Seattle's Teachers: Not as Church-Mousey as You Think

Comments

1
Would performance pay actually make them perform better? Doubtful. The studies show that paying for performance doesn't work in jobs that take mental skill.
2
Measuring performance by standardized tests is beyond stupid and has conclusively made generations of students dumber. Teachers are forced to only teach the test, and woefully unprepared young people are bitch-slapped upon reaching University.

Furthermore, if you think teachers only work 9 months a year, you sir are fucking stupid.
3
Compared to what, Bethany? Seems about in line with what you'd expect.
4
I come from several generations of teachers, and yes, they only work 9 months a year. Why would you think otherwise?
5
Really? You're going after teachers?

A correction: *Newer* teachers, not younger teachers, are let go first.

6
Really? You're going after teachers? This is the battle you've chosen?

A correction: *Newer* teachers, not younger teachers, are let go first.

7
But, during that 9 - 10 months, how much extra work do they put in outside the classroom? Things like coaching sports programs, supervising extra-curricular activities, attending parent-teacher conferences, grading assignments, creating lesson plans & prepping for daily classes, etc., etc. - almost none of which can be done during the time constraints of the normal school day?

Plus, teachers are expected to maintain certification in their specialty subjects - at their own expense, mind you - which of course is generally done during the summer, when they aren't doing all those other things listed above.

So, yeah. What @2 said.
8
I agree with a lot of this, and can sympathize with the frustrations a faculty can feel over long-time, poorly performing teachers. But remember, much of that $70k/10 month year is 12+ hour work days, sometimes 6 days a week, depending on the teacher and subject. Hourly, most teachers, especially beginning teachers, aren't pulling much in.

They need to raise the starting salary, and like most any workplace, seniority should not rule.
9
You can always tell who has taught and who hasn't.
If you think it's all that easy and that teachers have tons of time off etc etc, then why aren't you doing it???
It's a good job with lots of perks, but it is rarely what the non-teaching population thinks it is.
10
i have an actual question that i don't know the answer to. for teachers in maths and sciences and languages and history and pretty much everything that isn't current or changed every year, do they update their lesson plan every year? i would think that they figure out what works and just do the same thing over and over. is that incorrect?
11
Concur with @2 and @7. And it's hard, hard work.
12
@1 - performance pay may or may not cause teachers to perform better (there are studies that profile situations where it has, and situations where it hasn't). But, it sure would be more fair, at least in my opinion (if it was designed well, of course). My mom taught across the hall from a teacher who probably hadn't written a new lesson plan in 20 years and showed videos 3 days out of 5. Is it fair that my mother (an excellent, committed teacher) made the same as him? My aunt was a national teacher of the year in her subject area. Is it fair that she makes the same as someone who has been just an okay teacher for the same number of years? Would you be irritated if you did the same job as someone else -- and you knew you were an excellent performer and the other person just phoned it in, and yet you made the exact same amount?

I also think it would be a better use of our resources. Most studies show that experience (beyond the first 5 years or so) does not make a teacher better, and neither does academic degree (unless it's matched to the subject taught). And yet, that is exact how we pay teachers today, based solely on those two factors.

Anyways, it's not easy to design a different system (and I wouldn't be in favor of something based solely on test scores... and if test scores are used it should be based on student growth throughout the year, not proficiency)... but, it definitely can be done.
13
Teachers should be paid top dollar. We should not bitch about this. They are doing the hard task of educatingh our children, and therefore they should make a competitive wage.

The fact that you would go against them for working "only" 9 months a year, is ridiculous. As stated above, teachers tend to work 12+ or 16+ hour days. I agree that there should be a better system to rate them, perhaps peer-reviewed year end ratings rather than the kids taking tests? But to cry out against their salaries (oh noes, 70k a year!) is pretty BS.
14
@10 - If they are any good they do. Beyond the fact that textbooks and curricula change frequently - sometimes annually - a good teacher will try to bring some of what is happening in the "real world," the world outside the doors of the school, into the classroom, even if that is just incorporating current events in to grammar exercises. Plus, every class is unique, and what one class responds to might not work at all for another one.

Not to mention that, at least on th secondary level, doing the same thing year after year encourages cheating (copied papers, copies of tests passed around, etc.).

When I was teaching, in addition to my classroom time and my extracurricular time (which was probably right around or just over the 40 hour mark every week), I probably spent about 20-30 hours outside the classroom grading papers, preparing lessons, talking with parents, etc. It's not an easy profession.

Oh, and I was teaching at a private school and made under $20K a year, about 9 years ago. It truly wasn't enough to live on.
15
I should also say that I agree with @8. Raise starting salaries. Significantly. That will, hopefully, attract more (and better) talent to the profession. And, if I had my way, have a truly significant performance review after 3-4 years (not the "almost everyone makes it" tenure-based reviews that most districts have now). If you make it past that review, get another significant increase in pay. But, after that, increases should be based on performance, not just adding another year of experience.
16
@7: Sorry, but that's mostly accounted for. Teachers unions are pretty badass about getting them paid for everything they do. Coaches get extra pay for their afterschool work, and teachers are given daily prep periods during which, if they're organized, they get most of their grading and lesson plans done. And there's a ton of funding available from the district and foundations for continuing education and travel, so that's rarely an out-of-pocket expense.

