Helping Schools Succeed

TREATING TEACHERS AS THE PROFESSIONALS THEY ARE

08/23/2010  |  Franklin Schargel
HELPING SCHOOLS SUCCEED
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What follows has been excerpted from 162 Keys to School Success:  Be The Best, Hire The Best, Train, Inspire and Retain The Best which was published by Eye on Education in July, 2010.

Ask people what is the most valuable resource America has and they will come up with a variety of answers including coal, oil, or other natural resources.  For me the answer is “its people.”  America has a talented, educated workforce.  Education has supplied this workforce with knowledge and skills that most nations fail to provide.  Yet educators are not valued in this society as much as they are in many other nations.  And we are losing them a rate where schools of education are incapable of replacing them as quickly as they leave.  Teachers “dropout” of school at a higher rate than students and among the reasons is low salaries.

“We need educators who believe, in their heart of hearts, that all children can learn, that some take longer than others, and that we need to help those who most need our help.”

“Up until now this book has avoided the “800-pound gorilla in the room,”— educators’ pay. Women have traditionally dominated teaching. One hundred years ago, it was one of the few jobs available to women that didn’t involve cooking, cleaning, or other menial labor. At the time, nearly six percent of the female workforce were teachers. And by a large margin, it was the job of choice

among college graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (www.bls.gov/cps/) in 1940, an astonishing 55 percent of all college educated female workers in the early thirties were employed as teachers.” But that picture has changed. Women are being offered greater opportunities for higher paid and more prestigious employment in previously off-limit jobs in law, medicine, and finance. As a result, fewer women are entering the field of education. With fewer job applicants, administrators have had to fill the ranks of teachers with less qualified applicants, as measured by SAT and GPA scores. (Do not misunderstand me. I have delivered workshops in 49 states and nine foreign countries, and everywhere I have gone, I have met groups of hard working, dedicated, great teachers.) According to the authors of Superfreakonomics (2009), the chancellor of the New York City public school system declared in 2000, “the quality of teachers has been declining for decades and no one wants to talk about it.”

There are those who like to castigate American educators as over-paid workers who make more money than other educators around the world. Yet according to the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation (OEDC), teachers in Korea, Switzerland, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium Norway, Sweden, and a number of other high-performing countries pay their teachers higher salaries when compared to the gross domestic product (GDP; www.oecd.org/edu/eag2008).

How do we get students to achieve at levels “above and beyond expectations”?

We need to employ all our resources. We need the business public to start valuing the diplomas that K-12 schools issue by stating they will first hire those students who came to school regularly, on time, and prepared as well as those who did well on tests.

We need parents to prepare students for school by feeding them and clothing them properly, by teaching them the alphabet, and how to count and add. We need the parents/ guardians to supply a properly lit environment where a child can study without interruption or distraction.

We need policy makers and politicians to stop paying lip service to how committed they are to improving education and to start investing proper amounts of money while not cutting school budgets.

We need educators who believe, in their heart of hearts, that all children can learn, that some take longer than others, and that we need to help those who most need our help.

If we want more highly qualified educators we need to pay them more. This will increase their supply. Industry pays chief executive officers high salaries because they run large corporations, yet principals who run large schools with hundreds of employees, who have to deal with a variety of labor unions, and who are in charge of large numbers of our nation’s most precious commodities — our children — are not similarly compensated.

In our country, wages are equated with prestige. Paying teachers less than sanitation workers is shameful. And anyone who claims that education is expensive needs to realize that the cost of ignorance is far more expensive. The average cost of a year of incarceration is $29,000 (2008). No school system in our nation spends that much money to educate a child.”

Franklin P. Schargel is the President of The Schargel Consulting Group. He is a former classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator. He is the author of 10 highly successful books and over 100 published articles dealing with dropout prevention, school leadership, school and school culture. His copyright-free website is www.schargel.com. He can be reached at [email protected].
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