increase teacher salaries

Ron's picture

our teachers are having to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets, and can't afford to live near the schools!

Ron's picture

do you know any teachers?

do you know any teachers?

km123's picture

I agree!

Yea, I agree. Teachers are already asked to take reduced salaries. Why do teachers have to bear the burden of the city's failing school system? Does anyone have a real solution?

TK's picture

And the job keeps getting

And the job keeps getting harder. Check out this article: "California Watch surveyed the 30 largest K-12 school districts in the state and found that many schools are pushing class sizes to 24 in some or all of the early grades. Other districts have raised class sizes to 30 students – reverting to levels not seen in more than a decade."


nblackburn's picture

Increasing teacher salaries

Increasing teacher salaries will not help. The best way to make teachers perform better is to make salary based on merit, instead of arbitrary factors like seniority. Think about it. If the crappy teachers get paid the same amount as the best teachers, what incentive would the crappy teachers have to get better (or what incentive would the good teachers have to keep teaching well)? None. And the crappy teachers would have more incentive to continue teaching if the only way to increase their salary was by gaining seniority.

A merit-based system is the best way to go. It would keep the good teachers in schools and the bad ones out.

zoobie48's picture

Merit it up! Proven to work!

Merit it up! Proven to work!

Nick Vojdani's picture

My Mom is a teacher

My mother is a teacher and faces many of these exact issues. Low salary, overcrowded classrooms, cuts in school supply budgets. It is a real shame that we San Francisco isn't leading the nation on this. We can do better! 

Seward's picture

How would a merit based

How would a merit based system work? What would you use to measure merit?

nblackburn's picture

test scores

The simplest way to measure a teacher's performance would be to base it on their students' test scores, or the change in their students test scores. While test scores aren't everything, and they certainly don't account for a teacher's personality or ability to inspire, they are how we evaluate our students' performance, and our students' performance is directly related to their teachers' performance.


nblackburn's picture


This is an article I found in education week:

"What would happen if every teacher had to present a portfolio of evidence-based student learning annually? That portfolio might include videotaped lessons, student work over time, external observations, evaluations and awards--and, where appropriate, standardized test data. Such an annual review would force teachers to collect evidence of their own effectiveness continuously, and build awareness of how good assessment can drive instruction."

bdw's picture

Assessment is more than test scores

The article and quote above are clear evidence for why using test scores is not really an effective evaluation of the value that teachers add to students.  For test scores to be compared year over year, they need to be standardized and this usually means they are developed by a private company and sold to school districts.  Merit pay, as an attractor of good potential teachers, will never work if committed young people who want to teach are forced to teach to a test to earn more money.  The almost presumes an assembly-line mentality that is not relevant to the range of personalities and background teachers face.  Many of us grew up being taught by teachers with 15 or more years experience.  Now, in some areas, the average teacher teaches for less than 5 years.  The evidence based portfolio of student learning is a much better method of assessing teacher and student achievement but standardizing testing will not allow that.  The testing argument in some ways is cover for the severe lack of resources.  We definitely need to fix this.

nblackburn's picture

"Many of us grew up being

"Many of us grew up being taught by teachers with 15 or more years experience.  Now, in some areas, the average teacher teaches for less than 5 years."

Why do you think that is? Right now the system is a base salary that increases with seniority, and you are telling me that experienced teachers are leaving. Why do they leave? Because the minimal increase they would gain from staying in the profession and racking up seniority is not enough incentive to make them stay. Most teachers are probably very qualified individuals who could work in other fields and get paid more, but prefer to teach for whatever reason.

If, no matter how hard they work or how well they teach their students, they will get the same salary, what incentive do they have to do their best?

"The evidence based portfolio of student learning is a much better method of assessing teacher and student achievement but standardizing testing will not allow that."

Don't you think it's feasible that the two could be combined? Every public school student has to take the state-administered STAR test, so couldn't that be the standardized test used in evaluations?

bdw's picture

They could potentially be

They could potentially be combined but most teachers leave not from lack of pay but rather lack of say.  If the teacher's bonus is determined by a STAR score, what incentive would they have to teach anything that was not tested by STAR? In addition, how would teachers respond to poor test takers?  The concept of a portfolio of work for assessment would require that teachers do what many of them enjoy doing, and, I would argue, requires significantly more work than getting students to pass STAR type tests. Combining the two could work but as a measurement tool I think the test scores become the easy out for resource allocation and administrative decisions.  Put more simply, the assessment portfolios don't fit into spreadsheets.  The issue of teacher retention is crucial and this discussion of assessment is a key part of it because many of the battles between teachers and administrators is over what the game plan is and how the school scores.  If teachers have little say in the plan, little support from experienced mentor teachers, and little in terms of resources, no amount of merit pay will have them stick around for a career.  I'm curious about your ideas for combining the two.

