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July 4, 2015

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Proposal for ‘master teachers’ with $200K annual salary has its skeptics — among teachers



Nevada State Superintendent Jim Guthrie testifies in an education committee at the Legislative Building in Carson City on March 1, 2013. Guthrie told lawmakers that effective teachers trump the issue of class size. Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones is at left.

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Robison Middle School

Jim Guthrie's idea to pay a group of top-performing teachers an annual salary of $200,000 received mixed reactions from Clark County schoolteachers this week.

The former state superintendent stepped down abruptly and without explanation a month ago, but he said he isn't going to stop generating new ideas to try to improve Nevada's struggling education system.

This week, libertarian think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute published a paper outlining Guthrie's $200,000-a-year classroom teacher idea.

In it, Guthrie argued the state should budget an additional $200 million to raise the annual salary of 2,000 teachers to $200,000. These "master teachers" — which represent about 10 percent of teachers in Nevada — would work a longer school year in the most at-risk campuses and help instill best teaching practices in other educators.

His idea, Guthrie said, would be cheaper and more effective in raising student achievement than Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget plan, which calls for an expansion of full-day kindergarten and resources for non-English-speaking students. If approved by the Legislature and state School Board, the idea could be in place by fall 2014, he said.

The higher salary's benefits would be twofold, Guthrie said.

The $200,000 salary would elevate the teaching profession, enticing top college graduates to teach instead of going into more lucrative fields such as finance and law. It would also improve the teacher retention rate; about half of teachers nationally leave the profession after five years.

"We've got to get away from the timid (ideas)," Guthrie said. "We need bold ideas."

Teachers at Robison Middle School, 825 Marion Drive, had mixed feelings about Guthrie's proposal, however.

Eighth-grade English teacher Matt Angelo said he liked the idea of elevating the profession's status to better recruit and retain educators.

The $200,000 salary “would definitely make (teaching) more attractive, especially for people thinking about going into business," Angelo said.

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Manda Kristof, left, helps Andrew Rodriguez Quijano with an assignment while teaching a fifth grade writing class at Ferron Elementary School in Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 31, 2012.

Other teachers, however, seemed skeptical about Guthrie's proposal.

"It's not about the money," said guidance counselor Edna States. "Back when I started, teachers were trusted more and the training of teachers was different. To me, (elevating the profession) is about the attitudes of the Legislature and school boards and the community toward education."

Eighth-grade geography teacher David Huggins said he believed teachers should be paid more but called Guthrie's proposal "a little over the top."

The average Clark County teacher receives an annual salary of $66,000 including benefits, according to the district. Salaries for a first-year teacher such as Huggins start around $35,000.

"If they want to do something for teachers, reduce our class sizes. That would help," Huggins said. "We need to have more teachers instead of paying the ones we've got exorbitant levels."

Teachers also were concerned about how the 2,000 educators getting the $200,000 salary would be decided, and by whom.

"You better be a teacher they're writing books about," Huggins said.

"I can think of some great teachers who deserve (the $200,000 salary)," orchestra teacher Joni DeClercq said. "But God forbid it goes to the wrong teachers. It'll depend on how they set up the system and if it's fair."

Elective teachers said they would take issue with Guthrie's proposal if music, art and gym teachers wouldn't be considered for the $200,000 salary. Many measures of student achievement and teacher evaluations concentrate on core and tested classes, such as English, math and science.

"My opinion is share the wealth," said Lara Lewis, a physical education teacher. "Why choose a few teachers when everyone's working hard? Give us that benefit pay for our schooling so we can be better teachers."

Many teachers were worried the $200,000 salary would breed resentment and discord among staff.

"(The higher salary) is a ridiculous and offensive idea," sixth-grade English teacher Colleen Martinson said. "It would create a grotesque division between the average teacher's salary and this salary.

Click to enlarge photo

Kris Carroll teaches Clark County School District teachers during the Visions Summer Institute Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at UNLV.

"I wouldn't accept it because it's unjust. I'm a great teacher. We're in this for the students. We need to focus on them."

Caroline Tsoi, a sixth- and seventh-grade science teacher, said she feared the $200,000 salary would attract the wrong type of people to the profession.

"You don't want teachers who are here for the money," Tsoi said. "Teachers are training the minds of the future, so they should be paid well. But at the heart of it, you need to have the right motivation around kids."

