“Teachers matter,” President Barack Obama said last night during his State of the Union address. “Instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones."
And so, the great teacher-pay debate continues: how do you fairly pay teachers in a way that not only attracts and holds on to the best but makes sure that they are engaged with our most challenging students and teaching in those shortage areas such as math and science?
(To those who don't hang around education circles, you may not know what a heated debate this is. Believe me, it can get hot, hot, hot.)
For years, teachers have been paid based on years of experience and degrees earned, the old step and ladder system. My parents were paid that way as public school teachers when they entered the profession in Marianna, Arkansas, more than a half century ago.
For too many reasons to go into in a single blog item, it's difficult to contend that that is still the best system to attract and keep the best and brightest to prepare our children for success in today's world.
That said, changing the system has to be done in a way that empowers good teachers (and that may well include rewarding those recognized as the best), lifts them in regard to pay, treatment and respect and, at the same time, acknowledges that not all those who want to teach have the skills or personal qualities to excel in the classroom or, even more importantly, to inspire our students to excel.