Washington State Teachers Shout,”Show Me The Money!”

Finally, Washington State teachers are getting paid more fairly given the importance of their hard work. At least in 2018-2019.

Due to increased funding for teacher salaries as a result of a long awaited court decision, all 295 school districts have to negotiate individual agreements with their teachers. Despite school starting tomorrow, 6-7% of the districts still have not settled.

The result has been a serious money grab, meaning teachers are paying no attention to whether the serious raises they’re winning are sustainable beyond 2018-2019. And I completely understand that. “We’ve been underpaid for way too long,” teachers are saying. “This is the time to right that wrong. Let others determine the sustainability and put the pieces back together if it proves not to be.”

Starting teachers will now make 50-65k, veteran teachers, 100-115k. To which I say, right on! I celebrate my teacher friends’ improved salaries not just because of my fondness for them as individuals, but because I think it has the potential to strengthen the profession which would be a significant step toward thriving communities.

But it only has the potential if the markedly improved salaries are sustainable and they most likely are not unless the state legislature loosens limits on levy spending on salaries. Time will tell how sympathetic the state legislators are to hemorrhaging districts. My guess, not very. This is two steps forward, in a year’s time, anticipate one large one back.

Some of the unintended consequences of suddenly improved teacher salaries:

• Unless today’s gains are partially or largely clawed back in subsequent negotiations, college graduates will give teaching much more serious consideration. Teacher education programs will see more applicants, and therefore, be more selective. Teacher candidates will be more representative of their undergraduate graduating classes, meaning stronger academically. Hopefully, they’ll have similar heart.

• Recruiting future school administrators will be much more difficult. Washington State administrators are not included in the large salary improvements teachers are making. Consequently, now, in some cases, top teacher pay equals administrators’ pay. To which some principals in the state are asking, “Why am I working 60 more days a year, with added hours and stress, without any additional compensation?” Fewer applicants to administrator preparation programs means principal certification programs will be less selective, meaning a dilution in the quality of future school leaders.

• Teacher education and Principal Certification programs will have a much harder time recruiting quality faculty. At my university, Assistant Professor’s begin in the low 50’s, which is less than a 23 year-old graduate of any of our teacher education programs will now make. So imagine that 23 year old says to me, “I want your job in ten years, what would you advise.” I’d say, “Teach 6-7 years, then spend 3-4 years getting a PhD (consider not just the cost of tuition, but the lost salary) and then apply. If successful, you’ll make about 60% of what you would if you had continued your K-12 teaching career.” University life has many advantages, but how many people can afford that kind of economic hit?

I’m sure there are other ripple effects I’m not anticipating, but these are important ones. Stay tuned sports fans, should be interesting.

 

 

 

Teaching Teamwork

In May, 2011, Atul Gawande gave an insightful commencement address to Harvard’s Medical School graduates.

He reminded the graduates that the practice of medicine had changed markedly, and that increasingly, the best docs are members of teams.

Gawande pointed out that, “The doctors of former generations lament what medicine has become.”

I’m having my graduate-level teacher certification students read the address. On the copy I’m providing them, I’ve lined out “doctors” and “medicine” and written in “teachers” and “education”.

Here’s Gawande’s primary point:

The core structure of medicine—how health care is organized and practiced—emerged in an era when doctors could hold all the key information patients needed in their heads and manage everything required themselves. One needed only an ethic of hard work, a prescription pad, a secretary, and a hospital willing to serve as one’s workshop, loaning a bed and nurses for a patient’s convalescence, maybe an operating room with a few basic tools. We were craftsmen. We could set the fracture, spin the blood, plate the cultures, administer the antiserum. The nature of the knowledge lent itself to prizing autonomy, independence, and self-sufficiency among our highest values, and to designing medicine accordingly. But you can’t hold all the information in your head any longer, and you can’t master all the skills. No one person can work up a patient’s back pain, run the immunoassay, do the physical therapy, protocol the MRI, and direct the treatment of the unexpected cancer found growing in the spine. I don’t even know what it means to “protocol” the MRI.

Today, isn’t it a workplace truism for nearly everyone that “. . . you can’t hold all the information in your head. . . and you can’t master all the skills”?

Gawande adds:

The public’s experience is that we have amazing clinicians and technologies but little consistent sense that they come together to provide an actual system of care, from start to finish, for people. We train, hire, and pay doctors to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews people need.

On my students’ copies, I’ve lined out “doctors” and “people” and substituted “teachers” and “students”.

Gawande acknowledges that medical education fails to teach docs to function like pit crews for patients. The same is true for teacher education.

Too often nursing, medical school, and teacher education faculty wrongly assume that novice nurses, docs, and teachers will naturally, through osmosis, form knowledgeable, skilled, interdependent work teams. Absent intentional team-building curricula, in which case studies would be an integral component, professional apprentices depend upon the modeling of their veteran colleagues, often out-of-step ones pining for old school independence and autonomy.

When in comes to intentionally teaching teamwork, what can and should professional preparation programs do to shift the balance from cowboys to pitcrews? More generally, what can employers do to teach teamwork?

They shouldn’t assume it’s something someone is either born with or not. Effective teamwork can be taught through case studies that illuminate what the best teams do and what commonly trips up most others. And by proactively providing pre-professional students positive examples of excellent teams during their fieldwork.