Book Reviews

Paying Teachers for What They Know and Do

by Reviewed by Ernie Jean, Retired Assistant Professor, University of Montana, Missoula Montana

Allan Odden and Carolyn Kelly have crafted a second edition of their book that discusses changing the way teachers are paid. Although the authors use “teacher compensation” and “salary” interchangeably, teacher salary is the topic and little attempt is made to discuss the broader issue of compensation (as including other fringe benefits).

The authors aren’t presenting the old merit pay idea here. They emphasize team pay, taking their lead from substantial work done in the private sector to be more creative with pay, all the while recognizing the way in which work is being done in today’s business setting. Their model recognizes the fact that group decisions affect student and school results. Thus the reward for excellent performance should be to the team, including administration and classified staff.

Odden and Kelly take the reader into the world of compensation, the development and rationale of the single salary matrix used commonly today to early experiments with changing teacher compensation. The authors discuss the philosophical relationship between pay and motivation in moving the reader to an understanding that the new compensation system is and should be designed to advance teacher expertise as well as educate students to high standards.

They have done an outstanding job of crafting a process for the administrator or school board member to begin discussions on altering staff compensation. Their examples cite districts that have done so, offering glimpses of what could be, some pitfalls and some hope. This book doesn’t provide the answers, but it does provide a well-thought-out rationale that should be debated, reviewed and adopted in some form by all schools.

(Paying Teachers for What They Know and Do: New and Smarter Compensation Strategies to Improve Schools, by Allan Odden and Carolyn Kelley, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2002, 264 pp. with index, $29.95 softcover. Available from