I had this really great post I was going to write on why creating a more rigorous teacher assessment model will be a big waste of time until we address some of the more pressing problems in our schools.  But then I read something truly disheartening.  Michael Petrilli wrote Monday that it would be in our country's best interest pay to teachers who have been working for five years on the same level with teachers who have been working twenty-five years.  And he doesn't mean that we should give five-year teachers a raise.  Rather, he suggests we should buy out the old farts as soon as we can in order to save from having to pay them their full benefits later.  Then, we should create new pay scales that seriously cut experienced teachers' compensation.  So on a pay scale like this one, Petrilli seems to suggest that (if they have a master's) effective teachers deserve about 38k, every year.

He then inserts this chart:

The conclusion he draws from it is that charter schools are more effective resource allocators (he also says that the charter school is just as effective at raising student achievement as the traditional public school, which is tantamount to a bald-faced lie).  The conclusion I draw from it is that business-minded (often for-profit) charter schools are interested in cutting costs while keeping test scores high, which means quality education is likely to be sacrificed.

You know there are people thinking this stuff, it's just not often that they actually write it down or say it out loud.  Not surprising that Petrilli did since he was previously vice president of an education company.

Finally, I'll leave you with the comment I left him:

The Reflective Educator
Really disappointed that this is where business-minded policy wonks with no real experience in the classroom see the future of the profession.
Let’s further deprofessionalize the career, help people see it as a building block to something more important like becoming a professional pundit (because, after all, what kind of loser really wants to teach for their entire life), and strip people who’ve dedicated their lives to improving other people’s lives of the chance to enjoy a salary they can raise a family on and retire comfortably on.
No big surprise though. We’ve heard it all before: “5-year teachers are just as effective as 25-year teachers” – only someone who’s never actually worked in the classroom could take the implication of that “research” to mean that hard-working, reflective teachers don’t constantly make improvements over their career. “Teachers are too expensive” – we live in the richest country in the world, by far. Are we really saying that someone who’s been teaching for 25 years doesn't deserve adequate compensation to raise a family and lead a modestly comfortable lifestyle? Truly unbelievable.


  1. I can tell you are hurt by Petrilli's assertion. I see his point, which is not totally vacant, and feel your pain. In many professions and occupations there is no continuous improvement or compulsion to get better and better. People may want to "stay current" but not necessarily get better and better. In a lot of fields, there is no monetary or collegial or spiritual payoff for getting better. I agree that in teaching there may be a payoff for continuous improvement. Problem is, in some of the struggling systems, including possibly your last gig, the staff don't seem that zippy (attentive, engaged, responsible, communicative, skilled, striving for professional development). They may have been at one time, but they have peaked. While this could be blamed on being beaten down by the environment, it is far more likely to be a function of just getting older--middle age and beyond and more economically comfortable. People often--but not always--slow down and coast, especially when job security is a negligible concern. You don't see this in fields like industrial sales, commercial fishing boat owners, top-flight litigators, or restaurant owners and top chefs. If they relax their expertise and drive, they get displaced quickly. The bulk of Americans are in jobs that don't have a premium on being "up"--motivated, in so many words, to be better and better. People in unions--just 7% of the workforce, and more public than private sector--can be lulled into just showing up and turning the crank, even in something as potentially engaging as education.

  2. >People often--but not always--slow down and coast, especially when job security is a negligible concern.

    I have good job security and good pay. My work doesn't satisfy me, though, if I'm not helping students really learn. I teach at a community college. If these people succeed in gutting public K12 education, they'll go for cc's next.

    K12 teachers deserve far more respect, autonomy, and pay than they get. Check out Finland...

  3. 3:14pm commenter on 12th of May:--

    While we supporters of teachers are pleased with every satisfied and enthused teacher we learn about, you don't say if your work actually does satisfy you because you know that are helping students really learn. So please complete the thought.

    In systems like DCPS the pay is good and about to get a lot better. Job security will, as people have pointed out, decrease, but frankly it is much too high from the perspective of parents, DCPS management, and what the citizens can bear. In general, the taxpaying public objects to the insane job security that public employees everywhere have, and the pay ain't bad. In Washington, of course, this thought is in the air.

