Career Ladders: Modifying Teachers' Work to Sustain Motivation

Article excerpt

Educational administrators must concern themselves with how a high level of teacher motivation can be aroused, directed, and sustained. Modifying teachers' work through career ladders, may make more meaningful incentives available to them, throughout their years of service.

This article defines career ladders for teachers. It reviews literature on the background of theory and practice on the topic. It considers the potential that career ladders have to motivate teachers and to encourage teachers to facilitate organizational goals.

Career ladders may create a more mutually beneficial relationship between

teachers and their schools. Teachers may experience new opportunities to experience professional growth and other work-related incentives, while schools benefit from more capable teachers making school wide-contributions through programs such as mentoring and instructional development.

Educational administrators need to concern themselves with how a high level of teacher motivation can be aroused, directed and sustained. Administrators must design and use practices which encourage teachers to try new things, to take on new challenges, and which inspire teachers to achieve excellence. It is of primary importance that administrators foster the individual and collective best efforts and contributions of teachers in order to accomplish school goals and improve student learning.

Career ladders have been implemented in some schools across our country to improve teacher motivation and to expand teachers' contributions to the effectiveness of their schools. They restructure teaching jobs so that status ranks are more formalized, teachers' tasks are matched to abilities, and responsibilities for school and staff improvement are distributed among the professional staff (Malen and Hart, 1987; English, 1992; Hart, 1992). Teachers are evaluated according to defined competencies and teacher roles may be modified according to the level of evaluation. Professional development needs, as determined by individual assessment, can be addressed. More capable teachers assume responsibilities as peer coaches or mentors for those with less experience or less competence. In recognition of these new responsibilities, teachers receive additional compensation over and above their scheduled salary, which is usually based on years of experience and educational preparation.

Background in Practice.

Career ladder plans have become popular over the past twelve years. In 1984 the United States Education Department awarded over a million dollars to fifty-one school districts, agencies and institutions for the purpose of developing and implementing pay incentive plans. By 1988, twenty-five states had career ladders or incentive programs with state-funding or assistance. Nine other programs were planned or under development. (Cornett, 1992).

The design of career ladder plans varies among the states. Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Alabama had state-wide criteria to define their career ladders. Other states, such as Utah, allowed almost complete local autonomy. (Hart, 1992). The California Mentor Program allowed districts to develop plans locally, including how to select teachers and how to utilize mentors in the district. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina's plans included a career ladder for administrators. A commonality among states was that most plans were part of negotiated contracts with teachers.

Theoretical Background

Incentives can be offered to teachers to encourage individual contributions to organizational goals and to increase teacher motivation. Johnson (1986) clarifies the terms "incentive" and "reward". The term "incentive" should not be used to refer to all benefits of work, but to contemplated rewards that lead workers to modify their behavior. An incentive is a stimulant, an inducement for further effort, or a catalyst which influences or motivates a person to action. …