Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Entry Level

During the 2013 General Assembly there was quite a bit of legislation surrounding the educational system in Iowa and as a result there are a number of new laws that are set to go into effect. The centerpiece of the education reform bill is the 'Teacher Leadership and Compensation' model which is an effort to increase teacher pay in Iowa by providing educators with leadership opportunities without needing to leave the ranks 'teacher' to become 'administrator'. Up to this point, advancement and promotion as a teacher was very limited. If you wanted the opportunity to advance, you had to get on an administrator track. To become an administrator requires advanced degrees, and in many cases a need to move. The Teacher Leadership and Compensation model provides opportunities to advance one's career while still maintaining close ties to the classroom.

Included during this debate was a discussion of the minimum salary of teachers in Iowa. Current Iowa law states that the minimum salary for beginning teachers can be no less than $28,000. The original (proposed) legislation attempted to boost the minimum to $35,000, but ultimately a compromise was struck and the new minimum salary for educators will be $33,500 when (and if) school districts elect to participate in the new 'Teacher Leadership and Compensation Model'. The question then becomes, is that minimum sufficient enough to attract teachers to the profession, and will they stay? It is something that I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on during the past several days.

My daughter-in-law went to school to do something other than teaching, earned a BA in science and promptly went to work upon graduation. Her salary exceeded the aforementioned numbers from the paragraph above, but after doing that job for a few years decided that she wanted to be a teacher. The decision required additional schooling, which she was happy to do in order to earn her credential. With schooling complete and credential in hand, she was lucky enough to find a job as a science teacher. She just completed her first year and enjoyed teaching high school science.

Next year she will teach a few additional courses, and as a result is required to obtain an additional endorsement. So this summer she started working on that endorsement and has had to take 9 additional credits. It has been a challenging summer to say the least. Nine credits are quite a bit, not too many people attempt such a rigorous course load over the summer.

She's not alone either. During the course of this summer I spent quite a bit of time at the Schindler Education Center a UNI, and each day the classrooms were full of teachers taking classes for continuing education, either to satisfy requirements for another endorsement or to renew their teacher license.

I hope that these new teachers like my daughter-in-law and others like her buck the trend: 46% of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Now, I am not suggesting that starting teacher pay is the primary reason for this attrition rate, there are numerous other variables that play a significant factor. Nonetheless, we should at the very least consider the fact that teacher pay does play a role.

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