@8: 12-hour day? like 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.? I've never known a non-coaching teacher that worked those hours. And public school teachers in most other wealthy nations have more class-hours per year, which is one of many reasons why children in those nations learn more than in ours.

@9: Teachers, of course, work very hard and deserve our undying gratitude. That doesn't mean their working arrangements are invulnerable to criticism.
17
If you're curious, here's the salary schedule for Seattle public schools.
18
*UP TO* $70K. I don't know any teachers who make $70K! New teachers definitely do NOT make $70K right off the bat, which is what you're implying. New teachers make closer to half that sum.

And, as 7, 8, and 9 said, teaching is hardly an easy, 8-hour a day, 5-day/week job. It's more like 10-12 hours/day, 6-7 days/week, being on your feet constantly, repeating the same thing over and over, often to a bunch of kids who could care less about what you have to say, then getting yelled at by parents and/or administration if someone's unhappy with your methods. And teachers constantly work loads of unpaid overtime, which includes creating lesson plans, grading papers, finding new materials, attending parent/teacher conferences and various after-school meetings, committee meetings, plus improving their own subject knowledge on their own time, etc, etc.

If you think teaching is an easy job with high pay, you are sorely mistaken. Why don't you try it sometime?
19
@16 then you came from generations of bad teachers. Every teacher I know is up at 5 and goes to sleep at 10. They work every weekend and every summer take weeks if not months of certification, seminars, and classes, so that when they return to work they can actually get on about doing the thing they loved to do and for which they consistently receive endless amounts of shit for. And let's not forget the fact that the current generation of Helicopter Parents can make a teacher's life a living fucking hell. Instead of castigating the people who are stupid or naive enough to teach our dumbass kids, we should be giving them hazard pay.
20
Let me get this straight--public school teachers in Seattle average the same pay as garbage collectors? Outstanding!
21
"10-12 hours/day, 6-7 days/week"? Luxury!

"I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing 'Hallelujah.'"

"But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxT…
22
So how much do you think teachers should get paid? Is there some magic number that's ok? Or is it that it looks so easy from the outside, so you think they shouldn't make more than writers for alternative papers?
It's a hard job, and those extra hours are the ones spent at home grading papers, calling parents, devising teaching materials and so on. My family didn't go on a trip without Mom's bag of papers from 1968 to 2002. There was rarely a summer that Mom didn't take some course or other on how to improve her teaching or knowledge of her materials.
And if you work for a corporation you get paid pretty much what the salary scale says you should, just like the jerk in the next cubicle down. Same on the assembly line. (if there are any of those left in America)
It's hard to blame the teachers for only working nine months a year-that's when the schools are open. Some teachers teach summer school, if that's an option, others get summer jobs to keep paying the rent.
I love the way teachers get reviled for making a moderately big salary for a lot of necessary work, and ball players are treated better the more they get paid to play a game. How many games of baseball or football does a pro athlete play? Wasn't Michael Jordan making 70 grand every minute he was on a court at the end of his career? Now that's making way more than necessary.
23
my momz never worked a 12 hour day as a teacher. if you do, you're doing it wrong.

and 70k is fine. WTF with this post.
24
I just wanted to clarify that most teachers work some portion of the summer as well. Preparing nine months of lesson plans cannot be done entirely during the school year. I am a college teacher and I find that folks make the same error about my job: "How great to have summers off!" they say. In fact, what's great is having a flexible work schedule, but I (and everyone else I know) still work during the summer.
25
Sorry, but that's mostly accounted for. Teachers unions are pretty badass about getting them paid for everything they do.


And you don't think the $70k factors into that? I could make $70k if I worked 80 hours a week too.
26
My folks were always working. During the summer, my mother was often living in another city, working on her certifications at college.

We struggled, a lot, when I was a kid, on two teachers' salaries.

As far as "performance" goes, it all depends on who you ask. If it's based on government tests, you get kids who haven't really learned anything. If it's based on popularity, you sometimes get kids who learn some things, but not always. If it's based on learning--well, nobody in the system cares about actual learning. The teachers and students are afterthoughts in a world of parents, administration and political interest groups. Teachers are not backed up. Parents often act like lousy retail customers who want precisely what the administration wants. Numbers. Nobody gives a crap if the kid learns anything, as long as kids get churned out of the Mediocrity Factory.

70K my ass.
27
We should find some way to reward good teachers and prevent the harm done by bad teachers.

I don't know what that system looks like. I'm pretty sure senority rackets and weak performance tests are not a part of that system.

Good teachers deserve a living wage. 70k is not too high. 90k is not too high for great teachers who work lots of overtime.
28
Between Publicola pointlessly playing up Republican talking points about unions and Metro salaries, and you guys here, wtf?

When did you all go Tea Bagger?
29
Basically what everyone else in this thread is saying - starting teachers get paid shit and have the *highest* expectations placed upon them often without knowing what they are getting into, which is a recipe for failure. Senior teachers feel their survival inside the system means they are entitled to high salaries and large benefits (I wonder how many TERS 1 teachers are actually left on the payroll in Washington?). These are bad ways to motivate teachers and make them valued employees.
30
Why don't we spend a few moments talking about the horrid parents who regard the school system (and the library and the parks department and the malls, etc, etc, etc) as free babysitting services? Why is it no one ever wants to go there?
31
Is this total compensation, or take home pay?

Cause last time I checked, teachers had to pay into health care for themselves and dependents, dental coverage, retirement accounts, and they sure as heck don't end up with paychecks that are $70k after that - more like $45k.
32
@30: oh, mrs. solomon and i go there all the time. you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. babies makin babies makin babies makes fucking dumb students with no hope of help at home.
33
Teaching is a tough, stressful, and often thankless job and teachers should be paid more, not less. It's not merely repeating the same thing day after day, year after year. No two students are alike, no two classes are alike, teachers need to be quick and able to think fast and handle difficult and unpredictable situations. They need to be able to consistently motivate a bunch of people to do stuff they don't want to do and don't get paid for.

As for updating materials from @10's comment, yes, even standard stuff like math needs continual updating. The more complicated and difficult it is to learn, the more effort teachers need to put into making it understandable to the students. Often, the best way to get students to learn is by relating it to things in their life, tough to do with math, chemistry, etc., but good teachers will use examples from current events and their students' personalities to make useful demonstrations and assignments.
34
Uh, teachers work almost year round. They don't stop and do nothing from June to Sept and they certainly don't stop working after 3:30.
35
I'm a Seattle Public Schools teacher with five years of experience, and I make just over 40k plus benefits. Few teachers make 70-80k/year, at least how most people understand thier paychecks.

Almost all teachers work more than they are paid for, but I would be surprised if more than a small percentage work 12-hour-days.

And I don't think performance based pay will ever work. Too complicated and problematic in the real world. I do, however, think that administrators should have more power over who they hire and fire, just like they would in any business.
36
@12: Would you be irritated if you did the same job as someone else -- and you knew you were an excellent performer and the other person just phoned it in, and yet you made the exact same amount?

You're not really suggesting this doesn't go on in businesses all over the country, are you?

37
@36 - Of course it goes on. But, for the type of knowledge-based professionals that teachers are comparable to (or should be comparable to -- I'm thinking accountants, consultants, engineers, etc.), differentiating pay based on performance is pretty commonplace.
38
if you look at the pay schedule, you'll see that the higher salaries are for those with advanced degrees -- to get into the 70K range, you have to have a master's degree or a Ph.D. In what other area would that level of education earn?
39
@38 someone with a PHD in some other industries can earn a shit ton more than $70k. This entire post (and some of the attitudes here) are baffling.

If my kid's teacher spent 4 years on her BA, 2 on her MA, and 3-4 on her PHD, and I'd have zero problem with her making $100k, let alone $70k. One of my friends back home is a teacher with a BA, two MAs, one PhD, and working on her next PhD. This is a PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL teacher.

Many school districts require ongoing education out of pocket -- you have to get so many credits every so often. Does Seattle do that? If so, then everyone here bitching is under a mandatory STFU.
40
Just FYI, while Masters degrees are pretty common (I would argue because of the high value the salary scales tend to place on them -- e.g., $8k a year in Seattle -- they're a pretty good investment for a teacher in the long-run), teachers with PhDs are rare.

I don't know what the rules are in Washington about ongoing certification -- some states (like New York) require that you get a masters by a certain time (I think 5 years?) to remain certified. But, many districts also offer at least partial tuition reimbursement (Seattle does not, as far as I can tell).
41
the 70k "average" is bullshit. please refer to the salary schedule and keep in mind the years put in and advanced degrees required to earn that kind of money.

(fun facts: did you know that seattle principals START at around 100K and their salary increases don't rely on student achievement either? did you know that dr. maria goodloe-johnson's salary is higher than our govener's?)

you can talk to me about performance pay and how the union is killing education and running schools like a corporate business when you take all the english language learning, learning disabled, special ed, drug addicted, mentally ill, homeless, neglected, emotionally/physically/sexually abused kids out of my classroom. oh, and give me more than 200 bucks (my actual budget for the last few years) a year to supply and stock 3 different, 5 total, lab science courses. then, maybe, just maybe, i'll listen to you.

people love to beat up on the most visible aspect of school systems, the teachers and ignore everyone and everything else. fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

(though thanks to all the supporters here. this shit makes me nuts, obviously.)

42
@39 yes, you have to pay to get your "professional certification" (5 years after your "residency certification") and take 15 credits every 3 or 5 years (i forget which). all out of pocket.
43
Bethany, I cannot believe some of what you posted here. Faux-outrage over teachers' salaries? The old canard that that they only put in nine months of work in a year? Girl, please. Most professions requiring post-graduate education cap out FAR higher than $98k. That's peanuts over a 30-year career.
44
@42 in that case everyone, the Stranger included, has to STFU about frontline teacher salaries. I'm sure some of the Sound Politics people are reading this and frothing at the mouth but fuck them too and their anti-teacher union jihads. If Seattle started paying for that education out of everyone's pocket, I'd consider the argument the other way.

