There has been a recent group of stories in the Boston Globe and the Bay State Banner about the inequality among Boston’s public schools. Schools across the city are continually underperforming, despite investments in upgraded facilities. Throwing money at the system doesn’t seem to solve the problem. Some schools with poor facilities have great test scores; some schools with state-of-the-art everything continue to test poorly; and the reverse of each statement is true as well.
So what makes a difference? Not surprisingly, the quality of the education depends on the teachers. Simple solution: pay teachers more, right? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that public school teachers ought to be paid more. These are the people who are creating tomorrow’s workforce and tomorrow’s leaders. It doesn’t seem like this is a service we should be underpaying for. No in the sense that we shouldn’t just pay teachers more across the board. If it’s clear that a teacher is continually underperforming, meaning their students are continually not meeting test score goals and other measurable achievements, paying that teacher more doesn’t make sense. More money might motivate them to work harder, but it might also do nothing.
Like the majority of the workforce, teachers should be paid based on their performance. A teacher that has a proven track record of improving student performance has earned a raise. A teacher that can’t seem to get through to students should be treated differently. Not necessarily punished, but maybe given time to get better training in new teaching methods or be given more time to work on classroom prep.
Public education is one of those perennially complicated issues that just won’t ever go away. This is in part because the system is so big: 125 schools spread out across the city and covering pre-kindergarten through high school. Making system wide changes isn’t exactly an easy thing to do.
But those changes don’t get any easier to make if we wait any longer.
Programs like City Year are a great way to get more people involved in the education system who might not have done so otherwise. An expansion of City Year could go a long way in recruiting new, highly-motivated teachers into the system. Charter schools in the area have been successful, and lessons learned there should be brought into the system as well.
At the end of the day, it’s a matter of dollars and sense. No one is against education, we just need to find the right mix of additional financial resources and innovative policies that will address the big picture issues plaguing the system.
Boston used to be known as the Athens of the West because of all the colleges and universities in the area. This city was built on that educational system. It’s not enough that we used to be known as the Athens of the West. We need to become the Athens of the West. Our public schools should be the best in the state and the nation.
These schools are the places where the minds that will shape the future Boston are given the chance to flourish. It’s the best investment our city can make, and we need to start doing a better job.
– Nick Downing, Future Boston Program Manager