What is a fair way to reward teachers?


(Yes, I’m talking about teachers and education again. What can I say – it’s a passion of mine! Don’t worry, I’ll get back to my organizing and productivity tips in my next post!)


Reward systems for teachers have been controversial and rarely implemented because it’s difficult to rate people in a manner which will be seen as fair to all parties in such complex circumstances. In manufacturing, where there is total control over the raw materials input, the calculated processes used, and the finishing touches put on the products, it’s pretty easy to measure who is moving faster on an assembly line, who is producing more products that pass inspection, and who is, therefore, making the company more money.


It’s a lot tougher to measure outcomes when there is no control over the raw materials being input. Public schools have to accept anyone living within the district – no matter what their IQ or behavior is. Students are human beings and must be treated as individuals, so there is no standardized method or calculated processes that can be used by every single teacher on every single student. There will always be variances when humans are involved.


So, the easiest way to pay teachers has been a total cop-out that requires no thought. In most districts, there is a payscale. Every brand new teacher with zero years of experience starts at Year 0. After one year, they move up to Year 1 on the payscale. After their second year of teaching, they move up to Year 2, and so on. Whether a teacher is a rockstar or an embarrassment to the profession, they all receive the same pay. In my husband’s district, all first year teachers start at $45,000 per year. This is an excellent salary for the San Antonio area. However, Year 20 tops out at $50,645. So, someone who has taught for 20 years makes only $5600 more than a brand new teacher with zero years of experience. Not that teachers are in it for the money, but how motivating is that?


So, let’s implement a rewards system, right? But how will that be measured? You can’t do it just by test scores. Why not, you say? Think about it this way. If I teach 7 classes of high school honors students and my colleague across the hall teaches 7 high school classes of emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students, there is no way that we should be graded on the same testing scale. If we are both able to achieve 10% improvement in scores, it would take her infinitely more time and skill to do that with her students compared to what I would need to do with my students. It would not be fair for her.


Need a non-education example? Let’s look at the medical profession. Should doctors be judged on their mortality rates? Should they be judged based solely on how many of their patients die within their care? A cosmetic surgeon will have a much lower death rate compared to an oncologoist. No one in their right minds would ever use this type of evaluation, yet this is the type of evaluation that is consistently proposed for teacher reward systems. It’s yet another cop-out, like the Payscale.


Here’s my proposal for a reward system. Have a math and science super team come up with a computer program that would apply weights to all of the factors that go into student success:


  1. Was the student born in the U.S.?
  2. Is the child’s first language English?
  3. How many times has the child moved?
  4. Does the child live with both parents, one parent, or a non-parent?
  5. What is the education level of the parents?
  6. What is the income level of the parents?
  7. Is the child exposed to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or other negative factors in the home?
  8. Is there physical abuse in the home?
  9. Is there sexual abuse in the home?
  10. Is there verbal abuse in the home?
  11. What is the parent’s involvement in the child’s education?
  12. What is the child’s IQ?
  13. What is the child’s testing history?
  14. Is the child emotionally stable?
  15. Is the child behaviorally stable?
  16. Is the child on meds?
  17. Does the child have physical disabilities?
  18. Does the child have mental or psychological disabilities?
  19. What kind of work ethic does the child have?
  20. Is the child a member of “that” family?
  21. With whom does the child “hang out”?
  22. How many tutoring sessions did the child attend?
  23. How many excused absences does the child have?
  24. How many unexcused absences does the child have?
  25. How much class time was lost to disruptions – assemblies, benchmark tests, etc. ?
  26. What are the child’s test scores at the end of the year?


Those are just a few of the factors to consider. Now, multiply those factors by the number of students in the class.


Factor in how much support and training the district or school gave (or didn’t give) to the individual teacher.


Factor in how much planning time during the day was given to the teacher.


Measure the passion of the teacher.


Grade the daily “performance” the teacher gives on his/her stage.



Once you create an algorithmic program that can factor in all of those plus any I’ve left out, then you’d have a much fairer way to evaluate and reward teachers.


Does anyone have that program yet?




Previous: Part 1: Instead of Waiting for Superman, why not save Superman

and: Part 2: How accurate is Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman?

About Helene Segura

Helene Segura teaches go-getters how to use their time more efficiently in order to have a more peaceful life. For details about her, be sure to visit https://www.HeleneSegura.com


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