Teachers want more compensation, but it's about more than just money

Mar 31, 2015

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In our informal survey, 61% of teachers indicated that better pay is the best way to retain teachers. As part of our "Learning to Teach" week at Michigan Radio, Joshua Cowen, an associate professor at the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, discusses teacher pay in the state.

Cowen says there's disagreement within the state of whether monetary compensation or professional opportunities work better to reward teachers.

The old model has been based on tenure, or being guaranteed a certain amount of money for teaching a certain length of time. Cowen says the alternative being used by some instead bases compensation on performance.

Cowen suggests the best solution is a hybrid of the two models, "where experience is rewarded financially," but "the standards that you have to pass to reach tenure, for example, are higher than they were in the past."

It's important to reward experience because, as Cowen points out, "In education that experience does lead to increased effectiveness over time. The first five years in particular teachers, by almost any measure, become more effective."

While compensation is also a factor, Cowen says it's about more than just money.

"One of the arguments against the way things are done now is that it's not so much that money itself matters, but it's money for what you're doing,"  Cowen says.

Salary often doesn't incentivize people to enter or remain in the profession, according to Cowen. Instead, monetary compensation is important when it reflects an appreciation of the teacher's hard work or specific skills.

"I think the take-home point is it's not all about the money, it's sort of the rewards for what you're doing," Cowen says.