Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Common Core: Pay More!

I’m a little on a soapbox today, just so you know up front. Unfortunately, the people that are reading this are most likely the choir that I normally “preach” to.

The Common Core is upgrading more than standards. It’s creating opportunities for upgrades and transformations across the entire system. What these changes mean when they trickle down to individual teachers is significant. Teachers are being asked to do more than they ever have, and perhaps unlearn, relearn, and reboot. I don’t disagree that the system needs a kick in the pants, but teachers are getting increasingly frustrated--and I can’t blame them.

Teachers that I talk with across the country are frustrated because they are having to be more critical than they’ve ever been, provide better evidence of student learning, re-scaffold instruction, learn new ways to engage and reach every learner, and in many cases, also participate in the creation of new common assessments, look at data more critically and adjust instruction, and also be held to higher teacher standards and value added growth models. In essence, they are doing double the amount of work for the same amount of pay.

There are those that argue that the teachers should have been doing this all along. There are those that argue that teachers have pie jobs that don’t amount to more than glorified babysitting. There are those that are making decisions and judgments for and about these teachers that have never once stepped into a classroom. And then there are those that used to be in classrooms years ago who have no idea what instruction looks like and what it demands in the 21st Century.

Even today, colleges aren’t necessarily preparing their prospective teachers to practice at the level that is currently expected. All of the theoretical knowledge in the world will not adequately prepare the new teacher to understand curriculum alignment, collaborative cultures, effective classroom management, designing assessments that measure what was taught and align those to standards, the ever-increasing additional professional responsibilities, and more. Teachers today are more like doctors than ever before: detecting, diagnosing, remediating--thoughtful practitioners with prescriptive powers that have to be honed and sharpened for every single life they touch.

I don’t think most people have a firm grasp on how much teachers spend of their own time and money to create effective learning experiences for their students. Many, if not most teachers work on their own time, with little credit for doing so, and now the demands are there to do even more. Teachers are constantly held to the flame for continuous professional development, continuous critiques of their practice, and in recent years--a slump in scores could mean dismissal.

The successful implementation of the Common Core is a necessary thing. But it’s missing a key component: MONEY FOR TEACHERS. I’m not talking about incentive pay, I’m not talking about collective bargaining, and I’m not talking about a money grab, I’m talking about fair pay for a job that’s been transformed significantly from what it used to be. (Particularly now in the wake of what the Common Core is asking teachers to do.)

When I was in college, I worked at Wal-Mart 3rd shift so that I could go to school during the day. I started out making a little more than minimum wage and was hired to replace stock in the sporting goods department. After a couple of weeks, I was trained in a couple of other departments and how to run the cash register. As I did more, I was paid more. In every other job I’ve ever had in my life--this has been true. If I take on more responsibility, then I was rewarded with a higher rate of pay. Because I worked for it. Because I deserved it.

I don’t think we can just write this off as “this is what should have been happening all along.” I could say the same about my doctor, my accountant, and my mechanic. (They all do their jobs increasingly better, and I know as years go by, I’m paying more and more for their services.) New ideas, discoveries, opportunities, and inventions breed better work, better implementation, more strategic ways to qualify and quantify and make a difference for what teachers do. And it takes work to learn all of this new stuff. And it takes work to maintain the new system while preparing for the next change. And the teachers have to keep on teaching in the midst of all of this.

Teachers today weren’t necessarily prepared/trained to do the kind of work that needs to happen with these shifts in our educational system. As we increase these shifts, and increase responsibilities, and increase expectations...shouldn’t there also be increases in pay?

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