Clark County School District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said the district was supportive of the theory of better-paid teachers. However, with the current budget crunch, paying teachers more at this time isn't feasible, she said.

Additionally, the state would need to have a solid teacher evaluation system in place before starting a discussion about performance pay, Fulkerson said.

"First, you need a good system to define an exemplary teacher," she said.

Despite the criticisms, Guthrie said he planned to keep churning out ideas that he believes would benefit the state's children.

"I'm not leaving Nevada. I'm not going away quickly and quietly," Guthrie said. "Someone's got to keep speaking up for the kids.”

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  1. "Someone's got to keep speaking up for the kids." Really, Mr. Guthrie? I did not see in your discourse anything about children, about their home life, about child abuse and neglect, and about community indifference. It is a huge mistake to presume that education of children happen solely in the classroom. Outside the classroom is where children navigate and apply what they learn in school and all they see is dichotomy. Teachers try to integrate how to bridge that contradiction in addition to teaching the standards required under the core curriculum.

    Why stop at $200,000? How did you come up with that amount? Do not be ridiculous. You really want to appreciate them? How much is the lowest CEO paid?

    Don't patronize us, Mr. Guthrie. We do not need it. What you need to talk about is how can we, as a society support the basic unit of society where these children are borne, bred, and nurtured. At five years old, the age when we get them, a child raised in dire conditions already need that many years of intervention.

    Let's go back to the $200,000. I agree with Ms. Fulkerson. We have not even come up with a sane evaluation system. As it stands today, the evaluation system is highly subjective, solely dependent on the personal bias of the supervising administrator, and offers a one- sided view. It is also being used as a punitive measure to get rid of teachers who do not 'kiss the administrator's you know what.' I know exactly who will get this money and who won't.

    First. The systems and processes that instituted the high-stakes test were flawed. Learning is highly personal - dependent on a child's style, intelligence, and motivation. You cannot possibly measure that in a single modality - paper and pencil. I KNOW THAT! Why don't you? We have been doing this for decades and it has NOT improved education! It has only perpetrated the highly flawed definition of success and failure. We created a mold and we expected ALL children to fit to that mold and those who don't, we consider failures.

    Stop thinking about reforms that offer band-aids. Start thinking about finding the correct diagnosis so that your treatment protocol would be more effective and sustainable. Money is NOT always the solution.

  2. All of the research of effective teaching show that cless size and student to teacher ratio is the most important.

    Get this fixed first. You can hire 2 good teachers for this price.

  3. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  4. Stupid! Stil wonder about his mysteriously leaving the Sandoval administration after only one year?

  5. Guthrie resigned because the Sandoval administration get tired of his pointy-head ideas which had little basis in the reality of Nevada education. Guthrie saw the handwriting on the wall and bailed out. NPRI is a better spot for his proposals.....a think tank specializing in the ludicrous, none of which will ever make it beyond the "Wouldn't it be cool if...." stage. @Teacher has a good point in asking why the relationships between NPRI, Guthrie, Rhee, Sandoval, Fulkerson and other "reformers" has not been investigated. The dirty secret in all of this is that the money is in "studies" of reform and not reform itself. While they propose to pay master teachers $200K, they propose to pay themselves multiples of millions to come up with the plans. Maybe those consultant fees should only be paid after successful implementation and results. If, after all, teachers would only get decent pay if results were optimized, then shouldn't consultants only get paid after their plans worked?

    @RunThisTown....your comment made my day.

    Let's get a grip on reality...teachers will not be paid $200K, test scores will continue to remain flat or stay within a predictable range fluctuating wildly only if the test or its scoring are changed, Common Core will help stabilize consistent instruction across states but will work against gifted and talented students, teaching will continue to be a modest occupation attracting, but not retaining, the best and keeping a mostly predictable workforce.

  6. Where in the world does someone get the idea that paying someone $200,000 a year will attract the best people? It attracts people that want $200,000 a year.

  7. The progressives and libs backed by the public employee unions keep serving up tripe about how the U.S. public school system is in near shambles and trail the rest of the developed world in testing and achievement.

    The truth is public schools that have less than 20% of it's students living in impoverished homes LEAD the world in testing, as they have pretty much always.