But if teachers are paying out of pocket for this--which even PRIVATE EMPLOYERS rarely require--then STFU. Pay them MORE.
45
That having been said, the old-school union "seniority rules" and sliding scale benefit cycle mindset is stale and needs serious overhaul, as with most union policies in any profession.
46
@ 41

Maybe principals start at 100k, but nobody starts straight out of college as a principal. Maybe you should remark about the starting pay of general administrators? Maybe.
47
K12 teachers and the irrational persecution complex--methinks they doth protest too much. I don't have a problem with the salaries stated, and I don't think that teachers 'don't do any work'. And of course they have to do unpleasant things on the job, and go under-appreciated, as do many people who get paid even less and treated even worse. However, this does not in any way make one of the largest professions that touches every person in this nation exempt from criticism or analysis just like every other industry/profession. We all know that teaching is a 'decent' paying job (could be better, especially at entry) with benefits and more time off than other jobs. All of the 'grading/preps/extracurriculars/continuing education in the world don't negate these facts. Many, many professional, exempt employees spend more than 40 hours per week working across a *12* month contract, and have to attend conferences and participate in continuing education, etc., etc.

There are so many teachers in this country... we all know them in our roles as students as well as friends and family and fellow community members. These claims of 'I make nothing for the hardest job in the universe and haven't had a vacation ever and work 12 hour days' is as laughable as the damned English professors (talk about underpaid, by the way... most would make more teaching high school) who proclaim they work 90 hours a week. Spare us. Own up to the reality of your profession or you lose all credibility in any analytical discussion of it. Many of these defensive comments are veering into 'waiter/waitress' and 'mother' land in their hysteria and insistence on the.hardest.job.on.earth. You'd think our schools were sweatshops... or law firms.
48
K12 teachers and the irrational persecution complex--methinks they doth protest too much. I don't have a problem with the salaries stated, and I don't think that teachers 'don't do any work'. And of course they have to do unpleasant things on the job, and go under-appreciated, as do many people who get paid even less and treated even worse. However, this does not in any way make one of the largest professions that touches every person in this nation exempt from criticism or analysis just like every other industry/profession. We all know that teaching is a 'decent' paying job (could be better, especially at entry) with benefits and more time off than other jobs. All of the 'grading/preps/extracurriculars/continuing education in the world don't negate these facts. Many, many professional, exempt employees spend more than 40 hours per week working across a *12* month contract, and have to attend conferences and participate in continuing education, etc., etc.

There are so many teachers in this country... we all know them in our roles as students as well as friends and family and fellow community members. These claims of 'I make nothing for the hardest job in the universe and haven't had a vacation ever and work 12 hour days' is as laughable as the damned English professors (talk about underpaid, by the way... most would make more teaching high school) who proclaim they work 90 hours a week. Spare us. Own up to the reality of your profession or you lose all credibility in any analytical discussion of it. Many of these defensive comments are veering into 'waiter/waitress' and 'mother' land in their hysteria and insistence on the.hardest.job.on.earth. You'd think our schools were sweatshops... or law firms.
49
The real question is how much does Charles Mudede's favorite "racist" teacher make? Maybe that's why he got a lawyer instead of a clue.
50
@41 my point was not about the salary per se, but the hypocrisy of performance pay for teachers but not for those supposedly running the show. not well stated on my part.
51
Washington Policy Council, eh?
52
i am a teacher entering the work force and my top salary is $44k with my masters, so i am little confused about where those numbers are coming from. administrators get paid $90k and above but certainly not teachers.
53
To clarify: The study maintains that "Teachers in Seattle receive an average of $70,850 for a ten-month year"—an average. I absolutely believe that teachers should be well-compensated, but everyone in the office was surprised that this was the case. Teachers here in comments are saying they don't make that much; good, experienced teachers who work their asses off should, and the school district should be attracting good people (and holding them to high standards!) if that's the case. I'm contacting the WPC for clarification on the figure.
54
one last thing from me: SPS budgets for FTE, about 80k including benes, not for how many people are where on the salary schedule. what SPS budgets for an FTE is quite different that what a particular FTE may get. it's certainly not an average.

for a publication so opposed to credulous hackery...
55
@48 - in archaic English, the third-person-plural of the verb "to do" is simply "do." (Yes, I'm that guy.)
56
You just can't paint all teachers with one brush this way. And it's pretty clear most posters do not have children in Seattle Public Schools. The vast majority of SPS teachers are somewhere between good and terrific. It's the bad ones who can NEVER be gotten rid of who
57
To be honest, I'm a little surprised that $70k would be the average. That means probably half the teachers make more than than that (unless there's some teacher out there who makes a million dollars or something). I had always heard that it was a low-paying job, and $70k sounds pretty good to me. It's more than I make, and I have a master's degree.

Telling people to STFU when they express their surprise at teacher's salaries isn't really a good way to convince people. I'm sure many teachers work very hard, but it seems like jumping down people's throats in this way has left a lot of teacher's unions with few friends. It's counterproductive.
58
16- math lesson: if a teacher has 6 classes per day, with 30 students in each class, and one planning period, how does that teacher grade 180 papers in that planning period? And maintain lesson plans? How exactly does that work?

