LJW: Money Isn’t the Only Factor

Yet another article on teacher recruitment and attraction comes from the LJW, this time in an editorial (“Job Satisfaction,” August 5).

“State education officials are right to be concerned about the ability of Kansas school districts to hire the teachers they need.

A quarter of the state’s 35,000 teachers will be eligible to retire in the next four years, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis told the state’s 2010 Commission, which studies education issues, this week, and many university students are bypassing teaching careers for higher-paying jobs.

The main focus of any discussion of how to attract more people to the teaching profession usually falls on money. In order to get more teachers, you must pay them more.”

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

But wait.

“When the average teacher salary in Kansas ranks it 38th among the 50 states, money clearly is one part of the puzzle, but are there other reasons teaching has become an undesirable job for many young people or that trained teachers are leaving the profession?

Teaching isn’t the highest paid profession, but many people over the years have found that it offers non-monetary rewards. There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping children grow and develop into healthy, productive adults. Has that somehow changed?”

Perhaps people are looking for opportunities in less bureaucratic environments, where individual effort is rewarded rather than being constricted to a salary scale that is more suitable to a factory environment?

Nope. Blame the feds:

“The demands of the classroom obviously have changed. It seems it is less about the one-on-one relationship between teachers and students and more about objective measurements of student success. While well-intended, the federal No Child Left Behind program has forced teachers to push all of their students toward standardized goals rather than nurture individual talents.”

Granted, we have our differences with NCLB, too. On the other hand, if some students are not performing up to grade, shouldn’t a teacher be concerned about that?

“Respect is another major factor in job satisfaction and is something teachers may find lacking in their profession. It seems that parents don’t respect and support the actions and decisions of teachers as much as they once did. Unfortunately, many students also seem to adopt that disrespectful attitude by the time they reach junior high or high school. Teachers now are expected to deal with myriad social and family issues that weren’t their responsibility a generation or two ago.”

There’s a chicken and egg problem: to what extent do parents slough off their responsibilities because the schools will take care of them? And when families are enabled by private scholarship funds or voucher programs to choose their own school, discipline is less of a problem. Why? Greater buy-in.

“The 2010 Commission is looking at several strategies to attract more teachers and keep them in the profession. Higher pay is at the top of the list, but they also are considering programs to help teachers repay student loans and have districts contribute toward the tuition of students who commit to come back to teach after graduation. They also are looking at more funds for professional development and mentoring programs to raise the satisfaction and status of the profession.”

Tuition reimbursement and loan repayments are simply another way of saying “more money.” But as the LJW editorial points out, the amount of money isn’t the only consideration.

“Are there other factors that should be addressed? Do teachers need more flexibility in their schedules? Do they want more or different training? Is there a way to take some of the administrative burden off teachers and give them more time to just work with youngsters, which probably was the main thing that drew them to teaching in the first place?”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

“Every job has its ups and downs, and it’s true that more money makes just about any job look better, especially if someone is trying to support a family. But, while higher salaries are important, making teaching a more attractive profession may be more than just a matter of dollars and cents.”

Bingo.

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