To become a teacher is to take on one of the most important and challenging jobs in America. You’re tasked with preparing the next generation for college/the workforce/life. That’s a significant undertaking, to say the least. Doesn’t it make sense to reward those who demonstrate excellence in that calling? In California, education reform advocate Michelle Rhee is trying to do just that.
Per the Sacramento Bee, Rhee is backing a ballot measure that would require school districts remove seniority as a consideration when faced with the prospect of laying off educators, instead requiring those districts to focus on a teacher’s performance and student test scores.
Experience is important in any profession, but just because you’ve been doing a job longer than someone else does not necessarily mean you’re better at it. Yet too often, the education establishment rewards experience over quality. As much is very much the case in Texas.
Nowhere is this model more clearly exhibited here than in our dedication to a salary schedule pay model for teachers. For every year they spend in the profession, a teacher’s pay will increase nominally, whether they performed well the previous year or not. Compensating our teachers in this fashion does nothing to incentivize excellence, it incentivizes longevity. As long as a teacher is proficient enough at their job to stay employed, their pay will increase.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has discussed in depth the importance of moving away from this model before. It’s unfair to high quality educators that deserve higher salaries, and unfair to students stuck in classrooms with educators who’ve chosen to take advantage of the longevity based reward system without pursuing excellence in their profession.
There aren’t many arenas in which California can best Texas these days. Unfortunately, a willingness to experiment with education reform remains one of them; effective parent trigger laws, an essentially uncapped charter school system, and multiple programs for English language learners are all things California can boast that Texas can’t. If Rhee’s initiative passes, we’ll be able to add “fair treatment of quality educators” to that list. Hopefully it does, as it would be a win for California teachers and students. What we need now is similar reform here in Texas.