My father taught high school english for more than 30 years. For the last 20 years of his career, he ran the theater department--directing plays, building sets, setting lights. The extra work netted him an additional $4000 annually. He left for work at 7AM and came home most nights after 9PM. Weekends were for grading papers and calling or visiting parents. He had every summer off, which I think that his more than 2500 hours at the school the remainder of the year (not counting his 'homework') more than earned.

I knew by the time I was 10 that I absolutely did not want to be a teacher. Talk about a thankless profession, with people who know nothing of the expectations having the audacity to say that teachers are overpaid for the work that they do.
59
I'm not sure why everyone is so confused about the $70,850 average salary number. Look at the salary schedule I linked to above. I have no idea what the average level of experience is at Seattle Public, but I've seen national average numbers of around 14 years. Given that most teachers with 14 years of experience have a masters degree, if not more, let's say the "average" teacher is in the 5th lane (column) -- so, that would be a salary of $69,443. Plus around a $1,000 for coaching or extra-curriculars, and that's probably round about that $70,850 number.

Sure, there is going to be a distribution around that number (newer teachers earn less), but it doesn't surprise me that the average is around $70k.
60
I don't want to hear anymore sob stories about teachers not making enough.
61
I guess I'm a little more than tired of the seeming "you're with us or against us" , black or white argument that comes up every time teachers, teachers' pay, or teacher unions are discussed.

Questioning the practices of or trying to figure out how to improve the above subjects does not make you tea party member.

If you attended public school, you must of had at least *one* teacher who really should have been doing something else in life, but nobody could touch them due to the union and/or seniority. Of course, this means that virtually all of your other teachers were excellent professionals, but you mention anything about trying to get rid of bad teachers, and you're branded a crazy right-winger.

All sides in this debate need to be willing to compromise so we can do our best as a community to produce great students - the folks we all should be thinking about here.
62
Well I guess we can end the myth that teacher's in Seattle are underpaid.
63
How much teachers are paid is not an issue for me. They should be paid more, frankly. (So should librarians.) I do agree that it shouldn't be nearly impossible to fire bad teachers with just cause -- I used to think that was exaggerated, but since then have gotten to know a bunch of (pro-union) teachers and principals in Los Angeles, all of whom have confirmed that it is true. If people believed that those long-time teachers who stuck it out were actually worth their higher salaries, the higher salaries probably wouldn't bother people. I also agree that tying teacher performance ratings to students performance is extremely problematic, since so much depends on factors outside a teacher's control.
64
Where to start? The comments here provide so much misinformation it's astounding. Mainly people seem to assume that their personal experience with teaching is the 'average' experience. They are clearly wrong.

1. accuracy of the average salary: @59 and others have done a good job on this. The referenced study is correct.

2. most teacher union contracts mandate that the employer pay for professional development.

3. while raw test scores might not be a good way to measure teacher performance, *improvement* in test scores certainly would be, right? Isn't a teacher's job to get students to advance academically? The Seattle Schools currently have a test that is given 3x/year that measures student progress. The union insists this not be used to evaluate teachers.

4. With all due respect to teachers who work beyond the school day for very little extra pay, they are doing so completely voluntarily. Most volunteers make $0 for volunteering. Don't volunteer if you don't want to do the extra work.

5. The research is clear that advanced degrees for teachers do not translate into better student performance. Plus, should you get paid by what degree you have or by how effective you are at your job?

6. Planning periods may be short, but teachers do not have tests and papers due from every student in every class they teach every day. It's called time management.

The end.
65
"Then again, you know what they say: Those who can, teach; those who can't, make a damn newspaper every week."

Obviously you DON'T know what they say, because they say:

Those who can, do.
Those who can't do, teach.
Those who can't teach, teach gym.
Those who can't teach gym, are guidance counselors.
66
I've been teaching four years now. I have a masters degree and I still make less than fifty thousand dollars a year before taxes. But I guess that's more common in the poorer districts directly south of Seattle. I those districts (Tukwila, Highline, Federal Way) there's usually an additional two hours of uncompensated social work each day.
67
I don't find that as an average to be very high, and considering the upper limit for the most experienced, it's still only a modest way to make a living. Yes, maybe its better pay than most of you at the Stranger but I guarantee there are several there within your ranks who make nice coin, and if you averaged it all out, hmmm. . .

