Paying for performance is seen as the least important policy option for improving teacher effectiveness and retention; having meaningful learning opportunities, reducing class size, increasing parental involvement, and raising salaries across the board still rank higher.
The Retaining Teacher Talent survey asked teachers to provide their assessment of 12 different policy options that covered a wide range of proposed strategies to improve teaching. Although teachers—and Gen Y teachers in particular—do seem to be opening up to the idea of basing pay on student performance, it still is the least popular of policy options to increase the effectiveness of teachers among teachers themselves. Although some reformers argue that changing the way teachers are paid will drive other reforms of teaching conditions as schools and districts change how they operate (Slotnik, 2009), teachers do not seem to believe this to be the case. As shown in Figure 7, only 10 percent of Gen Y teachers and 8 percent of older teachers thought that “tying teacher rewards to their students’ performance” is a “very effective” way to improve teaching. Interestingly, the overall rankings of all options are strikingly similar for teachers of all generations.
As in an earlier study of first-year teachers (Rochkind, Ot910t, Immerwahr, Doble, & Johnson, 2008), there is clear evidence that young teachers desire more opportunities to learn to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of a diverse classroom and that this desire may be closely related to teachers’ consistent desire for smaller class sizes. As this high school teacher from Colorado said, “I have 37 kids in my class, and so how do you find time for all those conferences, and how do you really individualize instruction the way you want to make sure that each kid is learning the things that they need to learn, which are totally different?“
The other options listed in Figure 7 are similar to the kinds of practices that are regularly used in the corporate sector. Wellins and Schweyer (n.d.) found that talent-management practices related to professional development and working conditions were viewed as most effective among the human resources personnel surveyed.(pp.8–9) Specifically, 89 percent believed the main influences on employee motivation to perform well at their jobs were opportunities for training and development, whereas 83 percent believed constant learning opportunities were key drivers. Recognition for accomplishments also was considered important by 77 percent of respondents. Other top responses included high performance expectations (76 percent), high degree of autonomy and independence (75 percent), and relationships with coworkers (72 percent). Salaries were lower down on the list, believed important by only 45 percent of respondents. Salt (2007) found that strategies such as providing merit pay and providing voluntary professional learning opportunities and job rotation into other departments were considered the most effective practices for developing Gen Y workers (not specifically teachers).