Positive Classroom Instruction
Chapter 13 - New Structures for the Teaching Profession
In April 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education
issued its report as an open letter to the American people entitled,
"A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform."
The task force report created more than a stir within education-it
created a major political issue for the 1984 presidential campaign
within a month and a half of the report's release. The need
for far-reaching educational reform had finally come out of
the closet with a suddenness and urgency that caught most educational
policy makers and politicians off guard. Since the spring of
1983 the competition among educators and national and state
legislators to come up with a cure for what's ailing our public
schools has reached the point of clamor.
By June 1983, both the major political parties were issuing
policy statements which dealt with topics ranging from the length
of the school year and the length of the school day to merit
pay for teachers and major new emphases in curriculum. By September
1983, almost all the major news magazines had run upbeat cover
stories on the reforms in education citing example after example
of state and federal legislation pending or passed that addressed
the "rising tide of mediocrity in our schools." Indeed,
it would seem that perhaps education's long, hard winter of
public apathy, criticism, and reduced support could at last
be coming to an end. But the speed of the turnaround was impressive
to say the least. If the report of the National Commission on
Excellence in Education can be viewed as the first sign of the
long-awaited spring, it is amazing that it took only 2 months
for the entire nation to come into full bloom.
Although many of the reforms being proposed are accompanied
by laudatory rationales and although some of the proposals even
have a chance of being successful, it is important to keep three
basic realities in mind. First, basic change in an institution
as large and inertia-bound as education is slow, costly, and
hard-fought. Second, improvement in education ultimately takes
place within the classroom. Although effective public policy
can add momentum to many constructive trends within education,
excellence is not achieved in Congress, in the State House,
at the county level, or in the office of the district administration.
Whatever legislative policies are passed, the major measure
of excellence in education is that teachers learn to teach and
manage their classrooms better. Third, presidential, congressional,
and state elections are ever imminent, and much of the rush
to legislate excellence must be viewed as election year politicking.
If excellence in education is "in," then any politician
in his right mind should be staying up late trying to draft
an omnibus education reform bill. If omnibus education reform
bills could reform education, we would not be in the shape we
are in. And if reform could be done as rapidly as a stroke of
a legislative pen, it would have been done long ago.
It is understandable that the sudden surge for educational
reform will produce ail encyclopedia of quick cures. Many may
seem to have merit, but none will be as simple as it at first
appears. Organizational change is a subtle, difficult, and time-consuming
process, and the mandate mentality is no more effective from
the state house than it is from the district office. Indeed,
many of the most sensible-appearing and straightforward cures
for education being proposed at present address extremely complex
issues which, if dealt with clumsily, could easily produce more
harm than good. The present chapter attempts to deal with some
of the most basic issues in the current rush to improve education
so that they may be seen within a broader context of staff and
organizational development: the delivery of the tools for educational
excellence into the hands of the classroom teacher and the district
GOOD TEACHERS AND BAD TEACHERS
There are two related but separate approaches to improving
the quality of education quickly (apart from the curriculum)
which are the first to occur to most concerned citizens, namely
(1) getting rid of incompetent teachers and (2) merit pay for
exemplary teachers. It is safe to say that most school board
members, administrators, and politicians, to say nothing of
the general public, think that having control over these two
issues would produce quick and dramatic improvements in teacher
performance. Ironically, both of these perennial favorites represent
simplistic solutions to complex organizational problems, which
are, for the most part, doomed to failure.
Weeding Out the Dead Wood
Collaborative versus Adversarial Leadership
When an organizational leader expresses his or her leadership
mandate by attempting to "weed out the dead wood"
as the initial focus of his or her leadership without a major
prior investment in team building and professional growth, the
faculty unites around the attacked colleague irrespective of
the issue of excellence. The group will then organize for self-defense
and raise as many obstacles to the removal of the attacked colleague
as possible. The result is a form of warfare between adversaries
with a rapidly increasing cost to every one, concurrent with
rapidly decreasing flexibility on the part of administrators
in dealing with weak teachers, The whole thing may eventually
end up in court; the district rarely wins and the lawyers take
the money. Meanwhile, the leader of this naive attempt to produce
quick reform will have spent a great deal of time and energy
with the net result being a polarization of the work group.
Team Building and Professional Growth Ironically,
the attack on the weak teacher is not only destructive to organization
building in most cases, but it is also an inefficient way to
improve the mean level of the performance of the work group.