As for incentive pay, studies show again and again that pay for performance schemes don't work with roles that require creativity and innovation. Pay for performance works best (and only, apparently) in jobs requiring rote physicality and repetition. Here's a citation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFj…
68
When they say the average teacher pay is $70,850, I'd have to wonder about a couple of things. First of all, is this number including all certificated employees? If so, then it is skewed to the high side because principals and other district administrators are often included in the "certificated employees" category, and they make significantly more than classroom teachers. The median is less susceptible to those outliers, thus it is probably the more accurate number.
Secondly, could this be the average number that represents how much it costs the district to employee a teacher - i.e. the one that includes salary and benefits - that they use when setting up a budget? None of my roommates who teach - and some have been teaching their 10-12 hours days for quite a while - bring home this amount of money as take-home pay. Even if they did though, it certainly wouldn't allow them to buy a house on their own in the Seattle area. Cost of living here is way too high.
Also, past roomie, who taught HS math went to work for Boeing a few years ago. While teaching, he completed his PhD and saw his salary increase maybe $2000. When he went to Boeing, his salary nearly doubled within 2 years, and he says he works much less than he did when teacher.
And as for performance pay - would you rather have a teacher who is intrinsically motivated, or extrinsically motivated? If your child is struggling in school, do you really want them in a system where they are viewed as the commodity that determines whether or not a teacher gets extra pay or not? What about all the special populations out there - the children with severe disabilities who are being forced to take tests that have no meaning to their life - should those teachers be subject to the same performance-pay schemes? Who will want to teach ELL kids, special ed kids, low-income etc. if they know they can move to a school with higher incomes and better test scores, hence they will have an easier time getting merit pay? To me, the incentive pay scheme is just scary - market-based ideologies have no place in certain human services - among them health care and education.
69
And because it's always good to know about the source of the information...
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?tit…
Awful lot of business people. Wonder if any of them are educators? (outside of the research advisory board)
70
@67: yes, add up the Stranger staff salaries, including Savage's, divide, and tell us the average salary of the Stranger staff. Unpaid interns do not count as zeroes since schools have volunteers, too.
71
IMHO, even the worst public school teacher is probably underpaid.

When you consider that a contract worker at Microsoft with B.A. degree (or in some cases no degree at all) can probably earn close to $70k a year working 35-40 hours a week, I don't think that average teacher's salary is particularly outrageous, especially when most of the people making $70k a year probably have an advanced degree.

I know that many of these folks at MS work incredibly hard. But anecdotal evidence suggests that some of them seem to have plenty of time to sit around surfing the web 2-3 hours a day and yet their contracts keep getting renewed. All that is just to say that in any organization you're going to find a range of performance, and poor performers are not always let go, even when managers seemingly have more latitude to do it.

I also raise it to underscore that if you are reasonably smart and well educated, there are so many easier ways to earn $70k a year than teaching K-12. Even if you extrapolate that amount over 12 months, it's still what, a little over $93k a year (incidentally, has anyone checked whether principals get paid over 9 months or 12? If it's 12? It would make a difference in how you look at that salary).

Also, as others have already said, average salaries are always going to skew towards the higher side of the range even if less people are making top dollar). So it might be more useful to find out what the Median salary is for Seattle teachers. This number will undoubtedly be lower and give a better picture of reality.

First year associates at large law firms start at what, $70k-120k a year now (depending on the city). Don't get me wrong, those people work their asses off (in some cases 80 hours a week), but it still seems a little perverse to me that a 26 year old kid right out of law school earns as much or more than the most experienced secondary school teach (who probably has at least an M.A. degree) and probably what, 3 to 3.5 times more than a beginning teacher.

I suspect that if you were to go back to the mid 1960s, you would find that this gap was not nearly as wide, which is one of the problems we face. Thanks to Reagan/Bush, the gap between private and public sector salaries has widened significantly (and this isn't just true of teachers, it's true for govt lawyers, engineers, etc). But to do that we'd have to raise taxes (or spend a little less on the military).

I honestly do think that paying people more at the start would eliminate a lot of the problems. Why? Because idealism only goes so far. Most people with other options will leave a shitty situation once they figure out just how shitty it is (like the Boeing dude in @68).

People without as many options (for whatever reason) will figure out how to survive. So what are you left with? The super diligent idealists (who are probably the best senior teachers--but not necessarily) and the survivors (who in some cases are either burnt out idealists now phoning it in, or people who aren't great teachers but are good at surviving in the system).

So what happens if we change things up and some of the senior laggards can be fired? Room for more young idealists. But what happens when those young idealists start quitting, because it's been fun, but it's still a shitty situation, they are getting burned out, they can make more money doing something else, and the new performance metrics set impossible goals for them that don't track the reality of what it is to teach kids? Not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be when I graduated from Yale or Stanford wanting to make a difference.

So then we have constant churn of young idealists through the system, with far fewer experienced people. Maybe that's better in the end. But I'm not convinced it is. Sometimes being experienced is realizing that less is more (and that what you do or don't do may affect things less than everyone wants to believe).

So to me, reform is still just code for trying to spend the same amount (or probably a diminishing amount) of money and get a better output. But if public education was better back in the day, I bet you it was because they spent more money per kid in inflation adjusted dollars.

And that's the sad bottom line: We like to kick and scream about public education and its problems, but we don't really want to have to pay what it costs to do it well (or at least not what it would cost to do it well for poor people).

Most people with any coin, move to a town with good public schools, send their kids to private school, or are engaged and smart enough to figure out how to get their kids into the good public school programs in their city (including moving to different neighborhood in the city if need be). If they can't do that, they move to the suburbs or send their kids to private school. And I can't blame anyone for doing that.

