Eastern New Mexico University
1. You have recently released a report about teacher salaries. What was your MAIN finding?
There are two main findings. The first simply repeats a finding from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – that public school teachers on average made $34.06 per hour in 2005. This is 36% more than the average non-sales white collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker, which are the categories in which teachers are placed by the BLS.
The second finding is that there does not appear to be a relationship between higher relative pay for teachers and higher student achievement.That is, areas with higher public teacher pay relative to white collar and professional workers do graduate a higher percentage of their students.This suggests that simply raising teacher pay across the board is not a promising strategy for raising student achievement.It doesn't mean that we shouldn't want to raise teacher pay for some other reason or that we couldn't use additional pay in more clever ways that actually would be more likely to contribute to student achievement.
2) What prompted you to delve into this area?
Most discussions of teacher pay lack basic facts about how much teachers are actually paid and whether higher across-the board pay is a promising strategy for raising student achievement.While adding these facts to the discussion do not necessarily tell us what we should do, we believe that more fact-based discussion is likely to lead to better policy outcomes.
3) There are indicators that the "average" public school teacher in the U.S. earned about $ 34.00 dollars an hour in 2005.. Is this including the time spent after school grading papers, preparing grades, meeting with parents and the like?
BLS' National Compensation Survey, on which we rely, is designed to capture all hours actually worked, including time grading, preparing for class, meeting with parents, etc…But to be sure that our findings were not being distorted by how the BLS counts hours worked, we also compared earnings on a weekly basis.When we do that we still find that public teachers are, on average, still better paid that the average white collar and professional worker.
4) I believe that you also found that public school teachers are paid 61 % more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide. Why do you suppose that private and parochial schools continue to do better in terms of test scores, academics and the like than public schools?
It is impressive that private schools tend to produce better outcomes with significantly lower paid teachers, but there are a number of factors that should be considered.The students in public and private schools sometimes differ in their backgrounds and motivation.Yet seven random assignment analyses suggest that the higher outcomes produced by private schools are not simply a function of differences in the students they have.The evidence suggests that private schools tend to produce significantly better outcomes and lower cost, including lower teacher compensation.While one cannot determine from that evidence exactly how private schools produce better outcomes at lower cost, their advantage appears to stem from the virtues of greater choice and competition – including stronger motivation, clearer sense of mission, better selection and retention of quality staff, etc…
5) Most importantly, (and why does this come as no surprise, at least to me) why do you think that increasing public school teacher pay is not related to higher graduation rates?
Higher average pay for public school teachers may not contribute to higher student achievement because we do not pay teachers in a way that is associated with student performance.That is, the single salary schedule whereby we pay teachers for additional years in the classroom and additional credentials unfortunately does not reward factors that are strongly related to improving student achievement.If we were to use teacher pay for effectively to identify and reward more effective teachers, we might observe a relationship between higher teacher pay and student performance.
6) In terms of higher graduation rates- is it really realistic to think that even 90 percent of kids should graduate when we have so many students with mental retardation, vision and hearing problems, traumatic brain injury, learning disabilities and other exceptionalities being mainstreamed into the regular education classroom?
I'm not sure what a realistic goal for a graduation rate would be but I am confident that it is significantly higher than our current rate of roughly 70%.It is true that some students have cognitive or other limitations that make it impossible for them to satisfy reasonable requirements for a standard diploma, but there are many fewer such students than people may think.For example, only 1.2% of all students are classified as mentally retarded, only .4% have traumatic brain injury or autism, and only .3% have hearing or vision disabilities.We are talking about less than 2% of students with these serious disabilities and there is no reason to believe that a fair number of them couldn't satisfy the requirements for a regular diploma.If we have high expectations I think we are likely to get better results.
7) This may not have been part of your study, but I will ask it anyway- Do teachers really want more money, or do they want more medical/dental benefits or more supplies, or do they want something else?
I don't know precisely the priority that teachers give to salary versus benefits.I would just emphasize that the pay figures we repeat from the BLS do not include benefits, such as health or retirement.
8) While there may be increases in teacher salary, are these increases keeping up with inflation and even the rising costs of gasoline?
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics (which relies on NEA data), average teacher salaries have grown faster than the rate of inflation for the last four decades.The average teacher now makes 35% more, after adjusting for inflation, what the average teacher made four decades ago.
9) What is the current "state of morale " in the average classroom today?
I'm not sure what the current state of morale is.I am sure that teaching is a very important and challenging profession, which deserves our recognition, appreciation, and a significant share of our resources.But in discussing the share of our resources paid to teachers we should have a realistic picture of what teachers currently earn and how that compares to others.We do not contribute to teacher morale by falsely repeating the claim that they are paid more like fast food workers than like professionals.
10)What question have I neglected to ask?
I think this covers it nicely, Mike.Thanks!
* The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker
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