Recap – Rewarding Great Teachers

What should we be doing in UCF to attract, retain, and reward Great Teachers?  I started this series several months ago, and put it on hold during the recent contract negotiations.  I will now be continuing the topic, so a recap is in order.

1.  How much is great teaching worth?  Research shows that great teachers (top 15% in a school) add tremendous value  – up to $250,000 per year in future lifetime earnings of their students!   So quality teaching is enormously important to our community.  And because of that,  I argued that we should pay much greater attention to attracting, cultivating, retaining, and rewarding great teachers.

2.  Because compensation systems are one of the most important management tools to attract, retain, and reward talented professionals in any line of work, we looked at the current pay system in our schools.  The prevailing pay system, called the ‘Single Salary Scale’ pay system or ‘Step and Lane’ is used in ~95% of our public school in Americas and covers ~98% of school teachers.  We looked at the features of the system, the incentives its creates by paying for longevity and advanced degrees, and the good reasons why this system of pay emerged in the early 20th century.  We also looked at how ‘step & lane’ works in UCFSD.

3.   Next I argued that If we want to attract, retain, and reward great teaching, then the pay system ought to enable school administration to pay more to great teachers.    Unfortunately, the structure of the Single Salary Scale system does not support this objective.  Research shows (on balance) that the attributes we currently pay more for (longevity and advanced degrees) do not have any meaningful connection to great teaching.  Paying more for additional certifications doesn’t seem to work much better.  And the Single Salary Scale has several other deficiencies that make it more challenging to attract and retain top teacher talent.

4.   If there is a silver lining to the prevalence of the Single Salary Schedule, it is that we know what it takes to compete in the market for teacher talent, since every district works under the same system.    So if we want to attract talent away from other districts, one way to do so is on the package of salary and benefits (working conditions are the other big factor).    So we looked at our pay scale at UCF and then compared the average salary in UCF to those paid by other districts in Pennsylvania, our neighbors in Chester County, and to schools that have the highest levels of academic achievement.  Using public data, we found that UCF pays in the Top 5% in the state, and that our pay is in the top quartile in Chester County.  Our benefits package is also competitive, on the dimensions of access, quality, and cost to the employee.  And retirement benefits are identical to those of other public PA school systems, excellent compared to private sector plans, and offer long-service employees stable and lifelong retirement income.