GOOD Magazine brought together three “mavericks” of the education world for a panel discussion last night.
Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America (TFA), and Nínive Calegari, CEO of literacy nonprofit 826 National and producer of a documentary film about teacher salary reform, took on the teacher-pay system:
Nínive Calegari: I’ve actually taught in a wealthy district … and so I’ve seen what a school with a good rhythm, with resources, actually looks and feels like, which is a very positive thing to have happened, but a thing that I thought was very devastating that happened was that after three years there, I got tenure, and I would have been able to play cards with the kids and it would have been very, very difficult to fire me. And I think that we have to look at the tenure issue and figure out how to make that work and how to move forward. You know, the way that we pay teachers and the way that we design the system is antiquated and it’s time to really look at accountability.
Wendy Kopp: The key to success in any sector… number one, it’s about people. …I think it is about teachers but it’s hugely about school leaders. I mean, it’s very hard to find a high-quality school that isn’t run by a stellar principal. And it’s about superintendents and a whole bunch of other folks at the district. It’s about talent at every level. So, first of all, developing a talent mindset, where school systems are obsessed with recruiting talented folks and developing them over time and sustaining them over time, I mean, that’s one thing. And then those people need to figure out how do we build strong cultures and good systems for accountability and continuous improvement.
Calegari thinks the key to recruiting and retaining talent in the schools is to pay much higher salaries to teachers and principals but remove union protections:
In Washington, DC — you guys have to keep an eye on what’s happening in Washington, DC, it’s incredibly exciting — the new schools chancellor is asking for the community to pay salaries of up to $131,000, which I think is perfect, in exchange for some real accountability.
The full house at Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe burst into applause.
The third panelist, John Woods, founder of international library-building organization Room to Read, focused on the importance of educating girls in developing countries.