Phil Ting's picture

Higher pay and more support

Teachers are asked to do more every day.  They deserved to be paid better than almost any profession I can think of.  They have taken on the role of counselor because we have no more counselors.  They have the role of nurse because we have no more nurses.  We do need to find a way to reward the best teachers.  Money is one way.  Another is recognition.  Another is respect.  How would we figure out who the good teachers are?  I know who I felt the best teachers were in my schools and they have impacted me my entire life - but how do we measure that?  Is it student evaluations?  parent evaluations?  if we do test scores, teachers will only want the best students, not necessarily the ones who need the most help

DonRoss's picture

Start with the Children

The best way to begin the conversation about improving our public schools in San Francisco is to begin with the children/students. Very often the teachers are pitted against the students and vice a versa. The SFUSD is the most Byzantine bureaucracy I have ever encountered and probably one of the most wasteful. So many of the functions the SFUSD performs could be better performed and more efficiently by other City agencies, thus saving money to better fund our classrooms, teachers, and to ensure that our children our put first in the conversation: if we have more money, we can pay teachers for longer school days, provide them more classroom support, and ensure the children who don't learn at the same level as their peers, have the necessary extra help.  It's time to overall the entire system.

bobbyh's picture

Evaluating teachers

I think Phil brings up some very good points.  I too think that there are very few positions in society today that carry the magnitude of importance that teachers have.  They literally are shaping the future of our society's most precious resource--young minds.  They should be paid more, they should be recognized more often and they should demand an immense amount of respect.  Unfortunately, none of those are often the case and that needs to change. And to change those things, the question turns to evaluation and how to separate the good apples from bad, so we can bestow all those great things on our teachers.

But evaluation of "good" teachers is a tough nut to crack because each methodology has its flaws.  I would say that a formula based on ALL different criteria be employed: i.e. student evaluations, parent evaluations, peer teacher/staff evaluations, test scores, etc. Being a teacher involves managing all those different relationships and taking responsibility for each, so it is only fair that a comprehensive criteria that captures a host of performance measures is used.  I think it would also be important to have a "lifetime grade" as well that averages the performance of all the individual's years as a teacher, so it's not just a one-year grade, but a total snapshot of the teacher through their career.  We can then use that lifetime grade to recognize and award teachers for their hard work, perhaps with incentives built in for raising that score.  In the end, I agree with many here that a total overhaul is needed--we need to get smarter about education in this country.

nblackburn's picture

too much trust

Will paying teachers more actually change their performance? Simply increasing teachers' salaries and expecting them to work harder is, in my opinion, too risky. Do you really trust teachers to work harder just because they have a bigger paycheck? If there is no incentive for them to improve their performance (other than the satisfaction they may get from seeing children learn) they won't improve their performance.

For example, let's say you usually got paid 5 dollars to mow and water a lawn, and your boss never checked how well the job was done afterwards. You mowed the lawn every time, but occasionally you skipped the watering.

Now let's say your boss wants to make sure you both cut and water. So now he begins to pay your 10 dollars to mow and water, but he still does not check the quality of your work. 

If you put ten people in this situation, I bet five would do a better job because they got paid more, and the other five would still do a mediocre job because they knew they could get away with it.


Increasing teacher salaries presupposes that every single teacher is the kind of person who would do a better job "just because". It presupposes that every teacher has strong integrity and personal morals.

And the problem is, not every teacher is a good person.

bdw's picture

Teacher motivation

The cost of living in San Francisco forces the motivation question to the front of the line.  If someone becomes a teacher because they enjoy it, want to contribute to child development, and help shape the next generation of leaders, then the amount of pay, once it reaches a threshold of, say area median income, will no longer separate the excellent teachers from the poor teachers.  The low starting pay and struggle between teachers and administrators have, in the past, been mitigated by the relative security of the job.  In these times of high teacher turn-over from dissatisfaction and the additional disaster of teacher layoffs from revenue shortfalls, the worst outcome is the result: we lose those we want in the profession, keep those who are near retirement but have only average teachers to mentor.

VRB's picture

Fix it?

Everyone agrees that there are major problems with education, but no one is doing what actually needs doing.  In fact, everyone is afraid to do the necessary:

Work with the teachers unions to cut adminstration levels to match charter schools, and use the money for salaries.

Defer tenure five years, and renew it every 10 years after that - get rid of the deadwood!