72


1. Use student teachers as unpaid assistants.
2. Scantron!

That's how it worked when I was student teaching in the 90's.
73
so, "church-mousey" means doesn't make that much money?
74
@64:
You are wrong about every thing you said.
Test scores are a measure of how well the student knows the test. Not the material, not ow that material may have anything to do with their life, not with why the material is important. Just that it is on the test, and according to the test there is one correct answer about it.
Does the student have a cold? Forget lunch? Had a fight with a friend or parent? All will affect performance. None are the teacher's fault or under the teacher's control.
Teaching to the test is just about the worst possible way to teach any complex subject.
The professional development paid for by some school districts (obviously NOT the ones where teachers have to by many of their own supplies, like lined paper and pens and chalk or markers and crayons) is the stuff done on those in-service days where classes get out early. NOT summer classes in the teacher's field.
The work done at home consists of grading those papers-most years teachers at my HS, where my mom taught for 32 years, had about 120-130 students. Even only having half of them work on research projects at a time meant having 60 sets of information to check at every step of the process and then the 60 10 page papers to read and evaluate. While those projects were being worked on the students also had to read some literature and take tests on it and do grammar and vocabulary work and so on. All that had be at least looked at and entered into the record. This isn't coaching for an hour and a half after school-which in itself requires a fair amount of prep and attention, this is a good 4 hours a day just to keep up. Sure, mom could have assigned less work. Then she would have ended up as one of those lazy incompetent teachers people love to revile. And her students would have learned less. She could have used the same materials from year to year-not adjusting what she did to better instruct her pupils. THAT'S time management.
Teachers with advanced degrees are presumed to have a better knowledge of their fields and thus be better prepared to explaining things to stupid or confused students. With luck they may get to deal with a smart kid or two who actually pushes for more learning. Plenty of HS teachers are required to have higher degrees to even get a job.
75
I am a high school teacher north of Stanwood, south of Bellingham. I make about $50,000 and have 2 Master's degrees. For this extended education, I racked up $100,000 in student loans so that I could be the best educated teacher I could be. Yes, I accept my choice of continuing my education and I don't expect to be compensated entirely for the expenditure. If I were an engineer, my beginning pay would have been much higher. However: I have 180 very needy students. They have stories to tell me, personal problems to consider, and a culture that encourages them to not display their intelligence. I do not work 9-5. My contract starts at 7:00 and ends at 2:30. Rarely do I make it out before 5:00 or later. When you ask for quality work from 180 students, you need to comment and reflect on it. My week-ends are spent finding new and technological-enhanced ways to share my knowledge. I do this work off-the-clock. This extra work provides many benefits including engaged students and exciting curriculum. I calculate about 65+hours per week. I am NOT complaining because I LOVE the job, the students, and the personal challenge. During the summer, when you might think we are taking a break, I go to trainings, conferences, and classes. I am required to pay for 150 clock hours (15 credits) every 5 years. I enjoy learning new approaches to teaching and better methodologies. However, I am not "compensated" for this extra time and I pay for the credit hours. Again, I LOVE what I do, I do NOT complain! However, when I see reports that teachers "only" work 9 months and receive $70,000 (at the top of the pay scale...), I cringe. It will take me about 20 more years (I have been teaching for 8) to even come close to that level. Most of you assume that the pay is based on a 7.5 hour day for 180 days of work. This equals 1350 hours of "on-the-clock" time. $51/hour. That would be great. Except that most teachers work beyond that 7.5 hour time period. Myself for example: About 9.5/day, which is 1710 hours for 180 days of work. That brings me to about $29.00 an hour for a regular work week. But what about the week-ends? I agree, I have gone on too long. My major (and last) point is:
Please don't assume that these teachers are making $70,000 for the average 40-hour/week job. There is a larger story behind that figure. Teaching is an amazing profession. I don't know if I will be able to last 20 years before I reach that "$70,000" scale, but until then, my students know that I care for each and every one of them and that I put in the extra time every day to make sure that they are receiving the best possible education.
End of comment. Thanks!
76
@75 Thanks for being a teacher and loving it but I am guessing you are not an English teacher. That wall of text gives me a headache to look at.
77
You do realize that teachers working 10 months out of the year is completely disingenuous. Teachers TEACH 10 months out of the year. They work IN SCHOOLS for 7-8 hours a day, and then go home and work on lesson plans and grading papers and tests for most of their evenings. They spend the summer working on lesson plans. They buy their own goddamned classroom supplies most of the time, including pencils and paper and chalk. Why don't we look at school administrators' salaries for once? They don't teach our next generation of citizens, and for the most part do fuck-all to benefit the educational system.
78
1. Ship anti-tax Cut Teacher Pay activists to Idaho and let them rot.

2. Repeat 1 as needed.
79
You just can't paint all teachers with one brush this way. I'm guessing not many of the posters have kids in Seattle Public Schools. While the majority of SPS teachers are good to terrific, there are some who really should be doing something else--who can make an entire year a rotten waste of time, or worse--but it's almost impossible to get rid of them. Unless the teachers and principals unions begin to work constructively on some kind of link between performance and tenure (and not using test scores as a sole or even primary indicator), I believe our public school system will collapse, taking the decent salaries and benefits (which teachers deserve!) with it. I'm so glad my family is almost out.
80
I applaud Bethany Jean Clement for writing June 7 article:
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…
I will here attempt to summarize the responses. As "The point of the study did not seem to be (that) teachers made that much money..." but that seniority played such a large role and performance so little. As the WPC's paper suggested, "...it’s time to look at workplace reforms that reward performance and create incentives for teaching excellence.” Agreed? Bethany Jean wrote "um, YES". It kinda looks like the bloggers concur but are wary of performance-evaluation criteria. To summarize the 80 responses to the article I scanned the for the words "seniority" and "performance" and found 21. (One had both words. The other 60 typically responded to the WPC's report on compensation amount but that wasn't the point, right?)

