Valuing Teachers

For some time, we have recognized that the academic achievement of schoolchildren in this country threatens, to borrow President Barack Obama’s words, “the U.S.’s role as an engine of scientific discovery” and ultimately its success in the global economy. The low achievement of American students, as reflected in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (see “Teaching Math to the Talented,” features, Winter 2011), will prevent them from accessing good, high-paying jobs. And, as demonstrated in another article in Education Next (see “Education and Economic Growth,” research, Spring 2008), lower achievement means slower growth in the economy. From studying the historical relationship, we can estimate that closing just half of the performance gap with Finland, one of the top international performers in terms of student achievement, could add more than $50 trillion to our gross domestic product between 2010 and 2090. By way of comparison, the drop in economic output over the course of the last recession is believed to be less than $3 trillion. Thus the achievement gap between the U.S. and the world’s top-performing countries can be said to be causing the equivalent of a permanent recession.

According to the president in this year’s State of the Union address, this is “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” the time when we realize the urgent need to step up the performance of our education system. Only today, unlike in the 1950s, we have a clear idea of what it takes to improve achievement. The quality of the teachers in our schools is paramount: no other measured aspect of schools is nearly as important in determining student achievement. The initiatives we have emphasized in policy discussions—class-size reduction, curriculum revamping, reorganization of school schedule, investment in technology—all fall far short of the impact that good teachers can have in the classroom. Moreover, many of these interventions can be very costly.

Indeed, the magnitude of variation in the quality of teachers, even within each school, is startling. Teachers who work in a given school, and therefore teach students with similar demographic characteristics, can be responsible for increases in math and reading levels that range from a low of one-half year to a high of one and a half years of learning each academic year.

But while most parents are able to distinguish a good teacher from a bad one, few have any idea what difference it makes in the lives of their children. And researchers do not help, tending to talk in terms of standard deviations of achievement and effect sizes, phrases that simply have no meaning outside of the rarefied world of research. Here, I translate the researchers’ shorthand into concepts that might be more readily understood: the impact of teachers on the earnings of individuals and on the future of the economy as a whole.

Measuring Teachers’ Impact

Many of us have had at some point in our lives a wonderful teacher, one whose value, in retrospect, seems inestimable. We do not pretend here to know how to calculate the life-transforming effects that such teachers can have with particular students. But we can calculate more prosaic economic values related to effective teaching, by drawing on a research literature that provides surprisingly precise estimates of the impact of student achievement levels on their lifetime earnings and by combining this with estimated impacts of more-effective teachers on student achievement.

Let’s start with the researcher’s point of view. With a normal distribution of performance (the classic bell curve), a standard deviation is simply a more precise measure of how spread out the distribution is. Somebody who is one standard deviation above average would be at the 84th percentile of the distribution. If we then turn to the labor market, a student with achievement (as measured by test performance in high school) that is one standard deviation above average can later in life expect to take in 10 to 15 percent higher earnings per year.

That estimate may be deemed conservative for two reasons. First, it does not account for increases in years of education that may result from having a higher level of performance early on. Also, the estimate is based on information from people’s wages and salaries early in their careers, before they have reached their full earnings potential. Other calculations that take into account earnings throughout entire careers estimate 20 percent increases over the course of a lifetime.

Does 10 to 15 percent amount to much? For the average American entering the labor force, the value of lifetime earnings for full-time work is currently $1.16 million. Thus, an increase in the level of achievement in high school of a standard deviation yields an average increase of between $110,000 and $230,000 in lifetime earnings.

How do increases in teacher effectiveness relate to this? Obviously, teacher quality is not the only factor that affects student achievement. The student’s own motivations and support from family and peers play crucial roles as well. But researchers have worked hard to isolate the impact of teachers from these other influences. Rigorous studies consistently show that the impact of a more-effective teacher is substantial A high-performing teacher, one at the 84th percentile of all teachers, when compared with just an average teacher, produces students whose level of achievement is at least 0.2 standard deviations higher by the end of the school year. In fact, the impact of having such a teacher could plausibly be as large as 0.3 standard deviations.

