This post was inspired by this article from the New York Times:
Nicholas Kristof makes a case for paying teachers more, not less. I've used his same argument many times. By diminishing the profession by eroding pay and benefits, governments are unwittingly making the profession significantly less attractive. The vilification of teachers and our unions by the media and general public make the profession even less appealing. Why would talented individuals choose teaching as a career?
It's not hard to become a teacher. Any reasonably intelligent individual can successfully pass through teacher preparation programs and pass the state-required certification tests. This means one thing- the bottom of the barrel is pretty bad.
There are a lot of unemployed teachers floating around right now. They are unemployed for a reason... the better teachers have already been hired. As the profession becomes less appealing, the talented teachers are going to leave. Their talents will assure gainful employment outside the profession. In many cases, they will find a position to help people more effectively than they did from within the school system with superior pay, benefits, and status.
This mass exodus of the talented teachers opens the door for the less talented teachers. The result- the quality of schools drops even more. Add scarce resources and growing class sizes and we now have a recipe for disaster. This entire scenario is laughable given the sudden focus on rooting out and eliminating "bad teachers." If the fanatical right-wingers think there are bad teachers in the profession now, wait until their policies are fully enacted.
Of course, some suggest performance-based pay is the obvious solution. These people obviously do not understand how schools work. If merit pay is based on standardized test scores, the best teachers will simply flock to the upper-class schools where test scores are highest. even within schools there would be competition for those students that would score best. Also, there would be even more incentive to teach to the test. There would also be more incentive for schools or individual teachers to somehow cheat the system so their students will score higher.
The solution is simple but seems to be unpalatable in today's economic climate- pay teachers more. Attract the best of the best. Give them the autonomy and resources to inspire our children. If we want to pay teachers based on performance, let's give a bonus for every student that goes on to change the world.
Of course, that would require more taxes, and we don't want that. After all, then we wouldn't be able to afford that new flat screen plasma TV for our bathroom.