The "seniority" term referenced 3 comments of which:
#8 agreed "seniority should not rule" for compensation,
#45 agreed "...the...'seniority rules' ... mindset is stale and needs serious overhaul" and
#61 seemed to agree (but is not easily paraphrased).

The "performance" referenced comments numbered 18 of which 6 were unambiguous:
#12 implies that performance ought to make /some/ difference.
#15 "after (4 years), increases should be based on performance, not just adding another year of experience"
#27 "We should find some way to reward good teachers..."
#37 "for...knowledge-based professionals ... differentiating pay based on performance is pretty commonplace."
#63 questioned seemingly tenure-related retention practices.
#79 criticized tenure-related retention practices.

Three didn't disagree,
#36 responds to #12 that it doesn't always work.
#51 suggested that we look at administrators' performance first.
#64 part 5 favors effective teaching.

Three were mixed, as
#35 didn't think the compensation part would work, but implied agreement with the retention part suggesting more Administrator decision power.
#67 argues about P and /compensation/ but not specifically about P and /retention/.
#68 Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation for work were compared.
(For me as a teacher, the answer to this question follows the compensation of various private schools compared to public. The intrinsic joy of teaching at a private school is not diluted by the classroom management challenges more frequently found in public schools and the pay rates generally reflect this).

Some mentioned "performance" but didn't have clear recommendations:
#1 & #2 were skeptical about performance-based compensation but didn't mention retention.
#26 "As far as "performance" goes, it all depends on who you ask."
#41 used the P word once, the F word thrice.
#71 had a lotta words and "performance" got in there someplace.
#74 generally disagreed with #64.

Disclaimer: This attempt at a summary isn't perfect and it shouldn't be given the final word--it's an overview that can help a reader toss these questions around and possibly gain perspective--if it shows this blogger didn't understand your post, this gives you an excuse to restate it even more clearly.
81
Postscriptum:
The general conclusion that it kinda looked like the bloggers concur but are wary of performance-evaluation criteria could be sharpened up a little--there was general agreement on the seniority/retention question and wary agreement on the performance/compensation question. This is the way I've felt, and I'm glad to see that the consensus was as concordant as it was. (As I went digging through all these posts for this affirmation, an experience that motivated me was the thought of the recent near-layoff of an insanely great Math teacher at West Seattle HS. No one could be expected to put in the incredible preparation that she did before class, but we all ought to appreciate it. I didn't just take the word of a fellow-teacher friend, I sat in and observed for an hour). To lose a particularly great teacher to an arbitrary ReductionInForce would not sit right with me--I'm pleased to hear that this was averted. Thank you for your concordant consensus, fellow bloggers.
82

After reviewing the new teacher's contract for Seattle, I think it gives principals too much discretion. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If teacher evaluations are based on one persons opinion there's a lot of room for favoritism and for getting rid of people they just personally don't like. I think 2 people should evaluate teachers and that if a teacher has students with high test scores the teacher shouldn't receive a bad evaluation.
83
PRINCIPAL SALARIES START AT $100K??! you people are idiots if you actually believe that.

my mother, who had a master's degree and was a teacher for over thirty-five years (high-achieving teacher, mind you) decided to go back and get her principal's certification. now, she's been a principal several years and has helped to drag her school's achievement scores up from an abysmal rate, despite being in a high-poverty area and having to fight the teacher's union tooth and nail to get rid of a crappy-a$$ed teacher along the way. she is one of the smartest, most dedicated and truly passionate professionals i will ever know. we were FAR from well-off for those thirty-five years of her being a public school teacher. and you know what? her principal salary is more than deserved. she works far more than she did even as a teacher (which was still more like 55 hours a week) and is stressed out beyond belief by some ridiculous parents and an ungrateful public. yet, she sticks at it. she's a public servant and this article's outrage at a $70K senior teacher salary (in one of the most expensive cost of living cities in the country, mind you) makes me f-ing SICK.

shame on you, bethany jean clement. you suck. and i bet you will make $70K in just a few short years of writing crappy hipster a$$hole drivel without an ounce of the effort of the majority of teachers put into their life's work. what is your life's work again? writing useless crap. congrats on your life.
84
Let's try this: offer rookie teachers a 2 yr. contract for 250k, after which based on performance, the district can either release them, or negotiate for long-term service at x number of dollars (signing bonus of course) or the teacher can try the free agent market and see what other districts are willing to offer a "star" teacher. This of course will result in the collection of the most talented teachers being bought out to the most affluent districts while the rest are relegated to the poorest, highly populated minority communities. Wouldn't this be the best example of merit pay? Imagine, just like in sports: A 5 yr. deal worth $15 million, with a sixth year teacher option. As a teacher, I'll buy into that system.