I fully support all 3,300 Newark school teachers and all teachers in America. They have one of the most important jobs in the country teaching the 37,000 school children in Newark (from NJ.com). I however disagree with the merit pay passed yesterday based on student performance.
The merit pay system is based on a performance bonus of $2,000 and $12,500 based on test scores and a three person committee in their school judging their merit on a scale. Teachers given a rating in the top two points on the scale receive a bonus and those in the lower end receive mentoring and bonuses with improvement (mentoring is good idea in general and should be offered to all).
I had the opportunity to work in the Newark school system as part of an internship in college during the early years of the state take over of the school system. I worked with elementary school children and high school students. Just like every school large and small; rural, suburban, and urban....etc. There are many things that affect a child's performance that even the best teacher in the world cannot compensate for.
Here are some examples of what I witnessed first hand:
One day a child came into school put his head down on the desk and slept for almost the entire school day. When he was woken up to try to get him to do work he said he had been up all night (and it showed). I am not sure if he was out of the house because of his parent’s social life or home but has noisy neighbors (all plausible). This child needed to sleep in order to learn anything.
Another day a child came in and was inconsolable because her uncle died. While she did not say how, the other children we upset and it required otherwise useful learning time address this child's needs and the needs of the children who were upset by this news and their friend’s reaction to it.
An excellent teacher can handle those situations and address the child's needs. However this compassion and attention to the emotional needs of the children does not get them to end of chapter two in their textbook. When teachers do not get through all the lessons that are needed prior to the test the students are not ready for the test in three months that affects the pay of their teacher.
We cannot blame the parents completely nor can we say it is that it is the teachers who are 100% are responsible for the student’s success. It is the partnership they forge together and sometimes, as it is everywhere, there are many reasons beyond a teachers control that can affect their students success regardless of their best efforts.
Mark Zuckerberg did an amazing thing for Newark with his $100 million grant and I am an admirer of Mayor Corey Booker but I think the teachers of Newark deserve to be paid for their hard work.
Newark teachers have a starting salary of at least $40,000 and research points to higher salaries in the $45,000 to $80,000 range (payscale.com and salary.com). Please note that all official contract documents online have the salary pages omitted.
The median pay for a teacher in affluent Glen Ridge, just 4 miles away, is $90,603-$135,904 according to TeacherSalary.net.
The median pay for an American teacher is between $40,000 and $45,000 according to PayScale.com.
By creating a structure where teachers receive a competitive salary you will attract top notch teachers. There are thousand of teachers in the area who would happily work in the Newark school district to make a difference in Newark children’s lives if they could feed their family while doing it.
Raising salaries will help retain excellent teachers already in the school system. Any good school system needs teachers that stay in the system. Students love to come back to see the teachers from their youth teaching their siblings or their kids. It is vital to vibrant school system to retain excellent teachers.
I hope that after evaluating this system Mayor Booker and the state will decide to give these hard working teachers excellent pay and let them teach and care for Newark's children the way ALL children deserve.
Leigh is a mother of two young children and write two blogs Green-4-U with green living tips for the average person and What I Want My Kids 2 Know, a blog she writes to her two kids with advice, stories from her childhood and other funny things. You can follow Leigh on Twitter @Greenforu
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