Key idea:

The bottom line is that we are paying high-quality teachers too little, and we should be paying the poor-performing teachers less — or not at all.

In the New York Times:

It may be a stretch to argue that teachers are overpaid, but the recent American Enterprise Institute report and other data from the National Center for Education Statistics make it clear that the idea infamously perpetuated this summer by Matt Damon at the Save Our Schools Rally that teachers are underpaid is clearly incorrect. In fact, accounting for the number of hours worked in a year, Bureau of Labor Statistics data consistently show that on a per-hour basis, teacher income (not including fringe benefits, which are typically far more robust than those offered other workers) is extremely strong.

The real problem is quantity over quality. The N.C.E.S. reports that 3.6 million elementary and secondary school teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in fall 2010, and that number has risen 8 percent since 2000. In addition, the number of public school teachers has increased by a larger percentage than the number of public school students over the past 10 years. In the fall of 2010, there were a projected 15.6 public school pupils per teacher, compared with 16.0 public school pupils per teacher 10 years earlier. Scarce education dollars are stretched too thin. We are paying too many teachers and we do not differentiate pay based on quality.

This is brought home by the controversial teacher value-added rankings in Los Angeles, which highlighted the fact that teachers in the top 10 percent bring enormous gains to their students in terms of increasing student achievement. These teachers are not recognized in any way by the school district in terms of compensation or replication of best practices. Schools and districts need to compensate and capitalize on their most productive teachers. A good start would be the recommendations in the National Education Association’s recent report “Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learning,” which calls for differentiating teacher compensation based on teacher effectiveness, the roles that teachers play, the difficulty of teaching assignments, and the length of the school year or school day.

The bottom line is that we are paying high-quality teachers too little, and we should be paying the poor-performing teachers less — or not at all.

About these ads