The leaders will produce a much greater increase in the performance
of the group if they help fifteen fairly competent teachers
to improve than they will by getting rid of one or two incompetent
The primary focus of organization building for leaders, therefore,
should be to build a growth process in which the majority of
the group joins in a common professional development effort
that substantially improves group performance and morale. It
is the job of leadership to build group cohesiveness around
the shared focus of achieving excellence rather than to destroy
group cohesiveness through adversarial behavior.
As the process of professional growth and the camaraderie which
accompanies it become more established, the inept teachers,
rather than being the center of social cohesion, will become
more and more peripheral to the group process. They will be
voluntarily omitting themselves not only from professional development
opportunities but also from the extensive social interactions
associated with them-a context of working together that is not
only rewarding but also associated in the minds of the peer
group with being a good teacher.
Supervision and Feedback In addition to team
building, part of the principal's job is evaluation and feedback.
When, however, it is possible for principals and teachers to
live in separate worlds free of the systematic pursuit of excellence,
supervision and feedback are for the most part institutional
irrelevancies. In years past, plant managers have commonly had
teachers fill out their own evaluations, glad to be freed of
meaningless paperwork. Mandatory classroom visits once or twice
a year by principals rarely produced incisive comments concerning
the quality of teaching. To get a negative review there had
to be a riot going on, a comatose teacher, or a bulletin board
done in shades of gray.
Now the age of the instructional leader is upon us and principals
are going in droves to workshops and seminars on "clinical
supervision." Such training has done much to give principals
a sense of what to look for in a classroom, how to document
what they see, and how to give verbal feedback to teachers.
Such workshops and seminars, however, are usually fairly brief,
large-group affairs that lack the capacity to train principals
in high-level clinical skills (as the name would imply). Consequently,
principals typically revert to type when giving corrective feedback
and lace their remarks with more than a few "yes-but compliments"
and "helpful criticisms."
Their skills of clinical supervision all too often degenerate
into mixing criticism with enough praise to sweeten some of
the resultant bitterness. The result of such clinical clumsiness,
predictably, is a considerable amount of awkwardness and discomfort
on the part of the supervisor and frequent defensiveness on
the part of the teacher.
The most common problem with clinical supervision is that it
is typically based on poor instructional practice. To put it
simply, it typically employs the universal helping interaction.
And why not? The universal helping interaction has been invisible
in the classroom up until now, so why should it be any different
in the instruction that goes by the name of supervision? The
job of the universal helping interaction is to find the problem
and fix it. It begins with a deficit diagnosis and proceeds
to corrective feedback by way of a prescription for remediation.
Even when amply padded with praise, the typical supervisory
session often becomes a prolonged, awkward, and often painful
In the Classroom Management Training Program there is no differentiation
in training between teacher and administrator. Not only must
administrators understand the program and visibly support it
by being part of the training team, but they must also use it
in carrying out their role of instructional leader. They must
not only know what to look for in precision teaching and classroom
management skills when observing a classroom, but they must
use those same teaching skills in supervision. They must always
give corrective feedback, and they must sometimes teach a structured
lesson from scratch in the process.
An example may be helpful at this point. A particular junior
high principal in Virginia had been trained along with several
of his strongest teachers to be a trainer in the Classroom Management
Training Program. During the following year, all teachers at
the school site who wished to participate in the program went
through training and participated in the continuation groups
that follow training. The principal skillfully put the program
on the front burner at the school site and kept it there, producing
a high rate of volunteerism. But, predictably, a few of the
"chronic bitchers and moaners," to use the principal's
words, flatly refused to have anything to do with the program.
Rather than directly confronting this negativistic behavior,
which would have only produced more of the same, the principal
used his coaching skills within a tutorial context. He visited
the classroom of one of his more negativistic male teachers
and scheduled a feedback session as was customary. In the feedback
session the principal carefully described the strengths that
he had observed in the classroom and then made his transition
from praise to prompt ("The next thing to do is . . . ").
"You know, Henry, one of the things I liked, as I mentioned,
was your getting around to different students when they were
working independently in order to help them with their work
[The actual number was four]. Is there any way we can make that
job easier for you by cutting down the amount of walking you
have to do - by arranging the furniture so you don't have to
walk around so many obstacles to get where you want to go'!