Those impacts attenuate somewhat over time, however. The literature, though less than definitive, suggests that perhaps 70 percent of the gains achieved that year are retained in the long run by the student. The persistence of achievement gains is important, because the more sustained that these increases are, the greater the positive impact teachers will have on the lifetime skills and therefore the earnings of students. Put together, this evidence suggests that a teacher in the top 16 percent of effectiveness will have a positive impact (as compared to an average teacher) on longer-term student achievement that is 70 percent of the immediate gain, which as noted is at least 0.2 standard deviations.  That lower bound of the estimated effect is what we will use as we calculate the economic worth of a teacher by combining a teacher’s impact on achievement with the associated labor market returns.

Let’s start with some conservative estimates of the impact on an individual student. Take a good but not great teacher, one at the 69th percentile of all teachers rather than at the 50th percentile (that is, a teacher who is half a standard deviation above the average). She produces an increase of $10,600 on each student’s lifetime earnings. Even a modestly better than average teacher (60th percentile) raises individual earnings by $5,300, compared to what would otherwise be expected.

While those numbers are not trivial, they burgeon dramatically once we recognize that every student in the class can expect such increases in earnings. Consider, for example, a teacher with a class of 20 students. Under such circumstances, the teacher at the 60th percentile will—each year—raise students’ aggregate earnings by a total of $106,000. The impact of one at the 69th percentile (as compared to the average) is $212,000, and one at the 84th percentile will shift earnings up by more than $400,000.

But there is also symmetry to these calculations. A very low performing teacher (at the 16th percentile of effectiveness) will have a negative impact of $400,000 compared to an average teacher.

Moreover, the economic value of an effective teacher grows with larger classes, as do the economic losses of an ineffective teacher. Figure 1 illustrates the aggregate impact on students’ lifetime earnings for higher- and lower-performing teachers. As we will discuss below, these results are all very large compared with, for instance, the $52,000 annual salary U.S. teachers were paid on average in 2008.

An Alternate Thought Experiment

We can also approach this valuation calculation from the perspective of the impact of teacher effectiveness on the U.S. economy as a whole, rather than just on the future earnings of students. As noted above, student achievement, which provides a direct measure of later quality of the labor force, is strongly related to economic growth. Improving achievement leads to a better prepared workforce and to greater growth, and this growth translates into higher levels of national income.

Starting again with the estimates of the difference in effectiveness of teachers, it is possible to calculate the long-term economic impact of policies that would focus attention on the lowest-quality teachers from U.S. classrooms. Let us propose the following thought experiment: What would happen if the very lowest performing teachers could be replaced by just average teachers? Based on the estimates of variation in teacher quality identified above, Figure 2 shows the overall achievement impact through a cycle of K–12 instruction. Assuming the upper-bound estimate of teachers’ impact, U.S achievement could reach that in Canada and Finland if we replaced with average teachers the least effective 5 to 7 percent of teachers, respectively. Assuming the lower-bound estimate of teachers’ impact, U.S achievement could reach that in Canada and Finland if we replaced with average teachers the least effective 8 to 12 percent of teachers, respectively.

Here the estimated value almost loses any meaning. Closing the achievement gap with Finland would, according to historical experience, have astounding benefits, increasing the annual growth rate of the United States by 1 percent of GDP. Accumulated over the lifetime of somebody born today, this improvement in achievement would amount to nothing less than an increase in total U.S. economic output of $112 trillion in present value. (That was not a typo—$112 trillion, not billion.)

Admittedly, these estimates are subject to some uncertainty. So if you think those that are given here are too high, even though they are based on the best of contemporary research, then just cut them in half. You will still have effects on growth of one-half of 1 percent per year, which produces impacts of $56 trillion over the lifetime of today’s child. In other words, to make the very large effects disappear, you have to make either the very strong assumption that student learning has little effect on the U.S. economy or the equally strong assumption that teachers have little impact on students.

What Would It Take?

The majority of our teachers are hardworking and effective. The previous estimates point clearly to the key imperative of eliminating the drag of the bottom teachers. Here we can offer several alternatives.

One approach might be better recruitment so that ineffective or poor teachers do not make it into our schools. Or, relatedly, we could improve the training in schools of education so that the average teaching recruit is better than the typical recruit of today. Unfortunately, we have relatively few successful experiences with either approach as compared to considerable wishful thinking, particularly among school personnel.

An alternative might be to change a poor teacher into an average teacher. This approach is in fact today’s dominant strategy. Schools hope that through mentoring of incoming teachers, professional development, or completion of further graduate schooling, ineffective teachers can be transformed into acceptable (average) teachers. Again, however, the existing evidence is not very reassuring. While such efforts undoubtedly help some teachers, there is no substantial evidence that certification, in-service training, master’s degrees, or mentoring programs systematically make a difference in whether teachers are in fact effective at driving student achievement.

The final option is a clearer evaluation and retention strategy for teachers. Today, obtaining an entry job into teaching is virtually tantamount to an indefinite contract that stays in force regardless of actual effectiveness in the classroom. Yet the calculations above show the enormous value to individuals and society of “deselecting” the least effective teachers.

Is such a policy change feasible? If we contemplate asking 5 to 10 percent of teachers to find a job at which they are more effective so they can be replaced by teachers of average productivity, states and school districts would have to change their employment practices. They would need recruitment, pay, and retention policies that allow for the identification and compensation of teachers on the basis of their effectiveness with students. At a minimum, the current dysfunctional teacher-evaluation systems would need to be overhauled so that effectiveness in the classroom is clearly identified. This is not an impossible task. The teachers who are excellent would have to be paid much more, both to compensate for the new riskiness of the profession and to increase the chances of retaining these individuals in teaching. Those who are ineffective would have to be identified and replaced. Both steps would be politically challenging in a heavily unionized environment such as the one in place today.

Salary Politics

The above discussion also highlights the difficulties in recruiting high-quality teachers, due in part to the difficulties of paying them well. Collective bargaining mechanisms do not provide incentives for the best people to enter or remain in the profession and likely hold the average pay down: given the uniform salary structure, increases in salary are bound to be unrelated to increases in effectiveness, making large pay raises raises politically problematic. This is likely one of the main reasons that teacher salaries now lag those in other professions. In the 1940s, the salaries of male teachers were slightly above the average pay for all male college graduates, and female teachers had higher salaries than 70 percent of other female college graduates. Today, despite the collective bargaining process, the salaries of male teachers are at the 30th percentile of the distribution of all college graduates, and women who teach are at the 40th percentile of their college-educated peers.

Teachers’ salaries today are based on credentials and years of experience, factors that are at best weakly related to productivity. In a competitive marketplace, a firm must compensate employees according to their productivity or risk bankruptcy. Yet no school district goes out of business if it retains ineffective teachers and pays them as much as effective ones. Salaries become political footballs, and it is often awkward for politicians to explain why a large pay increase goes equally to ineffective and effective teachers.

The challenge of implementing reform of the teaching profession remains considerable. Most of the benefits of implementing the “thought experiment” explored here would be fully realized only many decades later, while the costs of economic, and especially political, reform must be paid at the beginning. These costs would be steep, as they would likely negatively affect some of the most vocal constituents in education policy: current teachers.

The magnitude of the above valuations of teacher effectiveness, however, suggest that we should be willing to consider more radical reforms than have been commonplace in recent decades. Salaries several times higher than those paid teachers today would be economically justified if teachers were compensated according to their effectiveness. But unless we can replace the current system with one that better links teacher recruitment, compensation, and retention to effectiveness, we should expect both our schools and our economy to underperform relative to their potential. The cost to the nation at a time of intensifying international competition is high indeed.

