2% Disagreement: “Highly effective teachers should be paid more for teaching in areas with shortages or in high-need schools that have difficulty attracting qualified staff…”
…..We should not create 2 classes of teachers based on what they teach; we should however create two classes of teachers based on how well they teach. Principals, even those in “high need” schools can find qualified teachers if we allow them to make space for them by the removal of unqualified teachers; and the system plays its part by building a strong STEM teacher pipe-line.
First, treat schools like a High Risk Organization (HRO) i.e. an Aircraft Carrier, Nuclear Power Plant or a Hospital. In an HRO, incompetence is quickly identified and removed, because this incompetence could lead to the death of others. Incompetence is tolerated in Public education because its greatest victims; those who suffer an educational death, are the children of parents who are the most politically disenfranchised members of the city. If we seriously put the other 98% in place: the “unrealistic work schedule”*, a FDNY-NYPD like job assignment for new teachers, meaning: go where you are assigned, or don’t take the job; let principals and the school Admin. team pick their staff, and then “sink or swim” with that decision; removal of seniority rules, tenure rights, the “rubber rooms, and the “unassigned teacher pool”; teacher salaries can be raised substantially, across the board. For years the system has carried thousands of teachers (and other employees) on payroll that should not be in a school, let alone near children; many of these employees are on the “high end” of the salary scale. Further, the present salary configuration is terribly skewed against “new teachers”; offer a financial incentive to come into the field, and be able to live in an expensive NYC. The city should offer a “homesteading” housing loan and residential tax relief for teachers (this will also keep them in the city, thus recycling their incomes into city businesses). Teachers should be provided with free public transportation Mon-Friday; this would also help with driving congestion and pollution problems. Not mentioned in the Editorial is the critical issues of a “best practitioner” in the teaching and administrators ranks; all present labor contracts incline incorrectly toward this idea that all employees in a class are “equally talented and skilled”; this feeds the idea of an endless process of useless and costly professional development and very long disciplinary-removal for incompetence (almost impossible) procedure; meanwhile great harm is being visited upon the children, at a great financial cost to the city. There should be a “master teacher” bonus, based on proven best practices; that would allow this elite group of teachers to mentor new teachers. This group of “master teacher group” is also the pool from which teachers should be recruited to work in the most challenging educational settings. It is simple: The strongest teachers should work with the weakest students. We need a serious professional “internship” program, similar to what exist in the training of medical doctors; a 1st year teacher should not be just thrown into a class to “claw and scrape” their way through the year. Provide (in corporation with CUNY) tuition reimbursement for teachers to get certified in STEM areas. I don’t think we should pay an Art, Music, social studies or English teacher less than a STEM teacher. This sends the wrong educational message to the staff, and to the students. Create a STEM- teacher program at all 4-year CUNY schools. This is not the usual practice of trying to convert a “science major” into a teacher; rather this will be a “pipe-line” program of STEM teachers who are double majors in their content area and teaching methodology. A commitment to teach in NYC for every year of subsidized tuition should be part of the agreement. This will attract more candidates to the so-called “shortage areas”, and these “shortages” should disappear.
*At present Principals and Asst. Principals subsidize the system because if they actually worked (or got paid for) the hours they were contracted to work, the system would collapse. It is an “open secret” that these supervisors and other administrators; work daily beyond their assigned schedule. Now I know that some teachers will get confused about this, because of course all good teachers work outside of the school; or stay late in the school working on one thing, or another. But In this case I am actually talking about an employee being on “official” full duty every day, when they are technically off; this is not a choice on the part of an administrator, rather it is a professional requirement. I am not suggesting that this change (some administrators may disagree here), only that this “work-schedule flexibility”, be part of the requirements for all employees. A principal or AP who arrives to work at 8: AM and leaves at 4: PM; or is crazy enough to leave the building for lunch; is not long for that job.