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Incentives for Teachers: What Motivates, what Matters

Incentives for Teachers: What Motivates, what Matters


Educational Administration Quarterly Vol. 22, No. 3 (Summer 1986) 54-79 Susan Moore Johnson Incentives for Teachers: What Motivates, What Matters' Susan Moore Johnson is Assistant Professor of EducationalAdmin- istration in the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University. P ropelled by a salvo of critiques on education,2 American citizens, politicians, and educators set out to scrutinize their schools in 1983. Considerable evidence-declining SAT scores,3 unfavorable inter- national comparisons of students' performance,4 documentation that the best college students shun teaching while the best teachers abandon the profession altogether5-suggested that the problems with our schools were more substantive than superficial. In the flurry of research, resolution, and reform that followed, teachers were perceived to be central to both the problem and the solution. They were judged to be insufficiently qualified and committed. Their inadequate training, low pay, low status, unstaged careers, unrecognized efforts, and poor working conditions were said to render them ineffective. In response, state and local governments rapidly enacted an array of incentive plans designed to recruit, reward, and retain the best teachers.6 These varied incentives were directed at prospective, novice, and veteran teachers. Loan forgiveness plans and higher entry wages were intended to attract new, talented recruits to
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