Rowntrees November 18 1961


Rowntrees November 18 1961



Teacher's pay:the next lighting issue in our schools

In Canadian schools today most teachers are reasonably paid, but good and even outstanding teachers are paid by the same scale as the weak ones. Is this system choking the enterprise of the best teachers, protecting the weakness of the worst teachers, and watering down the quality of all public school education? The teachers say no. Many other experts say yes. Already the controversy is violent

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This year Canadians will pay 153,000 public school teachers salaries adding up to half a billion dollars. About two thousand of them will draw over $10,000; a few, over $14,000. Next year, almost every teacher in the country who hasn’t quit, retired, or reached the peak of the salary scale already, will automatically get a raise. It doesn’t matter if he is a good teacher, an indifferent teacher, or a downright bad teacher. Most Canadian public school teachers are paid by a system called the SSS — the single salary schedule — that uses only two measurements to set wages: how many years the teacher has spent in the classroom, and how many degrees and certificates he has picked up along the way.

Among the people closest to education — teachers, trustees, education department officials, a few particularly well-informed parents — the SSS is today a violently and sometimes

bitterly contested issue. Soon it could be the crux of a country-wide controversy affecting the interests of every parent who sends a child to school, and every citizen whose taxes help keep him there.

With interesting and possibly revealing exceptions, the battle lines are drawn between the teachers, who say the SSS is the fairest and most practical way to set teaching salaries, and the trustees, who say it’s time to scrap the SSS and pay teachers—like most other professional people — according to how well they do their job. “What we’ve been hiring is merely a carcass in the classroom,” says Eric MacKinnon, a former chairman of the Cranbrook, B.C., board of education. The secretary of the B. C. School Trustees’ Association, Frank Reder, charges: “In defending the

principle of equal work for equal pay, the teachers’ federations are continued on page 62

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TEACHERS’ PAY continued from page 15

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“It takes a bomb to boost a bad teacher out of his job,” says one ex-teacher and school trustee

acting like a union, not a professional association.”

What these men and many other trustees want to do is rid teaching of the SSS and replace it with something they call MR — merit rating, or looking over how well a teacher does his job, and then paying him on a scale that rises with his ability. MR is an anathema to almost all teachers. “The MR proposal.” says S G. B. Robinson, secretary of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, “descends on us periodically like a plague of locusts.”

Ehe case against the SSS begins with the charge that it shelters mediocre teachers. “A teacher can be inefficient as all get out,” says Dr. Andrew Moore, who for over thirty years has been a teacher, inspector and trustee in Manitoba. “Yet the taxpayer goes on paying the shot. It takes a bomb to boost a bad teacher out of his job.” A second, only slightly different, charge is that the SSS blocks attempts to raise teaching standards. “It’s frustrating not to be able to encourage the betterthan-average teacher by paying him more money,” says Harvey W. Bliss, chairman of the Calgary public school board. Bliss notes sadly that many good teachers, attracted by the higher salaries of administrative jobs, desert the classroom. “A system of merit pay would slow down this alarming trend.” he says.

A Quebec teacher is convinced that most of his colleagues oppose MR because “a cold scientific appraisal of performance would expose their incompetence.” This underlines a third important argument of the trustees: under the SSS system, they claim they can’t get an honest rating of a teacher. The principal of the school doesn’t

help much. As a member of the teachers’ federation, he’s bound by a code of ethics which requires him to submit in writing, to the teacher concerned, a copy of any adverse criticism of that teacher he makes. This tends to make the principal closemouthed. “I’m often angry and disappointed at the superficial evaluation principals make of teachers,” says Joseph Zuken, a veteran Winnipeg school trustee. Nor do the provincial inspectors or supervisors help much, the trustees claim. A woman trustee says, “I’ve never seen an inspector’s report recommend the dismissal of a teacher. They’re noncommittal.” These officials apparently share George Bernard Shaw’s belief that “all professions are conspiracies against the laity.”

The teachers vigorously reject the arguments in favor of MR. Their principal objection is simply that MR is impossible: you can’t rate teachers. They frequently quote an American educator. Dr. David Tiedeman, on this point: “You can’t measure teacher proficiency because teaching is an art. Since each teacher is doing a unique job, it’s impossible to compare any two teachers and conclude that one is more proficient than the other.” And even if you grant that teachers can be evaluated, who’s objective enough to make the evaluation? “Principals and inspectors are human beings, subject to all the prejudices and emotions of the human race.” says Allan Bishop, secretary of the Newfoundland Teachers’ Association.

