Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Maybe it’s my Midwest values. Maybe it’s fear that still clings and clenches to tradition. Or, maybe it’s just another Libra waxing sentimental. But I miss those days.

A throwback to when team unity was stronger than dollar signs. A hearkening back to when clubhouse camaraderie equaled investment and commitment. A distant memory of when media was less social and the present moment required longevity and a steadfast spirit.

When We Could Count On Each Other to Be There Tomorrow

I really miss athletes like Reggie Miller, Tony Gwynn, Kevin Mchale, Cal Ripken, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Larry Bird, for example, who were loyal to one team their entire career. That’s rare these days. In fact, I miss athletes with that kind of commitment so much that I find myself missing that entire era of sports.

This all too frequent change and apparent lack of commitment make me care less about professional sports. Today, I can’t name more than one athlete on any professional sports team, and part of me doesn’t even care to know because they’ll be gone tomorrow, chasing the next waterfall for a few more bucks.

And it’s disappointing, because as a kid, I loved professional athletes. At heart, I was a super-fan for their teams. When I see kids wearing professional team jerseys nowadays, I cry on the inside because I know that jersey’s expiration date is all too short.

As I watch the World Series game 3 tonight (Boston Red Sox leading series 2-0, but LA Dodgers leading this game 1-0), it disappoints me to think how many players from both teams will very quickly abandon their squad immediately after the series in pursuit of better contracts. It dims my hope for future success, provokes my questioning of leaders in their craft, and it makes me disrespect the profession overall.

What Ever Happened to the Concept of Team?

But can you blame them? Would you play for a team for only $6,000,000 over five years if you could get a more deserving contract of $7,000,000 over four years? (Note sarcasm).

As a lifelong educator, I can’t help but wonder: Is our school staff like our team? Are we a family? What does continuity mean in education?

Throughout my career, I’ve seen two kinds of educators: those who pride themselves on taking risks and growing through different experiences by changing positions or schools every 2-5 years, or those who persevere to be that stalwart in the community, staying loyal to one school–and family–for life. Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control drive these outcomes, but sometimes they are genuine, personal choices.

Both career routes have their pros and cons, but in the sacred profession of education, we have to start strongly considering:

How Does Educator Continuity Affect Kids and Their Learning?

Blogger’s Note: I’ve taught at one school for seventeen years, so I may have bias. Also, I haven’t cited any research–but I know some of my readers will, and I look forward to everyone’s comments and feedback [End Blogger’s Note].

Is it possible that we’ve been overlooking an obvious variable that could improve student learning? Is it possible that one tweak–or incentive–could greatly enhance the game of education? Is this our grand slam?

I’m proposing that kids benefit when they see adults demonstrating commitment to their community, school, and family. I think kids feel safe and will more likely reciprocate trust and relational investment when they know that their teacher will be there tomorrow. And I believe that meeting this safety need may eventually lead to more enriching learning experiences.

A classroom teacher may be thinking: “We have the kids for one year, and then they’re gone. Why does our continuity at one school matter?” But I’m wondering:

How might relationships be strengthened on a professional learning team, committee, or even the school improvement team when the same people persevere through interpersonal challenges, curriculum adoption cycles, and initiative implementation, for example, when the same individuals are consistently learning and growing together over a multiple year segment? Ultimately, what educators do impacts students and their learning.

Continuity Clause Options

All options are independently voluntary.

  1. Continuity: Starting in year four, at the same school, educator salaries increase $200/month, and $50/month for each subsequent year. Beginning year five, $250/month, and year six would be $300/month… and the cycle starts over whenever an educator changes schools.
  2. Certification Incentives: Educators can choose to participate in specific workshops, trainings, and professional learning opportunities, in a physical location or online, as designated by the educator’s district or state, and earn salary increases based on certifications earned and applied. These certificates will have an expiration date, and will require benchmark accountability to ensure implementation to be valid.
  3. Advanced Degrees: Educators will apply to receive funds toward pursuing a masters or doctorate degree or National Board Certification. In addition, educators would earn an increase for each advanced degree.
  4. Leadership Roles: Educators will earn increases by assuming leadership roles in their school or professional spaces.

Why The Continuity Clause Is A Terrible Idea

  • Educators may stay at one school for the wrong reasons: money and not dedication and commitment to making teaching and learning better for one community.
  • Administrators would have even less flexibility to promote ineffective educators to other professional opportunities.
  • Familiarity breeds complacency. The risk in becoming complacent and stagnant in their craft is still too high for most educators.
  • The world is more connected than it once was. The Continuity Clause is archaic in terms of transient communities living in a fast-paced, quickly-changing world.

Providing educator incentives to learn more and earn more is one thing. It’s kind of like caring for the Whole Educator. Yet, caring for the Whole Child is quite another. Without creating opportunities that integrate, address, and benefit the needs of both educators and children, we may have a challenging time improving public education.

I’m still thinking on this…

2 Replies to “Continuity Clause?”

  • Love your ideas here Kyle. The whole thing is certainly nuanced with pros and cons on either side. One thing that might be worth exploring in this thought-exercise is taking an account of the context of the school.

    1. What’s the turnover rate currently like for the particular school? If it’s low, is a “continuity clause” necessary?

    2. How feasible is it for teachers (and students) to actually move schools if they wanted to. The answer to this in Wake County is a lot different than it is in a place like Randolph County for example

    Great stuff my friend!


  • Kyle,
    This post evokes many feelings. On the one hand, I do believe there are measurable benefits for students in all schools where there is continuity. Continuity comes in many forms but the continuity of which you speak pertains to the educators whose reliable presence day after day, week after week, month after month, and YES year after year offers stability that many children simply lack. I believe that is true in both affluent and impoverished areas. So many variables impact an educators’ decision to remain continuously in one school building for the duration of his/her career or to make a change. Teacher leadership opportunities, daily commute, personal well being, and perceptions of effectiveness are just a few that have driven my own personal decisions over the 20+ years I have served in CCS. Half of my career was dedicated to a particular neighborhood and the two schools that served those students. I would unequivocally argue that teacher continuity is a critical factor influencing the success of those students. Some of the options you mention in your continuity clause were actually in play during much of my time at that school but it wasn’t enough to keep me there in the end. The fact is, educators are not all on the same timeline or path and as important as teacher continuity is to the student, I would propose that administrative continuity is important to teachers. Leaders who understand that caring, competent, committed, and empowered teachers can and will make a difference in the lives of their students are (in my experience) not abundant in our school districts. Schools could benefit greatly from the pairing of this type of leadership with classroom teacher leaders. Much of this, I think, comes back to school culture. In the right school culture, teachers will want to stay and students will benefit from that continuity.

    Sorry, no research, other than my own personal experiences, to back this up… YET…

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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