Thursday, April 27, 2006

Klein's Message to Principals

Dear Colleagues,

As principals, you know all too well how excellent teachers help students learn and achieve, and how ineffective teachers cause students to fall behind.

In our schools, we face the continuing challenge of successfully attracting and retaining top-notch educators. Clearly, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. But I think we’ve recently made significant strides that will help us to take on this challenge in ways that will lead to real, positive changes in our schools and in our classrooms.

Last week, we announced an innovative agreement with the United Federation of Teachers that allows us to offer experienced math, science, and special education teachers an almost $15,000 housing bonus for joining our schools.

This new bonus program comes on the heels of our announcement this year about the “lead teacher” program, also negotiated with the UFT, which launches in the fall. Master teachers selected through an application process will receive a $10,000 bonus in exchange for spending half their time teaching and half their time mentoring and advising their peers in high-needs schools. This is another way we are paying more for what we need in our schools.

Both of these programs are simple applications of the rules of supply and demand. All of our kids desperately need great teachers, but right now teachers have no incentive to sign up for challenging assignments. This doesn’t make sense. We cannot rely solely on good will to stock our classrooms with high-quality teachers. To encourage more of the best teachers to seek out very demanding jobs in more challenging schools, we need to reward them, in addition to paying all teachers fairly. (In the past four years, we have raised all teacher salaries by more than 30%.)

The same principle applies to teachers in shortage area subjects. Each year, we hire almost three-quarters of new math, science, and special education teachers through alternative certification programs like Teaching Fellows. We hire the vast remainder of the remaining one-quarter of our new math, science, and special education teachers from overseas. The supply of certified common branch, English, and social studies teachers is substantially larger. For every opening in those fields, we receive about 10 applications. What do these numbers mean to me? They mean we can afford to be far more selective when we are hiring English teachers than when we can be when we are hiring math and science teachers. Both subject areas are critically important to us, but we are, in effect, shortchanging our schools and our students by not being willing to pay market rate for all teachers. To increase our options, we must do what most good employers do—spend more for services that are in short supply and high demand.

Don’t get me wrong: A system of differential pay will not solve all our problems in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, but in areas where we want to recruit more teachers, it’s an important first step. As you know, we have limited resources, so we need to be strategic about how we allocate our funds. That’s what these recent initiatives are all about.

I am grateful to the UFT for its support and creativity in helping to devise these programs and look forward to working with the union to develop new methods of compensation in order to attract and motivate our educators.


I look forward to the day when the UFT gives its members something for which to be thankful.

I'm thinking new leadership.

Note that Klein, while referring to effective teachers, sets programs in place to have only enough teachers. Note our union's support for such programs.
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