MR. the teachers claim, would completely destroy the esprit de corps of a school and shatter the morale of most teachers. “The teacher will be at the mercy of whoever does the rating.” says S. G, B. Robinson. of the OSSTF. “This will encourage

apple-polishing. Singling out individual teachers for special recognition will lead to jealousy, disruption and suspicion.” Will it lead to better teaching? Definitely not. says G. D. Earner, secretary-treasurer of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. "The good teachers are dedicated and hard-working. constantly seeking to improve the quality of their performance. 1 don't know of a single good teacher who left the profession because he felt he should receive bonus pay for meritorious teaching.” Caught in the cross fire of such heated views, the taxpayer—the man who pays the shot—will have a hard time deciding which side he’s on. Probably sooner than later, though, he is almost certainly going to be asked to choose. With 30,000 students now enrolled in our teacher training institutions—twenty-five percent more than last year — the shortage of teachers will come to an end within the next few years. This new situation will bolster the trustees’ determination to withhold salary

increases from teachers they feel don’t deserve them.

To prepare a report on the pros and cons of the dispute. Maclean's reporters interviewed department of education officials, inspectors, principals, teachers, trustees and parents in every part of Canada. Here are the most important questions at issue, with the answers in summarized form :

Does the SSS protect poor teachers?

It evidently does—but just how many of them it shelters is difficult to ascertain. An Ontario teacher organization admitted, "Of our 12,000 members, perhaps one thousand are incompetent. It’s bound to happen. But there are also a lot of doctors around who shouldn’t be taking out appendixes.” Trustee Joseph Zukcn says, “We have weaklings drawing good pay in our Winnipeg system. The superintendent’s office plays footsie with them and lets them coast along.” A qualified observer in a Quebec city says. “About a fifth or a sixth of the teachers are negative types . . . dull, damaging to bright children, only adequate at the lowest denominator.” Frank Reder, general secretary of the B. C. School Trustees’ Association, says, "Many poor teachers go from one district to another without much trouble. Their former employers keep quiet about them because they’re glad to see them go. They pile up years of experience, getting the annual pay raises that go with them.”

Even some of the worst teachers manage to hang on for years, drawing regular increases. A Quebec supervisor told me about one of his teachers who hated her children, and in turn was hated by them. She was sarcastic, unkind and never smiled. She created an intense dislike for the subject she taught. "She was damaging her children and I have repeatedly recommended that she be fired,” the supervisor

told me. “She’s still working. She’s been protected for twenty years.” An Ontario trustee association official told me about a middle-aged, single woman teacher, who for years “snapped at the children and fought with her colleagues. She was kept on, even though she wasn’t delivering the goods. They finally let her go when she began creating disturbances in the hall.”

Why do boards of education tolerate poor teachers? Why don’t they fire them?

Most of the trustees I spoke to said that the SSS, with its emphasis on security and tenure, and backed by the powerful teachers’ organizations, makes it almost impossible to get rid of a teacher. In most provinces, a teacher is entitled to a hearing before an impartial board of reference. “Unless a teacher has done something terrible—like running berserk in the classroom—it's hard to convince a board that a teacher is incompetent,” a trustee from a Northern Ontario community told me. Frank Reder of British Columbia says that trustees are reluctant to take a case before a reference board: it arouses local feeling, it's bad publicity and it’s time-consuming. As Mary Morrison, a Winnipeg graduate teacher and writer says, “It's difficult to prove that a teacher is bad enough to fire.”

The teachers’ federations disagree. "If any incompetent teacher is retained in a classroom, it’s due to the board’s failure to take the initiative and terminate the contract,” says G. D. Earner of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. In most provinces, teachers go to work for a year or two under a "probationary” contract. If the board is not satisfied with their work, all it has to do is drop the contract. Last year the Forest Hill Village board of education, at Toronto, hired twenty teachers on probation. At the end of the school year they dropped three of them. There was no difficulty. “No one is more concerned about incompetent teachers than the teachers themselves,” says J. D. McFetridge of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Many teachers I spoke to told me that trustees have a “thing” about not being able to fire teachers. S. G. B. Robinson of

the OSSTF points out that boards of reference were established for the protection of teachers. “Trustees used to fire teachers capriciously,” he says. “I remember one principal in a small town who was running a fine school but the local board wanted to get rid of him because he wouldn't fraternize with them. He wasn’t ‘one of the boys.’ ” In another community, a trustee tried to get rid of a teacher he had a grudge against when he had attended her school fifteen years earlier. Again, a school trustee who was a devout Orangeman wanted to send a Roman Catholic history teacher packing.

