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Compensation Reform Must Be Done with Teachers

Compensation reform will not be effective merely because a district or state mandates it, and provides additional monies for awards.

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Compensation reform will not be effective merely because a district or state mandates it, and provides additional monies for awards. Partners must come to the table and be willing to redefine traditional relationships and create the new forms of collaboration necessary for developing and implementing the plans. This type of partnership requires building the levels of trust and open communication characteristically missing in reform efforts. Trust is often dismissed as an abstract concept, yet it is as central to gaining teacher buy-in for compensation reform as the financial package or the organizational supports.

The role of teachers and teacher leaders is particularly pivotal to the prospects for success. Teacher leaders have to understand how to advance new directions in compensation and school improvement at the same time that they provide traditional supports to their members. They need leadership development in such areas as building consensus, developing and evaluating compensation plans, negotiating new types of contractual agreements, and building sophisticated communication skills that are critically important when dealing with their members and the media.

Union leaders should prepare to be the protectors of quality implementation, as well as teacher rights. In particular, they will need to pinpoint how they can use compensation reform to achieve the goals of supportive school working conditions, high-quality teaching, and enhanced student achievement, and how they can use compensation reform to create a “win-win” situation for both the union and the district. They too must become leading advocates of such reforms. Teachers have a rightful role as equal partners in compensation reform.

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