When more than money is needed

Say you were working in a tough school. Maybe there are discipline problems, glass crunches under foot in the parking lot, and you have too many students with too many challenges.

Would a pay raise be enough to get you to stay the course?

Much has been made - with good reason - of the need to pay teachers a salary that's at least somewhat more in line with professionals in other fields. But a recent study of teachers' career moves in Texas suggests that a lot more may be required to adequately staff low-performing schools, where seasoned teachers are most needed.

The research, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass., looked at the career moves of 375,000 primary school teachers who had been in the profession fewer than 10 years. It found a greater tendency to seek out situations that had better test scores and fewer minority and poor students, than to look for noticeably better pay.

The researchers - Eric Hanushek, John Kain, and Steven Rifkin - caution against concluding that teachers don't want to teach low-income or minority kids. More likely, they say, is that they want to avoid the creaky buildings, crowded classrooms, and dangerous locations that are, sadly, often found in schools that such students attend.

Not everyone ducks this challenge, of course. Nor should anyone assume that pay isn't a factor. But if your "office" is a former broom closet and you have so many kids that your main goal becomes simply getting through the day, the job is not something you're likely to consider doing for two decades or so. Which is worth keeping in mind as states and the federal government ponder ways to boost achievement in struggling schools.

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