If we can come up with a room arrangement that allows you to
get around easier, I'll talk to Bob, the custodian, so he'll
leave it that way."
Some brainstorming produced a much-improved room arrangement,
and the principal walked down to the teacher's room to help
shove furniture around as the two continued to discuss the subject.
During the following week, several brief conversations with
the teacher in the hall not only confirmed that the new room
arrangement had helped but also kept the whole issue on the
front burner. A week or so later the principal visited the teacher's
room again and scheduled another feedback session.
"Henry, it looks a whole lot easier for you to get around
in there now, and I think you are able to help the kids more
often as a result. Today I'd like to focus on a way of getting
around even faster so that we can help kids more often and,
in particular, get to kids as soon as they feel stuck before
they start goofing off.
Here's what I have in mind. Our objective will be to help a
kid who is stuck as quickly and efficiently as possible. We'll
try to make the interaction as simple as possible so it takes
less than a minute. Then nobody will be on hold long enough
to get into trouble. Besides, you'll be able to move often enough
so that you'll be looking over the kids' shoulders all of the
The next several supervisory sessions were spent on the positive
helping interaction, and then the focus shifted to illustrated
performance sequences. Pretty soon they were talking about limit-setting
on the wing and remaining calm when a kid mouths off.
"You know, it took some time," said the principal,
"but I got old Henry through almost all the program, and
it really helped him. The kids had been giving him a pretty
hard time before. And we got to know and trust each other. I
actually think he looks forward to our supervisory sessions.
In fact he said so once. But he still says he won't have a damn
thing to do with the Classroom Management Training Program.
That's just Henry. If it looks like the thing to do, he'll do
the opposite. But he got it anyway." Evaluation and feedback
are crucial facets of the instructional leader's role. But,
unless these functions are carried out within a context of correct
instructional methodology, they will be handled within a context
that is fundamentally incompatible with psychological support.
The result is teachers who see evaluation and feedback as threatening
- a perception that ultimately makes the job of instructional
leadership difficult If not impossible. The basic skills and
the value system inherent in positive classroom instruction
must ultimately reverberate to the top of the organizational
hierarchy because good supervision and leadership are good teaching.
The classroom is not a unique context nor is the principal's
role unique. Getting people to do things right with a positive
attitude and high group morale pervades all levels of organizational
life. It requires not only correct basic methodology but a way
of thinking about all people as potential learners.
Facing the Issue of Nonperformance If we can
keep staff development from being stigmatized by either adversarial
behavior or by the "deficit model" which associates
staff development with needing help (see previous chapter),
principals will have increased flexibility in dealing with the
weak teacher. They will, in fact, spend a larger share of their
consulting time with weak teachers since the strong teachers
do not need to be continuously held by the hand when working
toward professional development goals. With weak teachers a
principal may spend a great deal of time clarifying values and
objectives, helping the teachers find growth-producing experiences,
and evaluating efforts to change. Since the goals and means
of professional growth are always a collaborative effort between
principal and teacher, the principal can constrain the range
of choices to be within the teacher's areas of immediate need.
But, how does a principal get rid of a truly incompetent teacher
who either does not try to improve or does not seem capable
of improving? Do you get rid of her by "taking her to the
mat?" If so, what steps precede confrontation that make
the process as humane as possible?
The Accelerating Quality Control Cycle
If a teacher needs to leave the teaching profession, it is the
principal's obligation to help her or him out-to help with firmness
and compassion until the necessity of job change is painfully
obvious to all. Helping a teacher Out of the teaching profession
should be viewed as a matter of due process in which the teacher
is given every possible opportunity to grow. Yet, while principals
collaborate in providing every possible opportunity for growth,
they are also the chief quality control person on the school
site, and the buck stops with them. They are both obligated
to provide a real opportunity to grow and forbidden to accept
In practice, these two tasks of giving help and quality control
are expressed for the principal in terms of a cycle of (1) goal
setting, (2) staff development, and (3) evaluation-a quality
control cycle which simply increases in rate over time in the
case of the particularly needy teacher. Goals are set, steps
are taken to help the teacher grow, and observation and evaluation
follow. This fundamental process of systematic professional
growth is no different in form for the weak teacher than for
the strong teacher since everyone is always involved in staff
development without implication of deficit. Weak teachers are
different only insofar as they call attention to themselves
by their lack of progress.