Eric A. Hanushek is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Comment on this article

  • Joe T. Eddins says:

    When I taught the lowest quintile of the nineth grade a general review of math, the idea was they couldn’t remember enough to be successful in Algebra . This is still done across the United States today. I was able to teach all of the students how to use fractions. There was a large variation in how long they remembered what they learned.

    It has been my experience as both a teacher and a student, that reguardless of the teacher, the same students remember the most the longest. Reguardless of the teacher, students in the same class vary widely in their remembering capacity. This is true where students stay in the same classes with the same teachers over several years.

    I suggest the conclusions in this article are not valid. Less than ten percent of students move from low to high achievement levels over the course of six to eight years.

  • Earl Wiman says:

    It’s astonishing that the author talks about Finland’s success but fails to point out the factors that have made Finland a success. He comes to his own solutions without factoring in what has made Finland successful. Hmmm, could the author have another reason for his solutions?

  • Jen says:

    A child’s best teacher is……………… and the answer is………… their parent.
    I can tell which children in my classroom work on their educational goals at home and which ones don’t. If a child’s parent is involved with their education from the begining it promotes a positive school experience that will stick with them throughout their school years. Parents who have instilled the love of learning in their children bring forth children who are eager to learn.
    I am so tired of everyone blaming the teachers when it’s not always their fault, if a parent is not willing to work with their children, the children will be behind, and it’s not the teachers responsibility to play catch up!!!

  • Deb Chittur says:

    Could you explain the metrics you use to define teacher effectiveness?

  • Joanna says:

    I’m a public school teacher, and I agree with many of the statements in this article. The author isn’t blaming teachers — if anything, Hanushek has written a testament to the deep and lasting significance of effective teachers.

    The hornet’s nest, of course, is this: to change education, someone has to make hard decisions about which teachers to keep and which to fire. Changing how school districts and principals make that decision will cause outcry, but it needs to be done.

    I, for one, grow discouraged when some staff (not all, not by a long shot) show full-length videos each week, don’t return papers, don’t show up for meetings, and make more money than myself just because they’ve logged a few more years riding the water wheel.

    Let the hard work begin.

  • Diana Senechal says:

    I see two flaws in this argument. First, the students whose achievement is one standard deviation above average in high school are not necessarily the ones who have made the most gains over the years–or whose classmates have made the most gains. They may have been ahead all along. And the reverse is also questionable. Do those who make the most gains in elementary school, say, end up in the top percentiles in high school? Or do they end up somewhere near the average?

    Second, this argument presupposes that making more money is good across the board. Up to a point, it generally is. no one wants to be broke or dependent. No one wants to be without options. But once you reach a certain threshold, you may decide that something is more important than a top salary.

    In fact, if it were true that the teachers with the highest value-added scores were the ones who “produced” the CEOs, lawyers, bankers, and so forth, then it would be interesting to find out who “produced” the foresters, violinists, English professors, marine biologists, simultaneous translators, teachers, firefighters, museum guides, electricians, and cabinet makers.

  • skippy says:

    Bill Gates looks at the situation as follows “if a kid comes to your door and asks to mow your lawn when he is finished you do not ask him how long he has been mowing lawns before deciding on how much to pay him”you look at the results and decide what he deserves

  • Liz Wisniewski says:

    I wonder if it would be a surprise to the author to find that those in the trenches of teaching would agree with his premise that unions need to change – drastically – to create a better education system, while at the same time finding his proposals/philosophy, well, just plain offensive.

