LIMA — Teachers in Ohio school districts are compensated through a salary schedule based on experience and academic training, but how effective is this method when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best educators?
According to the Ohio Education Association, an index is used to determine the salary for each training and experience level. This is accomplished by multiplying the salary for a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree, which is set at the index base value of one.
The purpose of the index is to build automatic increases based on steps, which are determined by years of experience, into the salary schedule. For a set number of years, increases are received annually.
The Lima News spoke to local teachers and superintendents who agreed that while the methodology might not be perfect, it seems to be the only plausible way to make sure teachers are paid fairly.
Effectiveness vs. tenure
With raises given automatically to teachers up to a certain point in the salary schedule, some might argue this causes complacency and creates a culture where educators have little incentive to improve.
Paying teachers based on their effectiveness in the classroom might seem like the most logical method, but superintendents argue that determining how much of an impact educators have on students is more difficult than it might seem.
“School systems aren’t mechanical or based on any industrial model, so you can’t say you produced 10 widgets and you produced six, therefore I’m going to pay you more money,’” Pandora-Gilboa Superintendent Todd Schmutz said. “Right now, the state has no efficient way to quantitatively measure everything teachers do.”
Standardized test scores could be used to determine student growth, but Schmutz said those measure “very limited knowledge” and that using these scores to calculate pay raises would be “totally wrong.”
“I don’t believe standardized test scores should have any part in a teacher’s evaluation or their pay because it’s very minuscule in terms of what they do,” he said.
Waynesfield-Goshen Superintendent Chris Pfister said that while he believes effectiveness, not tenure, should dictate compensation, several factors must be included in making this determination.
“If there was a way you could come up with a list that includes all the extra things teachers do like tutoring, staying current on standards, special interventions, etc., I’d much rather do that than base it on just showing up for 25 years,” Pfister said.
Pfister admitted that this would be the best way to compensate teachers in a perfect world, but he said the current salary schedule will likely continue because these factors are difficult to measure.
Bluffton High School English teacher Jamie Erford said she disagrees with the notion that teachers should be paid based on effectiveness because it would create unnecessary competition among faculty.
“It would create a lone motivation where I’m going to get paid for what I do versus I’m paid because I’m part of a team that can work well together to improve our students,” Erford said.
Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools, said giving raises to teachers based on effectiveness could reduce the district’s ability to retain teachers, which she said is especially important in an urban school district.
“If we start giving consequences, what would be the incentive for people to work in an urban district?” Ackerman asked. “It’d be very difficult for urban schools to recruit and retain teachers because the growth of students can be more difficult in more urban, higher poverty areas. Kids aren’t as ready to learn, and there’s a lot of catching up to do.”
Ackerman said the current Ohio Teacher Evaluation System already does a good job of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness through student growth measures and learning objectives.
“I think the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System has made a huge difference because you can’t just be a warm body in a classroom anymore,” she said. “Teachers have to meet certain criteria and you have to make a certain growth. The whole system is much better for accountability and it replaces the opportunity to just show up and get paid.”
Along with tenure, teachers are also paid more if they received a master’s degree or completed 15 or more hours of additional coursework.
Some superintendents argue a master’s degree doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to educating students, while others believe the additional schooling can help teachers become more effective in the classroom.
“I think having a master’s is very helpful and I think teachers can learn through that process, but I’m not sure that ought to be the basis going forward for additional compensation,” Pfister said. “I think if we could come up with more opportunities for professional development and set specific targets, we could give them a stipend and they would be compensated for that instead.”
For Ackerman, teachers who further their education should be compensated accordingly because of their commitment to becoming “lifelong learners.”
“I think it’s important for teachers to be students as well,” she said. “If you put in the effort to do it, I think you should have a reward for having those extra degrees or credit hours.”
Erford, who has a master’s degree in education and is working on her second master’s in English, said getting paid more for furthering her education is similar to other industries that give bonuses to employees.
“We don’t have a bonus system in education, so I think if we put in extra work in order to do our job better, it’s similar to getting a bonus,” she said.
Erford said that while she appreciates the added compensation, furthering her education was not as much about the money as it was her desire to become a better teacher.
“The programs I went into have directly impacted the way I teach and they have helped me grow as a teacher,” Erford said. “It gives you more tools you can use that can help you be more effective.”
In order to recruit new teachers, most school districts in northwest Ohio have created a salary schedule where pay raises are given annually for the first 10 to 15 years. Raises are then frozen for a few years, and smaller increases are given toward the end of a teacher’s career.
Pfister called this method “frontloading,” and said it is an effective way to bring in new teachers, especially recent college graduates.
“One of the ways to encourage people to apply is to let them know they’re going to get a raise every year for the first decade or more that they’re here,” he said. “We want to keep bringing in young, enthusiastic teachers who have the opportunity to rise through the ranks and get up to a decent salary.”
Though frontloading is common among local school districts, Lima schools recently saw a need to provide raises for teachers in the middle of the salary schedule.
“We were beginning to see an issue with the loss of people in the middle of the salary schedule because they could step over to another district and make more money,” Ackerman said. “We kind of took the pie and divided it unevenly so there was a little more money in the middle of the salary schedule, then everybody else was able to get some sort of a percentage increase.”
Ackerman said this is not the typical way salary schedules are negotiated, but she believes using this method will help retain teachers who may have been thinking of leaving the school district.
For Erford, frontloading makes sense because new teachers are often facing student loan debt and are more stressed than tenured educators.
“In those first years, the type of work you’re doing is different in some ways than what you’re doing in later years because of the stress that comes with learning a new job,” Erford said. “Giving new teachers pay raises might be an incentive for them to stick with it.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima