I was thinking about how creative incentives (such as signing bonuses for example) can encourage talented people who are able to teach to go into teaching. The idea is that many of those people don't go into teaching because the pay is so low and a signing bonus or some other kind of financial incentive can go a long way in convincing them to pursue teaching.

It seems that one of the problems is that the incentives are never high enough (lack of proper training seems to be one also) Some people think that the bonus should be anywhere from 20-50% of what a teacher currently makes. The problem with this is that it would be very difficult to be able to convince politicians and other decision makers to invest that kind of money. It would also possibly create some animosity between veteran teachers and the "new teachers" who would be getting this money.

Is there a way to make it politically feasible to invest such huge sums of money and in regards to the animosity or jealousy that might resort from such a policy, is there a way to minimize this or devise a policy in such a way that successful teachers also make more money and hence encourages them to do even better?

Perhaps the first question should read What is the best way to frame such a proposal in order for it convince individuals who might be inclined to say that it is simply a waste of money and it is not worth it?

  • 1
    Is there a country that you are particularly interested in. If not, then you might look at the Finnish model for teaching.
    – James K
    Feb 2 at 23:08
  • 4
    Note that it's hard to define "successful teacher" in a measurable, non-gameable way, even for people who've been teaching for years. Feb 3 at 1:36
  • I can tell you that a signing bonus wouldn't be that compelling in convincing me to take a low paying job if I was mostly motivated by money. A better approach to attracting teachers that is already being tried in some states is to simplify the process of getting a certification. Teaching is one of those jobs you do because you are passionate about shaping young minds not for financial rewards.
    – JohnFx
    Feb 3 at 2:59
  • 1
    I'd want an argument in response to this question: "Why is entering the teaching profession worth cutting my salary in half?"
    – Joe C
    Feb 3 at 8:26
  • 1
    @Joe what do you mean. Who is cutting teacher's salaries in half?
    – Jama
    Feb 6 at 2:59

I'm not sure what arguments one could bring for this, but I can easily find arguments against, e.g..

In 1998, Massachusetts instituted a $20,000 Signing Bonus to address concerns about the supply of quality teachers. This article reports on a longitudinal, qualitative study of the experiences of 13 of the original 59 recipients of the Signing Bonus, and analyzes their responses to various incentives embedded within the Massachusetts Signing Bonus Program (MSBP). Interviews revealed that the bonus money had very little influence on recipients' decisions to enter teaching. Far more important was the alternate certification program created to implement the policy. Findings suggest that the MSBP: (a) relied too much on inducements and not enough on capacity-building; (b) focused too narrowly on recruitment and not enough on retention, and (c) centered too much on individuals and not enough on schools.

You can't really offset low salaries with a one-time bonus unless your goal is churn.

  • what do you think of the way they collected the data and only interviewed 13 people?
    – Jama
    Feb 4 at 4:05
  • 1
    @Jama 1. it is a qualitative study, sample sizes tend to be lower for that type of analysis 2. 13 out of 59 is probably not insignificant
    – Hulk
    Feb 5 at 14:14
  • It's a fourth. But ok I guess I can see that. Say I want to poke holes in the study. What kind of things can I nitpick at? Are the assumptions all correct? Is there a weakness that can be brought up? Thanks and btw I learn reading from you. Great job
    – Jama
    Feb 6 at 2:58
  • In the paper (Data Sources and Methods section)they said "We sampled a disproportionally number of mid career entrants" Shouldn't sampling be random ? or am I missing something. @Hulk you can chime in too
    – Jama
    Feb 7 at 3:48
  • 1
    @Jama I haven't read the study, and I'm not an expert in the field. Generally speaking, qualitative studies are usually based on relatively few interviews, each of which takes longer than an interview/questionnaire for a quantitive study. It seems a reasonable choice of methodology for a situation where we are interested in motivations and the group of potential interviewees is small anyway. It could create a sampling bias due to varying willingness/ability of participants to spend the amount of time required for this type of interview (but I don't know if this applies in this study).
    – Hulk
    Feb 8 at 14:44

I don't think one-off bonuses are a great idea. After all, a one-off bonus is just that, one-off and bills are never one-offs, they constantly accrue.

As you've pointed out, a major disincentive is the low pay of teachers. But it can equally be said, that of the high pay of other professions. After all, this was what motivated Occupy Movement, who pointedly stated that an economic system that pays off the 1% with half the worlds wealth was not justifiable (with that kind of pay-off, no wonder they don't want to change the rules!) They were stating that trickle down economics don't work. Or rather, they work with for the 1% and not the 99%.

(Personally, I can't see how "trickle-down" could ever have worked as a slogan. Who could be satisfied with a trickle? It's as infamous as Marie Antoinette saying, after she had heard the people had not enough money to buy bread, "let them eat cake.")

What is required is a radical reshaping of the economic system, say with collective sectoral bargaining to indicate what sectors are valued within the nation and this means not only a minimum wage per sector, but also a maximum one, say with a differential of 5 x between the highest and lowest. I'd also nationalise all natural monopolies and those services which support families, such as retail banking as opposed to merchant or speculative banking and social media, so that they are democratically transparent and accountable - that ought to level the field quite a bit.

  • This doesn't make sense. Consider skilled professions like engineers, they will never be in the top 1% of earners (unless they are also a CEO or something) but they earn significantly more than teachers and are unlikely to want to switch professions for a significant pay cut. You answer doesn't so much describe incentivising people to become teachers as it does dis-incentivising everyone else from being successful in their chosen field.
    – ewanc
    Feb 3 at 11:19
  • 1
    @ewanc: On the contrary, that's just rubbish and merely the ideology of the day - and of Capitalism. How much was Newton paid for kick-starting the scientific revolution whose products we see everyday around us? Or Einstein whose theory of GR is used in the global positioning system used everywhere? Peanuts compared to CEOs of large firms. Financial incentives are not the only incentives. By levelling the playing field, in the long run much more will be achieved. Feb 3 at 12:44
  • what on earth are you talking about? "In order to attract people from other fields to become teachers we need to dismantle the capitalist ideology and pay everyone less for their hard work because CEOs earn too much"? Good point, thanks for coming
    – ewanc
    Feb 3 at 13:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .