Date: Apr 23, 2013 6:41 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: [ncsm-members] Want Effective Teachers?

From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, Volume 32, Issue 26, pp. 29-30. See

Want Effective Teachers?

Consider the Value Proposition for Teachers

By Regis Anne Shields and Karen Hawley Miles

We know that effective teaching is the single most important
in-school factor for improving student achievement. It follows that
attracting and retaining excellent teachers will improve district
performance. How will your district attract these high performers and
get them to sign on ... and stay on? By raising teacher salaries?
It's not that simple.

Based on our work with large urban school districts and research on
teacher and employee motivation, we believe one key lies in
formulating and communicating a clear and compelling "value
proposition." A value proposition is the complete set of offerings
and experiences provided by the employer to the employee. An
effective value proposition reflects the needs of both employer and
employee: the employer's need to attract and retain employees with
the right skills and knowledge, and the employees' need for rewards
and working conditions that motivate and engage them to do their best

While salary and benefits are important to all employees, the value
proposition doesn't stop there. It also encompasses professional
growth and career opportunities, work-life-balance structures,
professional recognition, and working conditions, including quality
of leadership, opportunity for teamwork, student motivation and
discipline, and demands and structure of the job.

While the private sector has embraced this concept (often calling it
"total rewards"), to date it has been a rarity in the public sector,
especially in education. Instead, most school systems have instead
relied heavily on the intrinsic value of the teaching mission, rarely
looking beyond salary and benefits. Even then, they have failed to
communicate the totality of what is offered, particularly with
respect to benefits such as health, retirement, and fringe.

A comprehensive value proposition is well suited to teaching, a
profession that values growth, career opportunities, and working
conditions that nurture both. Within their limited budgets, school
systems must perform a delicate balancing act between professional
needs and competitive compensation. A value approach makes this
balance transparent, clearly communicating the full investment in
teachers' careers.

How can systems break from tradition and define and communicate a
compelling value proposition that expands the pool of high-performing
applicants? The following is a five-step road map to doing just that.
It requires a dramatic change in perspective and deliberate shifts in
investments to better meet district needs, while considering teacher

* Flip the Value. The place to begin is at the end, by defining who
the "right" candidates are. Most districts have constructed their
value propositions the opposite way, focusing on what they will give
without clearly defining what they want in return. This has resulted
in a compensation and job structure that doesn't reliably produce the
teachers they need. Districts must begin with a clear description of
their instructional objectives. Only then can they define the type
and quality of teachers they seek to hire, as well as bring about the
specific job conditions and supports that nurture professional growth
in teachers.

*Expand and Assess. School systems must broaden their perspective
beyond salary and benefits. We know from surveys that working
conditions are critical to teacher job satisfaction, and thus
retention. Also, a narrow definition of the value proposition makes
it difficult to compete with the private sector for highly qualified
candidates, making it appear as though districts have less to offer.
School systems rarely consider working conditions a core component of
their teaching value proposition. Yet evidence suggests that
supportive principals, collaborative working conditions, and
professional empowerment are particularly important for
high-performing teachers. The most recent MetLife Survey of the
American TeacherRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which reported teacher
satisfaction at its lowest level in 25 years, found higher job
satisfaction among teachers who felt their jobs were secure, were
valued by the community, and offered opportunities for collaboration
and teaming. (We acknowledge that some observers have disputed the
finding of a 25-year low in satisfaction.)

Since school systems compete with the private sector for the same
talent, communicating the entire value proposition is essential.
Districts often undercommunicate the value of pensions and benefits,
though these frequently put them at a competitive advantage relative
to private-sector employers. Analyzing the entire value
proposition-compensation, benefits, recognition, career-development
opportunities, and working conditions-enables districts to emphasize
(and adjust, if appropriate) those pieces that may lack high monetary
value but yield great satisfaction in terms of mission, work-life
balance, or individual growth.

* Customize. No two districts are identical-and their value
propositions shouldn't be either. The factors affecting a district's
unique situation include legal guidelines on what must be or cannot
be offered, resource constraints, regulatory and contractual
constraints, and the local context. For example, a district may have
a temporary shortage of bilingual teachers and choose to offer
financial incentives for this category of teacher. The value
proposition is also shaped by strategic priorities and an
understanding of the preferences of targeted employees. Employees may
be willing to trade certain things to maximize those work benefits
they prioritize, allowing a district to provide more value for the
same cost.

* Prioritize. Given public-revenue realities, districts must
prioritize what to fund in order to create a financially sustainable
value proposition. This involves careful consideration of their
unique needs, as well as the student impact and cost of each value
element. Understanding the entire cost of what they're offering
teachers helps districts align scarce financial resources with
educational priorities. For example, a small salary increase for all
teachers may be better invested in other areas, such as teacher
coaching or freeing teacher time for collaboration.

Of course, we can't ignore salary and benefits. Getting compensation
right is crucial for attracting, retaining, and motivating
high-performing employees. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink suggests:
"Effective organizations compensate people in amounts and in ways
that allow individuals to mostly forget about compensation and
instead focus on the work itself." Not getting it right, he says,
keeps compensation front and center and inhibits creativity,
ultimately unraveling performance.

* Communicate. For a district's value proposition to drive success in
attracting, retaining, and motivating high-performing employees, it
must be understandable, accessible, and updated. Prospective or
current employees must be able to compare the value proposition and
its components with those of competing employers. This requires
districts to cost out individual components in ways they have not
done previously, and to collect and provide comparison information on
competitors, if available. Ensure that comparisons are apples to
apples. For example, when reporting salary scales, include a scenario
that adjusts for required hours worked, which often differs
significantly by district.

For the value proposition to be an effective
human-resource-management tool, it must be open to adaptation as
circumstances regarding district priorities, teacher preferences, and
available revenues change. It must be kept current, with updated
information, readily available to all and as personalized as possible
for each employee.

As school systems rethink their offerings, they must not ignore their
most valuable asset: the opportunity to affect, improve, and enrich
the lives of children and young adults. This intrinsic characteristic
is a priceless asset in attracting, retaining, and motivating a
high-performing teaching force. That said, it is no longer sufficient
for systems to rely solely on the intrinsic nature of the profession
to achieve their goals. A well-rounded, carefully constructed value
proposition can be an effective tool to attract the teaching force
our demanding education outcomes require.
SIDEBAR: "A comprehensive value proposition is well suited to
teaching, a profession that values growth, career opportunities, and
working conditions that nurture both."
Regis Anne Shields works as an independent consultant to schools and
districts on improving teaching effectiveness, with a focus on
human-capital issues and compensation reform. Previously, she worked
as a director at Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit
organization based in Watertown, Mass., that works with urban school
systems on organizing talent, time, and money. Karen Hawley Miles is
the president and executive director of Education Resource Strategies.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244