Only when no growth is taking place does the rate of the quality
control cycle increase. Evidence of nonperformance produces
a redefinition of goals and a more informed and detailed selection
of additional means of growth. Participation in some kind of
growth opportunity is followed by more frequent observation
which is followed by an additional cycle of goal clarification
and goal attainment planning. Over time the cycle accelerates
so that much of the principal's and teacher's energies are concentrated
on the attempt to achieve growth. With such scrutiny the attainment
of growth will be as obvious as the failure to attain growth.
Although the quality control cycle has a cost in terms of the
principal allocating time and resources, it has a corresponding
cost to the weak teacher who must also allocate time and energy.
At some point either the teacher will stop stonewalling, or
it will become evident to everyone that the teacher is either
incapable or unwilling to grow. When such a realization begins
to dawn, the teacher in question will experience pain. That
pain may be expressed in a variety of ways, but it is usually
evidence of a life crisis that is long overdue.
Existential Choices and the Chickens That Come Home
to RoostThe choice of one's profession is a profound
existential decision, a search for personal meaning through
one's work. Staying in a profession in which you are ill-suited
and not succeeding is a pain-producing act of existential cowardice.
When the chickens finally come home to roost, there will be
pain. When the pain becomes evident, it is the principal's role
to become counselor, not adversary.
The issue of competence is not negotiable. When avenues of
change have been explored and found useless, the agenda is unavoidable.
The principal has to say, "It's not working. Classroom
instruction is not for you. Where do we go from here?"
Many times the principal begins a process of job counseling
that can then be assumed by other professionals within the district.
Sometimes they will just take heat from a scared and resentful
individual. Sometimes teachers find other roles within the school
organization, and sometimes they simply find a doctor who signs
the papers that get them disability due to stress. Sometimes
the teacher for the first time deals with the fact that he or
she made the wrong career choice. In any case, the principal's
role is that of counselor within the framework of being the
person responsible for quality control at the school site. The
buck stops with the principal, but the school board must empower
principals to do their job gently, systematically, and humanely.
You do not run people out of the teaching profession. You help
them out, because anyone who is leaving needs help. Dealing
with an incompetent teacher must ultimately be a humane endeavor
or the unavoidable pain and associated costs will be multiplied
for all parties involved.
Merit Pay for Exemplary Teachers
There are two possible rationales for merit pay: (1) thanking
good teachers and (2) providing an incentive system which produces
an improvement in performance for members of the profession.
Traditional methods of merit pay say thank you to the excellent
teachers in a school system, but they typically fail to serve
as an incentive system for professional development.
Merit Pay and Incentives for Excellence
Problems of Reward To help understand
why traditional merit-pay schemes tend to fail as incentive
systems; it may be helpful to consider a common practice-rewarding
car salespeople when they win a regional competition for having
the most car sales. Imagine, for example, that a major automobile
manufacturer offers a trip to Bermuda for the three top salespeople
in a given region. Does that incentive improve the performance
of the average salesperson? The answer is probably not. Why?
Let's imagine that there are 100 salespeople in the region.
To begin with, five or ten of them are not only talented but
also chronic workaholics. They have been sharing the top honors
for the past several years, and everybody else in the region
knows who they are. Before the contest even starts, the vast
majority of salespeople have already quit because they have
no intention of giving up all their nights and weekends, their
spouses, children, hobbies, and sports to try to win a contest
that they will probably lose anyway. Thus from the very outset
of the contest, the three trips to Bermuda are probably serving
as incentives for maybe ten salespeople while everyone else
goes about their jobs as they see fit.
In addition, the trip to Bermuda is not until next February,
which is 10 months away. Delay in reward greatly undermines
its potency. Consequently, the automobile company is asking
a typical salesperson to give up dinner with his family tonight
and stay until 9:00 p.m. doing paperwork in order to have a
chance to earn a reward that won't even be announced for another
10 months. For most people such a reward is simply too distant
and too tenuous to be worth the price.
Thus, although the trips to Bermuda might engage the top 5
to 10 percent of the sales force, and although the incentive
may be regarded more or less positively by the rest of the sales
force as a genuine attempt on the part of the company to say
thank you, the incentive does not function to generate different
work habits on the part of the vast majority of employees. It
is not a motor for behavior change-a functional incentive system
for the achievement of diligence and excellence on a broad scale.
To get back to schools and classrooms, if you were to poll
the faculty of a school by asking them what teachers on their
faculty would probably receive merit pay, they would tell you.