    A child's home security, support system and values when it comes to education has been, and is the key to them getting a good education and having a chance for success.

    The rest is simply gamesmanship and politics in an attempt to snag as many public education dollars as possible, using every excuse in the book to get them, while the real road blocks to a good education get pushed to the side, or ignored.

  8. @stopthebs....wait..I thought it was the conservatives and Teeps who keep serving up the tripe about bad public schools, etc. ad infinitum. Can we please get it straight on who's on first and who's to blame!

  9. Just because you have a masters degree does not make you a great teacher. You have to care about the kids and earn thier respect for you, then you will be a great teacher. All the great teachers I had showed a love for thier work and passed it on to the students and I'll bet most of them didn't have a masters degree.

  10. I don't see why teachers have a problem with this. It will just be a balance. The teacher will take home $200,000 annually, but will have 250 kids in his or her classroom. Problem solved.

  11. The Super's proposal was that teachers work for 44 WEEKS--longer school year, longer school days to focus on EDUCATING THE STUDENTS.

  12. I think there should be a clause that if they come on for X number of years, and successfully have a good grade rate among their kids they get a raise annually over X years to 200k.

    They put in their time and money for that masters. Let's reward them for their hard work instead of overpaid secretaries and school superintendents.

  13. @fedup2here It depends on what your masters degree is in and where it was obtained. Mine is in my subject (secondary mathematics) and taken at UNLV. Many teachers get their degree in administration or other fields but still get the pay raise despite the masters field. I can believe that people with a masters in administration are probably no better teachers than those with bachelor degrees. From the classes I took I have a MUCH deeper understanding of the mathematics behind everything I teach.

  14. Schools should all run year around. The days of kids needing summer off to work the farm are gone. Pair a full time schedule with free breakfast, lunch and optional dinner and that would alleviate poor nutrition issues faced by so many hungry/disruptive kids in the classroom.

    Add in to the 9-5 days of education, quite study hour blocks, physical education blocks and gardening blocks where kids grew some of the food they eat. The result would be well nourished, well educated and slimmer kids.

    Who's going to pay for it? I'd pay an extra few cents in tax for it. There would be serious criminal justice system savings, and long term health care savings as well.

    Honestly, how can we not afford this kind of approach?

  15. I see by the comments that teachers are aware of Mr. Guthrie's proposal to EXTEND THE SCHOOL YEAR TO 44 WEEKS even through the article seems to surf over the essential components of the proposal.

  16. Roslenda, as a secondary teacher for CCSD, I fully support a longer school year and a longer school day. I don't take summers off anyway; I teacher summer school. It would be such a blessing to the classroom to have more time with my students each year. I could focus on depth AND breadth rather than trying to cram everything in, and the students would retain more rather than forget what they've learned over the summer.

    However, I'm currently paid only for the 184 days I teach. If the state wants a 200-220 day school year, I will expect to be compensated for my time. I don't think that's unreasonable.

  17. Petra: Your commentary was refreshing to read. I have long asked for longer days and longer school years. Sure, compensation is an issue. Perhaps when the economy allows us to consider a COL, modest I'm confident, we can extend the 184 days incrementally. Anyone who bothers to follow my posts realizes I'm frugal, into cost effective to the core. Perhaps this stems from the side of my dna that escaped the Kaiser and had a few rough generations after emigrating legally. So not to attack but what do you think of the teachers already posting excuses that in the last year of two they've cut back and thus cannot provide receipts for reimbursement of all those class room supplies they buy?

  18. Chuck, the proposal was for only the top 10% of teachers to get a raise while ALL teachers would work 44 weeks--teachers already get vacation time and sick leave on their 184 scheduled days, 7 hour days. The idea was that teachers would try harder to try to make the top 10% next year and/or to maintain being in the top 10%. So about a 100% raise for 10%, versus a 10% raise for 100% of teachers.....but we'd get determination and effort plus a few weeks more out of all of them. Super Guthrie again explained that class size reduction has a de minimus (hardly noticeable) effect on results so it's a waste of money. I don't endorse nor oppose the proposal because I seriously doubt that CCSD teachers will accept anything that holds them, in toto (individual teachers can be reasonable but as a group....), accountable for performance is just not what they're looking for.

  19. Hohum. The reformers are on the outs, Jones to care for his dear momma so that he wasn't around when the math scores came out and Guthrie back to the airy halls of academia in which no proposal is too ludicrous or lucrative. Where have these pipe dreams, 200K teachers, massive expansion of charter schools, draconian test protocols, gotten us? Made buckets of bucks for the pointy-heads and lobbyists, but precious little else save an opportunity for the foaming-at-the-mouth lap dog crowd to exercise their talking points.

    In the meantime schools, CCSD included, continue to turn out all manner of graduates...some ordinary kids with limited aspirations, not yet mature enough to understand the responsibilities of adulthood, some sterling examples of maturity, intelligence and character who will go on to change the world and, some slacker who may not even graduate who may or may not grow up and survive. We are not going to become Finland or Singapore in terms of academic achievement. We are going to continue as a nation with an educational system which attempts to educate every child to the best of our ability with limited budgets.We will continue, as a nation, to distrust intellectualism and short-change gifted and talented programs while playing catch-up with the mundane attempting to reach an unreachable goal of every kid better than average.

    The notion that we can easily and cheaply reconstruct our intellectual and practical approach to public education is a fool's errand foisted upon us by con artists whose primary purpose is to fleece us and enrich themselves. There are no better examples of this than Guthrie and Jones.

  20. Limited budgets? U.S. spends more than any other place of the planet for K-12 and higher ed.

  21. @Roslenda....perhaps you could cite some data to support your comment. Please note, though, that my comments had to do with public K-12 education and did not make any reference to higher ed.

  22. You are right Joe. There are NO solutions to our problems in Las Vegas. The environment is inhospitable for any seed of logical thought to thrive. 'It's a desert out here' when it comes to logic and common sense.

    So we just work on our own to save our own and when we get the chance for something better, we grab it. Dog eat dog, as they say.

    The god over here is MONEY. People worship it to the highest high. People sell their body and soul for it. We can argue about problems and solutions. It does not make a dent. MONEY MONEY MONEY!

  23. $200,000 a year for an educator, ANY educator, is incredulous, unrealistic, and unreasonable, just for starters. The American educational system is struggling due to many factors, but the most critical factor is about the condition a child is in when they walk onto the school site each day. Our nation's children suffer varying levels of negligence, abuse, and self-sabotage. Their MENTAL STATES affect their ability to learn, yet our society continues to throw money into everything but addressing the underlying problem with the main players of the educational equation.

    We must change, reform, do whatever it takes, to fix laws and policies in our country and state's mental health care system, so that EARLY intervention happens for our young people. So many, who witness and deal with children who are adversively affected with mental health issues, have their hands tied, and can only watch as these poor souls suffer, underachieve, and spiral into a state of self-defeat. THAT is where we, the adults in their lives, fail to address affectively, a child's behaviors and those conditions that impede a child's ability to thrive, learn, and grow up into a productive, happy individual. Let's fix the broken mental health system and sustainably fund it! The money would be well-spent there. Thank you.

    Blessings and Peace,

  24. When a teacher enters their classroom each day to find: children who lack prescribed eye glasses to see and read, children who are so highly impulsive that their behavior gets in the way of their comprehension and learning, children who arrive inappropriately dressed, children who lack sufficient rest, health, nutrition, and emotional support from their homes to focus on the tasks given to them while at school, let's talk about WHERE attention, money, and services really need to go.

    Let's focus on the REAL problems why children are not academically and socially successful in school and in life! Throw the funding there, please. Thank you.

    Blessings and Peace,

  25. Oh, please. If a child is neglected and abused, teachers MUST REPORT to CPS. Reading glasses at the dollar store would held tremendously if a child has serious eye issues. The taxpayers are already providing EBT SNAP, free school lunch, free school breakfast, free summer meals, groceries for illegals to take home, government/non-profit funded food banks. Kids have obesity problems and you're still crying we need to feed the kids. Any child / student facing multiple neglect issues NEEDS CPS, not teachers who wail about their personal problems instead of teaching the basics.

  26. wharfrat: Are you incapable of a simple web search?

  27. It's still about MORE HOURS IN THE CLASSROOM with good to exceptional teachers. It is NOT about pay, class size, ELL.

  28. It wasn't about the money the last time they were on strike either I suppose. They were striking for the children!