    While the article states a distaste for “rhetoric” the author goes on to use phrases such as “teacher effectiveness” and “student achievement” when he really is referring to growth on standardized tests – perhaps VAM type tests. A highly educated man such as the author would know that the terms “effectiveness” and “achievement” have become quite vague as we argue about good teaching. I would propose that many, many, readers of this publications consider “effectiveness” and “achievement” to mean an education that creates children who are “critical thinkers, lifelong intellectual explores and active participants in a democratic society, or even healthy and happy parents, spouses and friends.” (Kohn)

    Yes ” high-achieving nations do not let bad teachers stay in the classroom for long” but my guess is that high achieving nations do not base their view of effectiveness and achievement on a linear regression model that purports to measure quality teaching.

    So, yes, I agree with the author, rhetoric is frustrating.

    I also wonder if the author understands that many of his readers can share his concern with ineffective teaching, but find his emphasis of the economics of the problem – off putting. As Kozel said so much better “There is something ethically embarrassing about resting a national agenda on the basis of sheer greed.”

    In a recent Education Gadfly Podcast, the host, bemoaning the lack of interest in of “middle class” parents for the “reform agenda” admitted that when asked what he wanted for his own children to “achieve” he really wanted them to be “happy” – no VAM level or salary was mentioned. (I apologize if I am misrepresenting this.)

    So I am left agreeing with RealityCheck that the a major goal of this research and article is to support “rich donors’ ideologies.” The author is just too smart a man to purposely ignore the alternatives that are available for reform that would create a more humane, rich and ethical education system.

  • andrei radulescu-banu says:

    Mr Hanushek, here are a few problems with this:

    1. You write: “…no other measured aspect of schools is nearly as important in determining student achievement”

    And also: “…If we then turn to the labor market, a student with achievement (as measured by test performance in high school) that is one standard deviation above average can later in life expect to take in 10 to 15 percent higher earnings per year.”

    I’m looking at state test results on the NAEP and on the Advanced Placement. Texas, with a similar demographics with California, is well ahead of California on 8th grade NAEP. California is way ahead on 11th and 12th grade AP.

    If I were to choose which test results to believe, I choose AP because it is a test aligned with the curriculum. Neither NAEP nor the high-stakes state tests are aligned with the school curricula. Most NAEP and most high-stakes state tests follow similar format.

    This goes to disprove that students who do well on tests like NAEP should be just as successful in future economic endeavors – because NAEP scores are not good predictors for AP scores, among other things.

    And this also disproves that NAEP and other curriculum-free tests are very good measurements for student performance.

    2. You write: “U.S achievement could reach that in Canada and Finland if we replaced with average teachers the least effective 5 to 7 percent of teachers, respectively”.

    First of all, the US curriculum is much worse than that in these other countries:

    Do you think we can catch them up just by whipping the teaching profession into shape, when our elementary math classes are infused with fuzzy math and when Physics is not taught but for one year, as an option, all the way from 5th grade to 12th?

    Also, where do you propose we find teacher candidates more qualified than the 5 to 7 percent you propose to replace? The poor preparation of teachers is the direct result of the poor job done by our education schools. Why wait to lay off unprepared teachers and not go directly to attack the problems in our education schools?

    And a layoff of 5-7% ‘dead wood’ a year can destroy a perfectly normal business, and can determine even the best employees to leave – especially if the layoff criteria are questionable (see (1) above). How do you think this will impact the school culture?

    3. “…while most parents are able to distinguish a good teacher from a bad one, few have any idea what difference it makes in the lives of their children. ”

    Not true: some parents think progressive teaches are great, some that teachers stressing academics are great.

    4. You write: “Improving achievement leads to a better prepared workforce and to greater growth, and this growth translates into higher levels of national income.”

    True, but misleading. American schools have for 100 years been pretty terrible, and yet America is the biggest world economy, and our colleges are the envy of the world. The explanation is that a great proportion of our top engineers and scientists have been educated in foreign school systems.

    This is a case where the liberalism of the society, the willingness to accept qualified immigrants makes up for the low quality of our schools. Note that Japan, Finland, South Korea don’t have this willingness, so in some sense they are forced to have competitive schools.