Set goals beyond the standardized testing, such as 100% of students performing at grade level.  Set interim goals for achieving that, and provide incentive compensation to schools that meet the goals.

Add at least one more academic high school and feeder middle/elementary schools.  There is demand - why can't we provide a challenging education when so many want one?

We already know why these things cannot be accomplished.  So tell the group how to accomphish them.


km123's picture

a good point

VRB, you bring up a good point. Education needs to be fundamentally reformed, but no one is taking the lead. Why do you think that it's not being accomplished? How do you think we can fix the problem?

nickkeefe's picture

Test scores -- pros and cons

If teachers were judged on the aggregate delta between pre-instruction tests and post-instruction tests, then it would have some merit, provided the tests tested KSA's (knowledge, skills, abilities) accurately enough.

Measurement along multiple vectors, however, each having some weight, is generally considered more reliable, if also more subject to manipulation and more time consuming. Thus test scores, plus a portfolio of anecdotal student accomplishments, parent endorsements, and principal's evals might work best.

nickkeefe's picture

Ask big company training & development leaders to help...

I know because I used to sell and develop training programs for them: San Francisco has some of the best 'HRD' (human resource development) leaders in the world, coming to work every day in San Francisco, dealing with the people who are products of our schools in their training programs. They'd have insight and interest (and perhaps their corporation's resources) to help solve the problems. HR (human resources) and HRD departments of larger (therefore sophisticated, experienced, with populations large enough that their statistics would be more reliable) companies could share how and why they train the way they do. With the world of education and the world of work more and more overlapping (e.g. lifelong education now a requirement; work during college a commonplace) we ought to include thinking 'backward' from the world of work (including non-profits) to the world of 'pre-work' to see what we can learn. Most work is no longer simple, if it ever was.  It's multidimensional, humanistic (at its best), accountable for results, social, technological, competitive and fast moving: fun and rewarding, if you are prepared for it. Leaders in HRD deal with these issues every day as a matter of  thriving in their own jobs. They can teach us something. Even the technologies, such as 'learning management systems' in use in education are now spreading back to organizational training & development, partly because they are designed to empower the instructor, not replace him/her... Let's leverage this huge local reservoir of knowledge, skill and ability to help our schools.

jyasskin's picture

Some of the "merit" replies

Some of the "merit" replies seem to think of that as something to do instead of raising salaries. I think to make either viable we'd need to do both: increase maximum pay significantly, but make it so only good teachers get the raises. Measuring teacher quality is hard—standardized tests certainly aren't the whole answer—but there's been a bunch of research in this area recently, so it should be possible to come up with some system. Even just giving the principal discretion might be good enough, despite the obvious problems with favoritism.

SophieT's picture

Merit Based Salaries are a TERRIBLE idea!

And how do you propose going about rating teachers? Test scores? That is reminiscent of the failed legislation of No Child Left Behind. If a wonderful teacher is teaching in a district that historically has very low test scores, that teacher should be commended.

A proposition like this could make our school districts that score the lowest do even worse by scaring off talented young teachers and forcing wise and dedicated established teachers to look for jobs elsewhere. This would further the gap between the affluent and the less well off, not to mention greatly reduce opportunity for success in life because of a poor education.

Kate Maeder's picture

Live webcast on Education tomorrow

This is a really hot topic. A lot of folks argue that merit-based incentives would work for students, but would merit-based salary really work for teachers? I'm not really sure that would be effective. It acts to discourage teachers from working in the schools with student who need the most help...

What do you think? Tomorrow's live webcast with Assessor Phil Ting and Hydra Mendoza (School Boardmember and Education Policy Advisor to Mayor Gavin Newsom) will be a great opportunity to ask Hydra your questions directly.

Hope you can join them from 4-5pm tomorrow. Here's the link:

CJC's picture

Everybody agrees that we need

Everybody agrees that we need innovative, committed teachers to make sure we have an education system which rivals and surpasses the rest of the county and the rest of the world. There are obviously different opinions about how we can do this.

One of the major problems is that graduating students don't look to teaching as a career to aspire to. More often people fall into teaching as backup to what they see as grander career goals. This is wrong. We need a new generation of people who want to become teachers because it is one of society's most rewarding and important positions. Why is this not already the case? 

It comes down to problems which have been discussed above. Teachers are undervalued, do not have enough say in the education and yes, are poorly paid considering the importance of their position. 

We need to raise the bar in teaching and make it a career that the best and brightest will aspire to so that our schools have the greatest minds making sure future generations are well prepared. To attract these people, competitive wages need to be paid.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137