They know who is outstanding. There are very few secrets among
the members of a school faculty. Therefore, why would large
numbers of teachers reorganize the way they teach, go to the
effort of learning new skills, spend extra hours in the evening
preparing lessons, and change their methods of discipline management
for a reward they know they will probably never get?
Problems of Accountability In addition
to problems of operating an incentive system that adequately
rewards large numbers of teachers, there is the problem of operating
an incentive system correctly so that it does not self-destruct.
In our discussions of incentive systems in both Positive
Classroom Disciplineand Positive Classroom Instruction
we have focused repeatedly on the issue of the cost of accountability.
For an incentive system to succeed, the assessment of the behavior
that is to be rewarded must be strict, accurate, and affordable.
It must be viewed by participants as valid. If assessment is
not accurate and fair, it will not only cause participants to
become disillusioned with the incentive system and stop participating,
but it will also produce ill feelings among those who did not
receive rewards and felt unfairly judged.
Merit pay in its traditional form is consistently opposed by
teachers when they feel that the assessment will be quick and
dirty, that is, when it will be performed by an administrator
such as their principal who in the teachers' minds cannot tell
good teaching from bad and who has both favorites and unfavorites
on the faculty. Unfortunately, the teachers are all too often
right in this perception and will continue to be right for a
long time to come. The supervisory expertise and evaluative
sophistication needed to operate a straight merit-pay system
does not exist in the field now and will not exist for decades
even if all the money in the world were allocated to merit pay
Thus, although traditional forms of merit pay may say thank
you, they are among the most inefficient ways of altering the
way in which the majority of teachers teach. In fact, as mentioned
earlier, most of the faculty will not even compete for merit
pay. And those few who do compete for it but fail to get it
will often feel wronged. Thus, the research shows that merit
pay typically generates ill feelings among the faculty and is
typically abandoned because it is more trouble than it is worth.
Professional Development and Service Pay
Extra Pay for Extra Work Although it
is very difficult to create a meritocracy based on simple money
rewards, it is fairly easy to create a meritocracy based on
extra pay for assuming added professional responsibilities for
which people have been specially trained. Since the extra work
of added professional responsibilities is quite tangible, colleagues
rarely resent the extra pay that the extra work produces. And,
if a potentially large number of teachers can have access to
varying amounts of extra pay for extra work, we have the basis
for an incentive system that will in fact be a motor for producing
widespread behavior change and professional growth.
Although there are many ways for teachers to make a special
contribution to the functioning of a district, one of the ways
most relevant to increasing professional excellence is to assume
the role of trainer in a systematic staff development program
which almost by necessity will employ a trainer-of-trainers
model. Administrators should in all cases choose their trainers
from among their best teachers, and being trained to be a trainer
will equip those teachers with special professional expertise.
Initial experience with the trainer-of-trainers program allows
the trainers to decide whether or not they enjoy the training
experience enough to continue with it, and it gives supervisors
a chance to decide whether that person is working out as an
effective trainer. During the first year, the reward for the
trainer may be the luxury of receiving expensive high-level
training for free (at the district's expense) and trying his
or her wings in a new role. By the second year in which a teacher
functions as a trainer, he or she should be earning extra pay
for the extra work. Such pay is, however, service pay rather
than merit pay in the traditional sense.
Mentors and Master Teachers Programs
presently being proposed, which attempt to reward exemplary
teachers while sidestepping the traditional pitfalls of merit
pay, are for the most part service-pay systems. In such programs
teachers who receive extra stipends for disseminating their
special skills throughout the district are usually referred
to as "mentor teachers" or "master teachers."
The mechanics of such service pay systems are still in their
formative stages, but the major design issues and potential
problem areas are plain enough.
1. Who gets to say who is a master teacher, and what are the
criteria of selection?
In most programs presently being considered, teachers are typically
nominated by a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators
to receive added pay for serving as mentors for new teachers
or as master teachers who disseminate their special skills throughout
the district. This system of "consensual validation"
often works quite well when small numbers of teachers are being
chosen-teachers whose reputations precede them in the selection
process and thereby confer validity upon the selection. The
selection process will be held to closer scrutiny and criticized
more on grounds of validity as soon as larger numbers of teachers
are enfranchised into the service-pay system. In order to create
both the substance and appearance of validity of selection,
there will be increasing pressure to replace consensual criteria
of selection with "empirical validation." At that
point the cost of accountability in our incentive system increases
2. How many teachers can be mentors or master teachers? Will
many teachers be enfranchised, or will there be just an elite
One of the most obvious means of cost containment is elitism.
