by Dr. Toby A. Travis
Teachers are the very essence of a school. If school leaders want high-quality programs with substance and measurable results, they need to look no further than investing in their faculty and staff development. The Return on Investment (ROI) for competitive compensation packages and personalized quality professional development for teachers is significant.
For example, where faculty and staff paychecks are higher, so are levels of student achievement. Teacher compensation makes a difference in:
Well-compensated teachers have higher levels of confidence and trust in their school leader and are self-motivated and often self-monitoring to a greater degree regarding their impact on students.
Investing highly in faculty and staff members is a challenge in all school settings, especially for many Christian schools.
“I am aware of the potential impact on the typical Christian school budget… the average Christian school would at minimum need to double its budget if it chose to compensate its teachers on a level equal to that of the local public school. Few schools could easily manage that kind of adjustment to their budgets and the necessary impact on their tuition levels.” (Alan Pue, Rethinking Sustainability: A Strategic Financial Model for Christian Schools)
However, leaders who understand that teachers are the essence of their school do everything possible to invest in them and do everything within their power to make those kinds of budgetary adjustments.
Today, many believe that state-of-the-art facilities and resources are required for successful schools and high student achievement levels. Those support structures and elements certainly help – but the key to an effective educational program is always a highly qualified and engaged faculty and staff.
In the 1950s, the U.S. public school system abandoned the simple one-room school model, which focused on placing the taxpayer’s investment into a gifted and skilled teacher focused on serving a diverse group of students in a local setting. The strength of their educational services was developing trusted relationships, not technology or facilities. School systems abandoned this approach for the factory-style consolidated system, which has continually fallen behind in international educational performance rankings and has met the intended purposes of greater efficiency and increased student achievement levels in only a few settings.
A renewed focus on the value and quality of the simple yet formidable one-room-style of education has seen great results in recent years. There is also renewed understanding that trusted relationships are of much greater value than school facilities or 21st-century instructional resources. A large study involving 400 Chicago area elementary schools concluded that trusted relationships are the central component to “effective education communities.” (Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider)
In 2010, while attending a graduate course through the College of New Jersey in partnership with The Principal’s Training Center, I was introduced to an educational term new for me – Vertical Classrooms. I learned it was not a new educational strategy but a reinvention of the old one-room schoolhouse my parents experienced. Vertical Classrooms describes mixed-age learning environments where different grade levels are taught in the same setting. Research shows that students perform better in heterogeneous environments (i.e., both mixed-age and diverse learning styles and students’ needs). For example, one study identified the high value of lateral communication in heterogeneous classrooms. The old becomes new again! Classrooms led by highly trained, well-supported teachers provide a much greater ROI than spacious facilities, high technology, or athletic fields. Investing in the school’s greatest resource (i.e., teachers) also demonstrates trust in those individuals as professionals, fostering a deeper level of trust in their leaders in return.
©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved