The View From Generation Y

Forward-looking leaders in states and districts will find in this report cutting-edge ideas on how to build a world-class teacher corps by understanding what attracts and dissuades Gen Y teachers from the profession.

Two overarching themes emerge:

  • Teachers’ views on the best ways to structure teacher compensation are evolving.
  • Teachers’ views on the conditions under which they work are influenced by their generation and experiences.

However, in both cases, there is strong evidence of a confluence and constancy of teacher views that spans the generations. The six key findings described in this report all point to the fact that supporting teacher effectiveness will likely have a profound impact on teacher retention.

Multi-media resources including a video chronicle and facilitator’s guide and presentations at national teacher quality conferences are presented with the report to aid those leading reforms at the district, state, and national levels.

Gen Y teachers are more open to rewarding teachers differentially for their performance and responsibilities in the classroom than earlier generations; however, they are skeptical about using their students’ standardized test scores to measure such performance.

In the late 1960s, a sociologist named Dan Lortie conducted an in-depth study of teachers in 13 schools in New England. He was interested in the economics of teaching—wherein teachers’ salaries were (then as now) differentiated based only on seniority and education level and the most experienced and educated were paid only about twice that of the least—and what this meant for the work of school teachers. He claimed that the reason behind this tradition was in part because teachers remained “consistently egalitarian,” resisting further differentiation in salary, in part because the “service ideal [of teaching] extolled the virtue of giving more than one receives; the model teacher has been ‘dedicated'” (Lortie, 1975, p. 102). Teachers considered individual ambition for greater rewards, whether based on merit or other factors, to be suspect.

With the influx of this new generation of teachers, there are modest signs that this egalitarian approach is beginning to change. Teachers are becoming more comfortable making distinctions among their number. As Figure 1 demonstrates, more teachers of all generations support some type of differentiated pay, with Gen Y teachers somewhat more supportive of all types of pay differentiation than older teachers (with the exception of paying teachers more for working in tough neighborhoods with low-performing schools).

Gen Y teachers in particular are overwhelmingly supportive of giving financial incentives to teachers who consistently work harder and put in more time and effort than other teachers. This sentiment emerged clearly during the focus groups. For example, a Gen Y elementary teacher from North Carolina who is National Board certified said, “It would be nice to be recognized for those people who go above and beyond. Why am I going to give so much, when so-and-so can get away with doing nothing at all, and I’m still getting paid the same or less because I’m younger, or whatever it is?” One of her middle school colleagues also stated, “I think a teacher who just comes in and teaches their class and leaves is a lot different from the person who is the school improvement chair and runs this many clubs. For your hard work, you should be rewarded.”

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