More Pay, More A's

Album Cover: The Downward Spiral

"Everything's blue in this world...the deepest shade of mushroom blue."
NIN / The Downward Spiral

Posted on November 12, 2006 11:27 PM in Miscellaneous
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I don't think I've written about this here before, but one of my life goals is to become a teacher. My mother has been teaching elementary school for many years (as long as I can remember), and my grandfather was a Chemistry teacher at Puyallup High School for many years.

One of the things I learned growing up in a family of teachers (other than to pay close attention to spelling and grammar) was that teachers aren't paid very well. I picked up on this directly while attending a teacher strike with my mother during the late 80s (I still remember my picket sign that read something to the effect of "Booth shot Lincoln, and now he's trying to kill Washington"). I knew at that time how much my mother loved to teach, so for her to step away from that meant that something wasn't right in the world.

I picked up on the fact that teachers are underpaid indirectly while attending school myself. The lack of any type of family savings meant that my only hope for going to college was via scholarships and college loans. As I eventually did make it through high school and then on to college, I learned more about the lack of funding in education. At the same time, I was coming into contact with teachers and professors who changed me in profound ways and taught me things beyond the formal reach of their positions. I know I wouldn't be who I am or where I am without their help and guidance. I really can't say enough about them.

When I spotted a headline over at Slashdot tonight that read More A's, More Pay, I couldn't help but scoff a bit at the post's contents:

The Dept. of Education just launched the first federal program that uses bonuses to motivate teachers who raise test scores in at-risk communities, awarding $42M this month to 16 school systems.

First off, one of the major problems I see in the way the government in this country approaches education is that everything revolves around test scores. Why? I can't speak for everyone, but I do know that while studying for tests might have expanded my short-term memory retention a bit, what I took away from my education didn't come from tests or test scores. We need to stop looking at our educational shortcomings as numbers and realize that real people are involved – the same people that will power the economy, protect our country, and teach subsequent generations in years to come.

The biggest problem, though, actually does have to do with numbers. Instead of using student performance as a means to more pay, what about making more pay a means to better student performance? By putting more money into education, more people (myself included) will see teaching as a viable career that isn't burdened with risk and uncertainty. In turn, there will be more teachers and more talent and passion in front of today's youth.

This isn't rocket science. It's a good thing, too, because we probably don't have as many rocket scientists as we used to.

Now for a bit of an aside. Does anyone know the proper way to write A's in the context of the title of this post? I've never been a fan of using an apostrophe, because it doesn't seem correct and the apostrophe doesn't serve its typical purpose. However, if you leave the apostrophe out, you end up with "As," which can be read in more than one way.

I'd Google it use Google to find the answer, but good luck finding relevant results with a search for 'As'.


Rami Kayyali on November 13, 2006 at 6:03 AM:

The "More A's, More Pay" is full of crap, it changes teachers' incentives and makes them cheat to give their students higher scores, and get themselves higher pay. You'll end up with better-paid teachers, and bad school reputation.


Ian Clifton on November 13, 2006 at 8:22 AM:

As a future teacher myself, I can definitely say the pay sucks. I've always wanted to teach, but I could not decide on a career path in high school because of the terrible pay. In Washington, a teacher starts out at $30,000. A lot of people try to claim that that is plenty with the ignorant "teachers only work 9 months" argument. Certainly, it's possible for a teacher to only work a bare minimum of hours, but any decent teacher works more than that. You have to create lesson plans that often have to be approved by a school board. You have to grade plenty of papers. There are extra meetings to go to. There's far more than what students see as they go through school, but a lot of people base their knowledge on a single-sided view.

When it comes down to it, the average a person is making straight out of college with a four year degree is over $45,000 (and probably more if you don't average in the teachers' pay). Even if you only take 3/4 of that you end up with ~$34K. I often use extremes as a point of argument, e.g., just imagine if we paid teachers $100k a year. Yes, it's unrealistic in today's world, but if you really think about it, that would make our country amazing. School districts would be able to pick from a LOT of candidates. Right now, a lot of school districts have to take anyone they can get, which includes the bare-minimum teachers.

I think nearly everyone has had a teacher who has changed his/her life in a major way. Should these people really earn pennies?

To answer your question, the traditional way is A's, but As is becoming more common (you don't have to use quotes around it, because single letters are treated the same way as an acronym). As you can tell, As depends largely on context. The advantage of A's is that it's obvious you are talking about letters. The disadvantage is that you can't directly tell if it is plural. I tend to use an apostrophe myself, because it's more immediately recognizable, but there's no single "correct" answer.


John on November 14, 2006 at 7:26 PM:

No track backing? Oh, well. For those of you who may be interested, my response is here:


Bernie Zimmermann on November 14, 2006 at 8:14 PM:

Trackbacks? Hmm. Never thought about adding those here. Maybe I should look into it. I think you're the first person that has tried to do it, or at least the first one to comment on the fact that it isn't supported.

As for your reply to my post, I can't say I agree with your stance on the subject, but I do appreciate you taking the time to stop by and share the link.

At least we can agree on the fact that America's educational system needs some work, regardless of what the real answer(s) may be.


Ian Clifton on November 15, 2006 at 4:24 PM:

Trackbacks are often spammed more frequently than regular comments, so you may want to consider that. The easiest way to combat that spam is to do a cURL/wget/etc. of the link they provide you with to see if your page is actually linked from there.

As far as the reply, John's thoughts appear to be more along the lines of cutting the floor out from the teachers, keeping the good ones at their current level and dropping all the bad ones. Your view is more along the lines (if I understand it correctly) of giving higher pay to attract more (and better) teachers so the schools don't get stuck with the bad ones in the first place. I ended up leaving a ridiculously long comment on his blog.


Ryan on November 16, 2006 at 3:18 AM:

And the answer is: vouchers.

More on this later -- I can't really do the topic justice at 3:00am.


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