Five Delaware teachers received National Board certification in 2010 –a decrease of over 90% from 2006, when 51 educators received certification – following the 2007 discontinuation of additional compensation for receiving certification, which equated to approximately 5% of their salary.
These astounding results demonstrate something that we’ve intuitively known for a long time: incentives matter. Put more simply, they demonstrate that teachers actively seek out ways to earn additional funds and notoriety by responding to the market conditions policymakers build around them. Based on this information, an initial analysis of our current compensation system- and the actions it incentivizes – is important.
Currently, Delaware teachers (prior to Race to the Top) received increases in salary based on two primary mechanisms: longevity in the classroom and education attainment. Both of these incentives, while laudable, are flawed in different ways:
- In terms of experience, the vast majority of research shows that teachers experience huge gains in effectiveness within their first few years inside a classroom – and subsequently level off. This makes sense – as a former classroom teacher, I can state with the utmost certainty that my second year was better than my first and that it took time to find a rhythm to instructional planning, classroom management, effective delivery, and assessing student progress.
- Attaining graduate school credits has shown to have little to no effect on student progress – even though 2.3% of all current expenses pay for Master’s Degrees within Delaware – totaling almost $40 million at $8,986/teacher.
What are we doing to change this? For starters, through RttT, we are starting to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully be a strategic rethinking of our overall compensation structure. We are:
- looking to expand the Achievement Awards Program, which rewards educators that close achievement gaps in high-needs schools; and
- providing $10,000 retention bonuses to highly-effective teachers to teach in high-needs schools.
What are some ideas we could implement to more properly align incentives with desired actions? We could provide incentives for highly-effective educators to teach in hard-to-staff schools (possibly even providing incentives for national board certified teachers to transfer into hard-to-staff schools), reward base salary increases on DPAS II evaluation results, or provide additional funds solely to highly-effective educators to teach after school and/or during the summer.
As this data demonstrates – incentives matter – and we hope there is increased focus on our compensation system and ways to alter it to better recruit, select, support, and reward highly-effective educators.