Indeed, few of the mentor- or master-teacher programs presently
being proposed enfranchise more than a few percent of the total
teacher population into the service-pay system. Even such a
limited effort can produce large dividends if carried out properly,
but the eternal "Why should I?" must still be answered
for many if they are to make their special contributions to
3. What approach to skill dissemination will be used if mentors
and master teachers are to train their peers?
The fact that teachers are exemplary in their classrooms does
not mean that they can systematically reproduce that expertise.
Perhaps the Achilles' heel of all mentor- or master-teacher
programs presently being proposed is the naive assumption that
mentor teachers (1) can accurately describe the skills that
make them excellent and (2) can convey those skills to their
colleagues without making them defensive and resentful. A decade
and a half of perfecting trainer-of-trainers methods in the
field began with a couple of lessons in the school of hard knocks
that I have never forgotten: Exceptional teachers are almost
powerless to describe at a high level of precision exactly how
they manage a classroom and their colleagues get extremely defensive
and petty as soon as a "master" teacher presumes to
give them advice.
How carefully, then, will the process of disseminating expertise
be attended to? Will a quality delivery system be slowly and
carefully built in which master or mentor teachers can function
effectively? Or will we once again simply turn a blind eye toward
the most difficult aspect of staff development and hope for
Before service-pay schemes are ironed out in the many school
districts across the country interested in such programs, a
considerable amount of trial and error will take place. As I
travel, I already find effective principals worrying aloud that
their less effective administrator colleagues will probably
make mentors into assistant principals if given the chance.
In some other districts teachers with the most seniority are
hinting that they are the natural choice for the role. I find
superintendents anxious about dissension and hurt feelings because
the criteria of selection are so fuzzy and because the issue
of extra pay is already making the composition of the selection
committee a political football.
In localities where there has historically been a strong staff
development apparatus, however, often in the form of a federally
funded teacher center, a state or county professional development
center or a staff development institute within a larger district,
I find a remarkably smooth and sensible process of evolution
developing. In localities where systematic staff development
has a history of several years and where many of the best teachers
have already served as trainers in at least one and often several
quality trainer-of-trainers programs, these experienced trainers
are emerging as the natural choices for the mentor- or master-teacher
roles. They are the obvious choices because they are in effect
already serving as mentors and master teachers and have demonstrated
mastery of the complex skills required for successful peer training.
There is no substitute for systematic staff development based
on the unhurried development of a district's best talent if
a multileveled meritocracy is to be built in education. Without
such a planned development process the selection of mentors
and master teachers often resembles anointment more than career
advancement, with some strange sideshows being created in the
process. In contrast to the impatience built into legislative
solutions to the "rising tide of mediocrity," excellence
must be carefully built rather than mandated.
Built-In Resistance It is ironic, as I travel
and train teachers, to repeatedly deal with administrators and
school board members who are on the one hand considering merit
pay programs in their districts and who are on the other hand
unwilling to pay my CMTP coaches extra money for the extra preparation
and training time that goes into a quality trainer-of-trainers
program. Many districts even have a policy forbidding extra
pay for work after hours. Suggesting such an innovation brings
dark looks and serious concern over setting a dangerous precedent.
Indeed, the teaching profession has had a long history of exploiting
the enthusiasm of teachers who are willing to go the extra mile.
Unfortunately, as we have learned in previous sections, in human
affairs there is no such thing as a nonincentive system. When
teachers do extra work and are not rewarded for it, they are
placed on systematic extinction for doing that extra work. Without
service pay of some kind, the day will come when the extra work
will be done no more.
BUILDING A CAREER LADDER
It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit the more capable
college students into the teaching profession. Apart from inadequate
pay and low status in the eyes of the public, one of the chronic
criticisms of the teaching profession is that it is a dead end
profession with no career ladder-no continuing challenge or
widespread opportunity for assuming greater responsibility with
pay to match.
Teaching, unfortunately, is not seen as a profession at all
by the general public and, in particular, by school boards.
Rather, it is generally viewed as simply a job in which you
will be doing the same thing the week before you retire that
you did the day after you were hired.
