Policy Recommendation 2:
Given stagnant and declining state and local funding for education, state and local policymakers may want to consider targeting scarce resources toward improving school working conditions with the intention of retaining high-performing teachers
Despite prompting teachers in focus groups and our survey multiple times, it is clear that there were no generational differences when it comes to the relative importance of teacher pay over many aspects of teachers’ working conditions. New pay structures that give consideration to performance awards or innovative pension models are not at the top of teachers’ lists when it comes to retention strategies. As such, policymakers should consider focusing reforms on a variety of school-level working conditions, such as providing more structured common planning and learning time; developing and committing to a strong, schoolwide behavior-management system; or investing in the latest instructional technology.
For example (source) , at Broad Creek Middle School in North Carolina, Principal Cathy Tomon transferred $40,000 out of her textbook budget to purchase SMART Boards, ELMO projectors, and other pieces of cutting-edge education technology. As a result, the retention rate of her teachers has soared; last year, 25 percent of teachers could have retired but chose to stay on and continue working for her.7
Many teachers view removing ineffective colleagues from the classroom as a way to boost teacher effectiveness and think that unions sometimes protect ineffective teachers, yet they feel it important to preserve tenure protections.
Frustration with ineffective colleagues is a common phenomenon in any workplace, but in schools, where the stakes are high and the classroom walls thin and where ineffectiveness is rarely formally punished or remediated, it becomes that much more palpable. As one Gen Y focus group participant from North Carolina said, “I feel like, unfortunately, in some schools, teachers do need to be fired. In some schools, there are teachers that shouldn’t be there. They’re not there for the children.” It seems that many teachers, not just Gen Y teachers, agree with her. As shown in Figure 10, large percentages of teachers say that they know of a few teachers who are underperforming, with 31 percent of Gen Y teachers and 20 percent of older teachers saying they work with “more than a few” or even “quite a large number” of such teachers.
Moreover, according to Figure 11, both Gen Y and older teachers agree that making it easier to remove ineffective teachers would be either “somewhat effective” or “very effective” in improving teaching. Recent research has shown that there is a “spillover effect” among teachers—that when a new, more effective teacher is hired, the effectiveness of all teachers, as measured by value-added test scores, increases (Jackson & Bruegmann, 2009 check the book here). The findings from the current survey perhaps suggest that teachers perceive a spillover effect in the opposite direction: teachers with ineffective colleagues have a more difficult time teaching themselves and miss the opportunity to learn from more effective colleagues.