attracting and keeping the best teachers in our public schools is the goal of the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence, some information given to the panel on Thursday would send our state in the wrong direction, according to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Federation President Steve Monaghan said consultants suggested some teachers could be paid more by reducing the salaries of other teachers. That would be unacceptable, he said.
“Those mistakes have already been made elsewhere,” Monaghan said. “Experience in the field has proven this to be a very bad idea
“We strongly oppose any plan that would reduce the pay earned by any teacher,” Monaghan continued. “Anyone who believes we can improve compensation or education without the investment of additional revenues is sadly mistaken.”
At the meeting, consultant Tabitha Grossman claimed that some studies recommend against basing teacher salaries on professional degrees and years of experience. She also said some studies show that teachers rarely change after five years in the classroom, and that “getting a degree is not related to student achievement.”
When commission members asked to see the studies in question, the consultant said she did not have them with her at the time.
Grosman gave one example of a teacher merit pay plan without the infusion of new dollars. By reducing the current teacher salary schedule by 10%, she said, it would be possible to give the top half of Louisiana teachers a bonus of between $3,000 and $6,000. A merit pay plan could also be financed by reductions to the advanced degree compensation differentials, she said.
“We will never tell teachers who have invested time, money and effort in earning advanced degrees that they labored in vain,” Monaghan said. “And we simply reject the contention that teachers stagnate after five years. Teachers are by nature life-time learners. Good teachers continuously learn new skills and approaches that they can bring to their classrooms.”
“We hope that over the next few months the commission will hear from other experts who can provide very different perspectives,” he said.
A second consultant told the panel that it is important for teachers to play a role in developing and promoting a new teacher salary model. Corey Baird, who worked with the Denver, Colorado school district when it adopted a pay plan that involved performance incentives, stressed the importance of communicating a new plan properly.
But there are vast differences between Denver and Louisiana, Monaghan pointed out. A state comprises many school districts with varying needs and resources, while a single urban school system can focus more narrowly on its specific needs.
The more important difference, Monaghan said, is that Denver has a collective bargaining agreement with its teachers.
“Every change in teacher compensation in Denver was negotiated,” Monaghan said. “Teachers in Denver were full partners in the process. Most teachers in Louisiana do not enjoy bargaining rights and are unfortunately not full partners in the educational process.”
Blue Ribbon Commission will meet again in October to continue discussions about teacher compensation. The group will present their recommendation in May to Governor Bobby Jindal, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Regents.
(To read an article about the Blue Ribbon consultants' presentation, please click here.)