Staff Development and Avenues of Enrichment
If money is going to be spent on rewarding excellent teachers,
far better to use it not only to reward excellence but also
to build excellence-to build a career ladder which provides
career development for career teachers, incentives for excellence,
and extra pay for extra service. Exceptional teachers should
be developed as the primary human resource of the school system.
Rather than (or in addition to) being given extra pay for being
excellent teachers to start with, teachers should be given special
opportunities to grow professionally and demonstrate professional
competence. Once that special competence has been mastered and
demonstrated, they should be paid extra money for spreading
that competence throughout the district.
The concept of service pay, therefore, is closely tied to a
conceptualization of staff development within a school district
as a long-term, programmatic enterprise worthy of the allocation
of considerable resources. Both professional development on
a districtwide basis and the development of a career ladder
which is needed to attract and keep highly competent individuals
within the teaching profession are in fact one integrated program.
Avoiding the "Peter Principle"
One additional advantage of service pay as opposed to merit
pay is its tendency to be a natural antidote to the "Peter
Principle." Traditionally, the only way to achieve career
advancement and increased pay within education has been to leave
the classroom and go into administration. Thus, many talented
teachers have been siphoned away from the classroom, often into
jobs for which they were less enthusiastic, less competent,
and/or less prepared. According to the Peter Principle, people
rise within an organization until they achieve their level of
incompetence at which point they remain. That is, if people
succeed at one job, they may be asked to advance up the professional
ladder to the next rung. If they succeed at the second job,
they may move up the ladder to a higher level and then to an
even higher level until they finally do poorly at a job. Once
they fail at a job, they are no longer asked to move up. Rather,
they are passed over for advancement and remain where they are
Service pay keeps good teachers in the classroom. Indeed, it
is inconceivable that a teacher could be permanently removed
from the classroom to be a trainer of advanced educational skills
and remain sharp in the use of those skills. A trainer-of-trainers
program all but requires the trainers to stay in the classroom
at least part time using the skills, honing their expertise,
and solving problems in order not only to stay sharp and grow
but also to help colleagues in continuation meetings. There
is always a dialogue between the skills and concepts of a professional
development program and the experience of handling management
dilemmas within the classroom on a day-today basis. The result
is professional growth quite apart from the formal training
of the program proper. In conjunction with continuation meetings,
quality professional development produces a process in which
day-to-day innovations by teachers are constantly fed to colleagues
through "the pipeline. "
LENGTHENING THE SCHOOL DAY AND THE SCHOOL YEAR
The time-on-task literature would certainly imply that the
longer students work, the more they learn. It is also obvious
from a comparison of the numbers of days students in the United
States and those in other nations spend in school that we spend
fewer days in class. It is a logical conclusion, therefore,
that lengthening the school year will produce more learning.
Indeed, it should produce more learning as should a lengthening
of the school day. Whether the money could have been better
spent in other ways, however, is a separate issue.
As a result of teacher training, we have documented a near
doubling of academic productivity in the bottom half of a typical
classroom, and teachers consistently report rapid increases
in the rate of learning because of the use of performance models
alone. Owing to responsibility training we typically have students
in their seats working when the bell rings which saves us 5
minutes at the beginning of every period, and we typically reduce
lesson transitions to 30 seconds which saves us over 4 minutes
per lesson transition in a typical classroom. Thus by the use
of some advanced classroom management procedures, a well-trained
teacher is already generating between a half hour and an hour
per day of extra instructional time.
The bill for paying teachers to work 20 extra days per year
will be in the billions of dollars nationwide, and the lengthening
of the school day will not be free in the long run either. Although
our school year may be too short, I would hope that we think
in terms of quality and not just quantity when looking for cures
for the "rising tide of mediocrity." It would create
many more hours of learning during the school year for teachers
to have advanced management skills at their disposal than it
would to just add more days. If legislators are contemplating
spending billions of dollars for increased time on task, they
might well consider using a few of those extra days for training
teachers so that during the following year their investment
could produce benefits in the classroom every day.