I found agreement, however, among both teachers and trustees, that the critical shortage of teachers since the Second World War is one of the principal explanations of why there are substandard teachers in the classrooms. "We are prone to accept a poor teacher rather than leave a classroom vacant,” says F. T. Marriott, chief administrative officer. Halifax County Municipal School Board. It is likely that, with the increasing supply of teachers, school boards won’t have to make this hitter choice for much longer.

Are good teachers adequately recognized and rewarded by the SSS? Or can this only be done by changing to MR?

According to G. A. Pearson, superintendent of elementary education in Ontario, and others I interviewed, a merit system of sorts already operates within the SSS. There's a steady movement of outstanding teachers to higher paying school systems. Furthermore, the best teachers are chosen for jobs with the highest salaries—principal. vice-principal, department head and consultant.

On the other hand, as sophisticated an observer as Dr. Floyd Robinson, research director of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, Ottawa, says flatly, "The whole basis of the SSS is shaky. Take the matter of experience, for example. You can produce evidence that a teacher with two years of experience is better than a teacher with none, but there’s no definite proof as to the value of additional years of experience." As for the value of degrees. Rohin-

sixi says, “It would be nice to think that a man with an honors maths degree is a better teacher than a man without one. It just doesn't work that way.”

Within the ranks of educators, there's a vocal minority who decry the growing worship of degrees. Dr. Andrew Moore, Winnipeg trustee, recalls that some of the best high school teachers he inspected were men and women who had not attended university. He feels that it's entirely unfair that they should be compelled to mark time on the salary schedule. “1 know teachers with a string of degrees who are washouts as teachers,” he says. "I also know topnotch teachers who quit because they wouldn't take part in the degree rat race. A degree holder shouldn’t get an automatic pay increase until he proves his degree helps the school.”

Is it possible to devise a system that works for rating teachers by their ability?

Most trustees believe that you can evaluate the worth of a teacher: most teachers.

with equal conviction, claim that it can't be done. Harvey W. Bliss, chairman of the Calgary Public School Board, thinks fair ratings could be made by teachers, with recommendations from principals, inspectors, and to a lesser degree by trustees and parents. Mrs. W. A. Trott, ot the Winnipeg School Board, says, “There's no such thing as an exceptional teacher who can't be identified.”

Would such systems—using the subjective judgment of principals, inspectors and others—work? Percy Muir of the Ontario School Trustees' Council, thinks they would. “It will work, although some mistakes are bound to be made.” he says. "A school is no different than an office. The boss has a pretty good idea who his best people arc."

But a school is different, the teachers maintain. "You can't place a dollar-andcents value on the effect a teacher has on future citizens,” says Allan Bishop, secretary of the Newfoundland Teachers Association. “Years later, you find that certain teachers — unpopular with parents and trustees—had a profound and lasting effect on their students. Others who were popular left behind no discernible good effects.” Other educators told me that it’s possible to list qualities which are desirable in a teacher, but it's impossible to determine the degree to which any one teacher has them.

A review of a number of rating formulas lists no fewer than 1,538 different items about the teacher to be checked.

“This suggests that there is little agreement on what good teaching is.” says a report from the National Education Association. Washington. “Surely, this is sufficient evidence that a fair merit rating is impossible.”

Why do teachers object to being rated by the personal opinion of inspectors, principals, trustees or others?

They fear that this approach is not objective or scientific enough; that the personal bias and prejudices of the rater will play too important a part. "Ratings may be prostituted,” according to a report

by Stirling McDowell to the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. “They may serve primarily as justification for the supervisor to grant increases, decreases and the like, which he desires to make for personal and political reasons.”

Provincial inspectors or supervisors are singled out for criticism. Ontario has one of the best school systems in Canada, yet one highly regarded teacher told me, “It would be terrifying to have my salary determined by an inspector.” A French teacher, whose class is visited by an inspector who formerly specialized in com-

mercial subjects, says. “He could see whether or not the kids were throwing spitballs but everything else is above his head. We don’t pay much attention to inspectors' reports in our school.”