    Rhee has been sloppy in combing through the teacher population, but she has the right idea. There are many who need to leave because they have insufficient skills or flagging or no commitment. Another subset are remedial candidates; they can be good, and deserve the help to be effective (unless they have already had a lot of improvement time and remedial work; if only scant improvement, they need to go.) Finally, there are the many good teachers; they deserve to be kept satisfied and given stretching professional development opportunities. The union is noted for its uniform defense of all teachers and forever seeking lifetime tenure. We cannot afford that and it is awful to put the weight of ineffective teachers on top of kids who already have serious disadvantages. The "disrespect of teachers" crowed is bad news, but one can tell the seed of its dissatisfactions-- little educational achievement. But these critics generalize and are blind to the good teaching that does occur. The critics do have credible points, though, because ineffective teachers become obvious and are staunchly defended by their unions. Teachers groups of all kinds tend to dodge the idea that some healthy portion of educators in a weak system need to go. It is also not uncommon to hear teachers direct scathing criticism of the professional competence of some colleagues. It is certainly not uncommon in DC, if not done in large meetings. And sadly, this is one reason that good teachers flee.

  4. I suggest finding and publishing as a comment to Petrilli’s article, data or other information to further support your view. Michael Petrilli also gave Michelle Rhee’s credit for DCs rising NAEP scores, until it was pointed out to him by commenters using official NAEP data, that the scores had been rising steadily long before Rhee arrived.


    To his credit, he added a link to NAEP when readers provided the actual data and commented on his error and his omission.

  5. I'm a DCPS parent and I heard Petrelli speak at the Urban Institute. I thought he was a tool.

    As for teachers in DC being paid too much, I don't think so. My children attend a Title I school and I watch how hard our staff works. The hours are unbelievable, the stress is crackling in the building (due to Rhee et al) and the burdens of poverty and ELL challenges are staggering.

    After a day of volunteering in the building I'm emotionally and physically exhausted. I simply can't imagine how hard it must be to do this job day in and day out. I have the utmost respect for the teachers at our DCPS and I wish they were paid much, much more.

    As an aside, I've had one of my children in a charter school that was populated by inexperienced teachers. They were very, very nice and hardworking young people. However, they had no business running classrooms and the fact that there were no experienced adults in the building hurt the quality of teaching in a profound way. My child and every child deserves better.

    My money says Petrelli's kids don't go to a school staffed entirely by inexperienced teachers. Wanna bet? Seriously how many ed policy wonks in DC send their children to KIPP? Inquiring minds want to know.

  6. Of course their kids aren't in a high poverty school. Or a charter school either with a whole rack of new inexperienced teachers who are sweet and smart and have good college pedigrees but as you say have no business being in front of children. If these ed wonks even have kids, they'll high tail it to Fairfax or MoCo as soon as Isabelle or Joshua hits preK. Or do they even have kids? Apartment buildings in SE are chock full of kids. Women are grandmothers at 40, right about when some people remember, oops, I forgot to have children. Heavily immigrant areas have absolute stroller brigades on their sidewalks. And I'm not talking about socio economic status, but cultural background.
    Teachers paid too much? Does anyone even know some of the things we deal with day in and day out? My colleague just got cursed out BY A PARENT. Do any ed wonks have that happen to them when they study policy and research in their nice office with phones and a regularly functioning copier, stocked with paper? Oh, I forgot. That's why they aren't in the classroom. But like former TFA, they still have the balls to say that they're in education.

  7. Also, RE, are we saying that once teachers reach a high level of competency, they should be let go in favor of bringing in completely inexperienced teachers who will be let go once they reach competency? This would mean very few teachers at any given time are operating at a high level of competency and as soon as they do they are considered washed up.

    How does this help the children?

    It means there are fewer and fewer competent teachers to help their less experienced colleagues. I supposed they are helped instead by a corps of professional trainers who are no longer in the classroom, if they ever were.

    Imagine doctors or lawyers who are expected to find another profession once they master their work.

    How about carpenters and plumbers? There's a learning curve there too. Would we only want skilled trades people who are still learning and none who had mastered their craft.

  8. I totally agree, EFavorite. The scary thing is these policy wonks can write that argument off by citing "studies" that show that after five years, teaching experience doesn't matter. What we really need is a concerted push to show them, and the public, that these economists' studies of standardized test scores that suggest that experience doesn't matter are based on inappropriate indicators of teaching excellence.

  9. Let's see the studies. And let's find out if similar studies have been done on doctors, lawyers, policy wonks, plumbers, carpenters, etc., and if not, why not?

    Why are teachers being singled out for this treatment?

    My sinister theory is that these "reformers" have given up on certain kids. They don't think any teacher, no matter how "effective" can make the kids learn and the reformers are not willing to tackle the societal changes that are needed to make a real difference. Thus, they just throw idealistic college grads at the kids, giving the grads a meaningful life experience (and resume builder) and to hell with the kids.


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