To state my case in somewhat different terms, if we are going
to invest in excellence in education in a major way, let us
have the wisdom to invest in the process of education - to build
a delivery system for the teaching of basic subjects that is
far superior to what presently exists. Quality staff development
can take place on a nationwide basis if there is a predictable
market for it that would provide the incentive for the development
of widespread professional expertise in that area. Unless such
a clear and long-term commitment to quality staff development
is made at a national level as well as at the state, county,
and district levels, the most predictable outcome of the present
enthusiasm over educational reform will probably be a coopting
of extra moneys by the educational establishment into more business
THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
In all the discussions of reform within the American educational
system and in all the various commissioned reports, one group
of educators gets off with amazingly light treatment. Reports
inevitably include sentences concerning the need to upgrade
teacher training at colleges and universities, but rarely does
the specification of reform go beyond this amorphous statement
In juxtaposition to this rather passing concern with the quality
of teacher training at colleges and universities is the glaring
dissatisfaction with teacher training programs at colleges and
universities which is universally expressed by the teachers
I train. I will ask a group of several hundred teachers to raise
their hands if any of their methods courses ever did them any
good once they took a job. No one raises a hand. I ask teachers
and administrators to describe the relevance of their methods
courses, and the main adjective they use is "Mickey Mouse."
Teachers express bitter resentment at having paid thousands
of dollars for tuition and expenses to receive a professional
degree which ended up having almost no relevance to their professional
life. Instead, they walked onto the job with no professional
skills apart from the social skills they possessed anyway and
"took it in the teeth" until, with a huge expenditure
of adrenaline and stomach acid, they finally pieced together
over several years' time some semblance of a methodology for
managing a classroom that allowed them at least to survive on
How can a profession expect to achieve excellence if the major
professional training opportunity is squandered so that teachers
walk onto the job with virtually no functional job skills? How
can we expect districts to have funds to totally retrain their
staffs when the general public assumes that teachers were already
trained when they took their first jobs? And how can you easily
engage teachers in retooling their professional skill repertoires
after they have already spent 15 years in the school of hard
knocks? Quality professional development will always need to
be a permanent, ongoing part of any living profession. But the
first major professional development opportunity is at college,
and it is a crime to waste it.
It would, in fact, be easy to make a rather strong case that
higher education is one of the major weak links in the entire
educational system. Universities have the captive students eager
to learn, the financial backing of federal and state governments
and the students' parents, and the time with which to make teachers,
at least in a preliminary fashion, out of nonteachers. But instead
they get Mickey Mouse.
Yet undergraduates express no dissatisfaction. They are not
informed consumers. They do not know what they are walking into.
Only the teachers who have been out for several years express
to me the deep abiding bitterness at their methods courses taught
by professors who had not been near an elementary or secondary
classroom since they graduated from high school.
It is sad and rather ironic that higher education, which holds
a near monopoly on teacher preparation, gets such a light rap
when the entire nation is seemingly upset with the lack of preparation
of its teachers. Perhaps the high-sounding commission reports
would sound different were they written by practicing teachers
instead of the deans and professors of the very faculties that
perpetuate the existing process of teacher preparation.
The nation is at a turning point in its understanding of the
education process and in its commitment to excellence in public
education. Turning points, however, are not only great opportunities
but also awesome responsibilities, for they do not come frequently
and they do not last long. A turning point missed is at least
a decade missed. If our reforms are quick and easy, their effects
will be superficial and their legacy will be disillusionment.
Yet, if we ask the more difficult questions and seek the more
difficult remedies, sacred cows are threatened and howls of
discomfort are heard throughout the educational establishment.
I have become convinced in my years of daily working with teachers
that they, more than any, resent the mediocrity of public education
and, in particular, the institutional structures which produce
and foster that mediocrity. They are the victims of a system
that ill prepares them to begin with and then stifles professional
development and advancement. My sympathy is first with the children;
for it is they whose education is lost, and it is their parents
whose dreams are eroded by mediocrity in the classroom. Next
my sympathy lies with the teachers, for it is they who work
hardest, suffer longest, and are least appreciated. There are
grossly incompetent teachers who are a blight on the profession,
but most teachers want excellence desperately, for a teacher
cannot feel successful in a classroom unless her or his students
are learning. Teaching can be therapeutic for the teacher
properly equipped to succeed. But for someone who is ill equipped,
teaching will exhaust the body and sap the spirit until there
is finally nothing left to give.
- Jones, F H. and Eimers, R. Role-playing to train elementary
teachers to use a classroom management "skill package.
" Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1975, 8, 421-433.
- -, Fremouw, W., and Carples, S. Pyramid training of elementary
school teachers to use a classroom management "skill
package." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977,