Sybil F. Shack, formerly president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, recalls a young teacher who came to her school when she was a principal. She had glow ing reports from the teacher’s previous inspector. “She was so bad.” says Miss Shack, "that I asked her to resign at the end of the year and suggested that she leave the profession. It worried me: what would

A crack teacher’s complaint: “A lot of misfits and nincompoops receive the same salary as I do”

Teachers would also exclude the views of parents in merit rating. “They are the least likely of all to know anything valid about the abilities of a teacher,” says Allan Bishop of the Newfoundland Teachers’ Association. “Their attitudes are colored by their own experiences in school.” Dr. Robinson adds, “Parents are influenced by things like exam results. If the child doesn’t get a passing grade, the parent will jump on the teacher for it.”

Is it worthwhile soliciting the views of students in assessing the worth of a teacher? Most teachers distrust this idea. “Children can be fooled,” says S. G. B. Robinson of the OSSTF. They’ll tend to like a teacher who tells jokes, plays games and tolerates sloppy work. According to some educators I spoke to. a student can best evaluate a teacher’s worth five years after he’s left his classroom.

have happened had we had a merit rating plan?” Such incidents have prompted a local trustee, Joseph Zuken, to declare publicly that as far as Winnipeg is concerned, “the provincial system of inspection is useless, unintelligent, irrelevant and wasteful of public funds.”

One reason that inspectors’ reports are not taken more seriously is that there arc too few of them. Authorities have estimated that it takes one inspector, working full time, to rate properly the merit of fifteen teachers. In some provinces, the inspectorteacher ratio is one to 300. There are teachers who haven’t been visited by a provincial inspector for eight years. Oncea-year inspection visits to the classroom are not uncommon. “This doesn’t tell you how much the children are learning,” says Dr. Eloyd Robinson of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

Would the principal be more acceptable?

Evidently not. Inspectors have noted that principals often grossly overestimate the classroom abilities of some of their teachers. The explanation: they are grateful to the teacher who cheerfully offers to help carry out the thousand and one curricular and extracurricular activities of the school. Again, there is a real danger, according to David Roe. principal of Saint Andrews Junior High School in Halifax, that some teachers would curry favor by copying the principal’s teaching techniques, even though they didn’t come naturally.

In recent years, inspectors and principals have increasingly been giving friendly guidance and counsel to teachers. Merit rating would erect a barrier between them. “You can’t rate a teacher by merit and help him at the same time,” says G. A. Pearson, superintendent of Ontario’s elementary schools. No supervisor can gain the confidence of teachers and hope for a

frank discussion of their problems if they believe he is making mental notes for rating purposes each time they seek advice.

According to the teachers, trustees should play no part in merit rating. Some trustees know a good deal about education; others use the board merely as the first step in a political career. There are men who stay on a school board for as long as thirty-five years because of the pleasant sense of power it gives them. Sometimes they’ll use that power mainly to keep school expenditure down: they’re likely to veto the purchase of books for the library because it’s a “frill.” “This kind of trustee is apt to regard merit rating of teachers as simple,” says Dr. Floyd Robinson. “But how qualified are these people? What is their education? Their background? Their attitudes? We really know very little about the trustees on our school boards.”

Most teachers also say that examination results are an unfair test of how good the teacher is. In two given classes, the same proportion of students may pass their English Literature exam. In Class A. the students were relentlessly drilled to memorize certain information suitable for regurgitation during the test. Perhaps they ended the year hating literature. In Class B. the teacher made a sincere effort to give his children appreciation and understanding of the subject. Again, exam results are a tricky yardstick because the children in two classes are never exactly the same. Some youngsters come from homes where they’re stimulated to read, discuss, travel, go to the theatre: others arc underprivileged in this respect. "Obviously, it’s unreasonable to use student achievement as a basis of measuring the teacher's worth.” one educator told me.

Would merit rating shatter teacher morale?

Certainly not the morale of a minority of teachers who feel that they are being penalized by the rigidity of the SSS. "I’m better than most other teachers and I should get more pay for it.” a Quebec teacher told me. "A high proportion of my pupils pass, they win scholarships, and my classes develop a real interest in my subject. They come back to tell me that — years after graduation. Yet a lot of misfits and nincompoops receive the same salary as I do.” Percy Muir of the Ontario School Trustees’ Council asks, “Is morale lower among the people in a business office because one secretary is getting more than another?”

