Teachers' perceptions of positive and negative outcomes of differentiated pay
MacLeod, Mary Jane
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The Teaching Commission, The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and The National Center on Education and the Economy have suggested changes in teacher pay structures that will attract and retain highly qualified and effective teachers. The use of teacher pay to advance the goal of improved student achievement that prepares United States students to compete in a global market place is receiving more and more attention. Historically teacher pay has not compared well with other professions requiring similar education. Experts recommend the involvement of teachers in decisions about teacher pay changes. This research examines teacher perceptions about changing teacher pay from a single salary schedule to a differentiated pay structure. It examines teacher perceptions in two broad categories, 1) the degree to which teachers find certain criteria acceptable for differentiating their pay and 2) whether teachers perceive positive or negative outcomes as a result of differentiated pay. A 45 item questionnaire was developed using current literature about teacher pay and extensive review by experts. The questionnaire was administered to teachers in a large metropolitan school system in Georgia at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The study was limited to teachers, and questionnaires completed by administrators, paraprofessionals, and other non-certified personnel were removed from the data. Five hundred forty-eight questionnaires were considered valid for the study. The items on the questionnaire asked about many criteria that have been suggested as a way of differentiating pay and asked teacher opinions about positive and negative outcomes of differentiated pay for teachers. The mean for each item was calculated, and each item was ranked by the mean score to show the degree to which teachers agreed with each statement. The means were subjectively compared for notable differences. The questionnaire also included an openended question to allow for input that might not have been covered in the other questions. These open-ended responses were categorized into positive, negative, mixed response, and neutral categories and examined. They were also categorized by content and examined. The data were also examined to determine if years of experience would indicate that teachers were more or less likely to accept certain criteria to differentiate their pay. The results indicate that teachers may accept some forms of differentiated pay, but they generally believe that differentiated pay may cause more negative outcomes than positive outcomes. Teachers overwhelmingly agree with paying teachers more for advanced degrees and years of experience which are the components of the current single salary schedule. They also approve of paying teachers more for National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Certification and professional learning outside of contract hours which are similar in nature to advanced degrees. As the criteria become less like the status quo, teachers are less likely to agree with using them for differentiated pay. Criteria that included test scores, attendance data, and parent satisfaction were not found acceptable to teachers. The criteria that teachers find more acceptable are important to policymakers as they attempt to implement pay changes. The open-ended question showed that teachers were eager to give suggestions for implementation of differentiated pay. While they perceived differentiated pay as causing more negative results than positive results, teacher input showed glimpses of what policymakers might do to advance the change in teacher pay. Teacher concerns about negative outcomes need to be considered and examined to determine how more positive perceptions can be cultivated. Years of experience as examined in this data had no effect on teacher attitudes about differentiating their pay. Recent efforts to change teacher pay have taken a top down approach. These efforts have met with failure or have not been sustained. Because of the seeming resistance of teachers to change from the single salary schedule, teacher input holds even greater importance. Future efforts would benefit from considering teacher perceptions and allowing broad teacher input in the process.