Think Tank: No Correlation Between Teacher Pay, Student Test Scores


A report released by Transparent California suggests that no relationship exists between teacher compensation and higher student test scores.

Data for the report came from the 75 largest school districts in California and was compared to the Academic Performance Index scores from 2013, the last year for which API scores are available (the state has since changed its standardized testing system in an effort to match the Common Core State Standards).  API scores are based on a combination of scores from a variety of standardized tests ranging from 200 to 1,000.  The target score for schools is 800.

“The average full-time teacher compensation was $94,796 and the average API score was 795,” the report reads in part. “Compensation is defined as wages plus the employer-cost of health and retirement benefits. The average total employee cost per enrolled student was $6,946 and was negatively correlated against the district’s API scores.”

According to the report, the Chaffey Joint Union High School District offers teachers the highest compensation package in the state at $119,942, but has a low API score of 777.  Meanwhile, San Ramon Valley Unified in Northern California carries an API score of 923 with the average teacher making $88,638, reports Beau Yarbrough for The Daily Bulletin.

“Something’s really wrong when schools are delivering API scores that low,” said Ed Ring, executive director of the California Policy Center.  “Why are we still paying teachers based on how long they show up, or on how many credentials they get that they can turn around and take back to the payroll department?”

The Transparent California website is operated by conservative think tank California Policy Center.  The group is associated with the State Policy Network, which states on their website that they work to “limit government and advance market-friendly public policy at the state and local levels.”

“I guess you could say we’re a center-right organization,” Ring said.  “Those terms are becoming very muddled and we, frankly, try to stay as non-partisan as we can, because the issues we care about, we sincerely believe should concern left-wing citizens as much as right-wing citizens.”

Ring went on to reiterate the report’s conclusion: that no correlation was found between teacher salary and how well students perform.  “How long a teacher works and how many credentials a teacher acquires has no relationship to how students do.”

Not everyone agrees with the report.  Mat Holton, superintendent of the Chaffey high school district, called it “a flawed comparison on many levels,” adding that the “API is an obsolete metric that was suspended unanimously by the California Board of Education earlier this year.”  Because the tests for elementary and high school students are so different, Holton said a more fair comparison would be to look at large high-school only districts.

The compensation records of over 740,000 K-12 employees were observed for the study, accounting for over 80% of educators throughout the state.

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