Most teachers, on the other hand, view the psychological aftermath of merit rating with dread and horror. "It will lead too many teachers to frustration.” writes educator Earl W. Hanson in an American journal. “In a given staff only a small percentage will rate as superior. The others must forever be doomed to acknowledged mediocrity ... It results in a warped personality, a defeated and hurt soul, a frustrated, snappish, vinegary character. We all know what harm frustrated teachers can do to children.” Then, too, the reaction of parents to MR has to be considered. The school might be swamped by demands from parents that their children be assigned to a highly rated teacher. If the child is placed with a teacher who has a low merit rating, and fails, then the teacher will be blamed, probably unfairly. Summing up. Dr. Eloyd Robinson says, “If we have to differentiate between teachers, let’s do it in a way which enables them to retain their self-respect.”

Do merit plans work?

They work when they’re carefully planned and based on sound principles; they fail when they’re hastily conceived and

introduced in an undemocratic way. Onlyin recent years have the basic requirements of a workable merit system been identified. That's why Dr. Virgil M. Rogers of Syracuse University is able to point to MR's dismal record in the past: “Ninety-five percent of all merit schemes introduced in the United States have disappeared in two to seventeen years.”

How'ever. there's no lack of successful merit plans. In West Hartford. Connecticut, a "career salary plan" which gives the best leathers up to an extra $1,500 per year has been in operation since 1953. A visitng committee of teachers from Wichita. Kansas, had this to say about it: "The salary plan offers the teacher a personal incentive to do a better job. About one third of the teachers have been rated as meritorious; eighty-five to ninety-five percent of all the teachers favor the plan. Morale among the teachers has been raised tremendously. There are few cases of resentment or jealousy.”

For the past eight years Grosse Pointe. Michigan, has had a "professional growth plan" which offers "super-maximum” increases to outstanding teachers. Only sixty percent of the teachers voted to adopt the plan: now ninety percent are in favor of it. In Summit, New Jersey, after two years of a merit scheme, four out of ten teachers are drawing bonus pay. Sixty-nine percent of Summit teachers declared they were happy with the arrangement.

Early this year. Dr. Jerry B. Mitchell studied merit plans in forty-one American K:hool districts. According to the superintendents of most districts, the plan has achieved what it set out to do: teachers are trying to do a better job. staffs have

How Red Deer ,(jot its name

Red Deer. Alberta, not only stole its name from a neighboring town, but also took over the whole town. When the CPR tracks reached Calgary in 1883. the ford across the Red Deer River became a busy spot and a community grew up there called Red Deer Crossing. The river had been called Red Deer long before the white man came. In Cree it was Waskasu—"red deer river." In 1891 the CPR bridged the river at a point about three miles upstream from Red Deer Crossing, and a new community grew up around the railway bridge. It borrowed the name Red Deer. Within months, it had taken over the older town.

been strengthened, and the quality of instruction has improved. Most merit plans retain the annual increment feature in a modified form. It’s designed so that the annual increase of the meritorious teacher is far above average or so that he’s placed on a “super-maximum” salary scale.

The plans cited — as well as many others — seem to refute the claim of many teachers that. “You’ll never get a merit rating scheme to work!” It is true, however, that MR won't work unless it is based on certain principles. They can be summarized as follows:

The co-operation of the teachers is essential. They should be included in all phases of the scheme — planning, administration, evaluation. There should be complete agreement between trustees and teachers as to how the teacher’s worth is to be judged — and by whom. Basic salaries in the school system should he generous to start with; merit pay should he a substantial “extra” for excellence. There should be no limit to the number of teachers who can qualify as “meritorious.” The major purpose of the plan should be to improve the quality of teaching — not to save money. And finally, school boards should show that they mean business by allotting enough money to plan and operate the merit scheme.

There's been a lot of talk but very little action about MR in Canada. Cranbrook, B.C., tried a merit plan in 1958-59 and then abandoned it. The trustees claimed that it was a success; the teachers said it was a complete flop. In the past few years, MR has been recommended with reservations by Royal Commissions on Education in both British Columbia and Manitoba. In both provinces, the teachers’ federations were unreceptive. In Ontario, a joint committee of teachers and trustees met for several months to consider MR: they agreed to disagree.

But the argument is far from over. Teachers’ salaries are still climbing. At the same time, in the near future, an oversupply of teachers will probably be common. Inevitably, trustees will more frequently raise the question. “Are we getting our money’s worth?” And, as one teacher’s report truthfully observed, “whenever that question is raised, an emotional argument ensues, with appeals to reason largely ignored by both sides.” if