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Teacher Compensation is ‘One Piece of the Puzzle’

A Letter to the Editor of Education Week

To the Editor:
Laura Overdeck, Arthur Levine, and Christopher Daggett are exactly on target in "Rethinking Teacher Compensation" (Aug. 22, 2012). Indeed, we must reassess and front-load how we pay teachers as a first step toward attracting and keeping the most effective candidates. However, front-loading compensation is incomplete.

Compensation is only one piece of the puzzle in attracting, retaining, and motivating the quality and type of teachers we need. Study after study tells us that working conditions trump or equal compensation when teachers consider the qualities of their profession.

In addition, simply raising salaries on top of current structures that do not differentiate based on performance and labor-market contexts neglects the significant impact of these two factors on teacher retention and the ultimate quality of the workforce.

Current compensation structures that mostly differentiate based on years in the job and education attainment provide financial incentives for less effective individuals to enter and stay. Meanwhile, teaching becomes a less attractive option for individuals with higher salary opportunities in the labor market.

Rethinking teacher compensation is a first step. But restructuring the teaching job is the way to truly have an impact on the bottom line: student performance.


Karen Hawley Miles
Executive Director
Education Resource Strategies
Watertown, Mass.

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