    A wiser way to formulate why school achievement is desirable would be not to say that it would shore up our economy, because our economy is already doing quite well – but that it would offer students a better chance to function in the economy. The American economy is global. Our students will have to compete with graduates from all these other top rated countries, who may either work in the US or abroad.

    5. You write: “In a competitive marketplace, a firm must compensate employees according to their productivity or risk bankruptcy. Yet no school district goes out of business if it retains ineffective teachers and pays them as much as effective ones.”

    The above does not represent the reality in competitive businesses accurately. Firms raise the salary of employees not primarily because they want to reward them – but because they do not want to see them leave.

    In the model you propose, teachers would have similar salary regardless in which school they work. Your model does not imply salary increases as a consequence of teacher mobility – and in consequence, all salary increases in your model would be entirely artificial and open to abuse.

    6. You write: “The literature, though less than definitive, suggests that perhaps 70 percent of the gains achieved that year are retained in the long run by the student. ”

    What your compensation model will encourage is precisely gaming the system, with the consequence that the proportion of knowledge retained by students will go from 70% currently estimated in a ‘low stakes’ compensation environment to something much lower in a ‘high stakes’ compensation environment.

    7. You write: “Collective bargaining mechanisms do not provide incentives for the best people to enter or remain in the profession and likely hold the average pay down: given the uniform salary structure, increases in salary are bound to be unrelated to increases in effectiveness, making large pay raises raises politically problematic. This is likely one of the main reasons that teacher salaries now lag those in other professions. ”

    The other countries you mentioned, Canada and Finland, also have collective bargaining for teachers. Why would collective bargaining be bad for US teachers, but not for Canadian or Finnish teachers?

    And how did you reach the conclusion “this is one of the main reasons?” Does this reflect a scientific observation, or a political opinion?

  • Don Harban says:

    I am ceaselessly amazed that teachers, studying themselves, seem to be inferring that there is no measure by which the least effective ones can be culled. In essence, teachers are the only ones with the professional training to “judge” teachers.

    That says a lot about the professionalism of their “managers” — and it isn’t good. Perhaps our problem lies more in the way we manage education than the role that teachers are now playing in the system. If a principal (and/or the rest of the management system) is unqualified to select and allocate the resources needed to effectively educate our children, why keep the manager? Perhaps part of the solution lies in ensuring that the managers have the skills they need to credibly and effectively allocate those resources. That’s pretty much the way that management is utilized in the private sector.

    Get managers who have the skills (and credibility) to manage the enterprise. Empower them to optimize the allocation of resources. And replace them if they are not effective at managing the resources that are available to them.

  • […] is so much wrong with this article by Eric Hanushek that I fear that anything less than a line-for-line rebuttal will be woefully […]

  • Karl Wheatley says:

    Since GRE scores are sometimes negatively correlated with achievement in the profession for which the GRE is given, and since college entrance exams predict only a tiny proportion of the variance of overall college success, let alone predict lifetime earnings, I have no idea why we’d expect +1SD test score folks to make +1SD income. Many of the people with the highest test scores will go work in universities for 50K a year, other will become ministers or priests or starving artists.

    Great teachers don’t go into teaching because they have closely examined the relative salary schedules of teaching: They go into teaching to make a differences in children’s lives. A young married man with children who took a sizable pay cut to leave tech and go into teaching was just sitting in my office this morning–he wants to make a difference. People who choose the non-profit sector often think very differently than people who chose their occupation based on the paycheck, and education policies designed by people too in love with money are doomed to fail.

    Furthermore, there’s a bizarre economic assumption in here and it comes from using the individual as the unit of analysis and ignoring obvious systems effects: If you raised all the 1-15 percentile students to the level of the 16th percentile students, these people are still competing for the same overall pool of jobs as before. Overall wages may actually decline for the jobs these people formerly filled, and we already had lots of underemployed scientists, etc.

    The supposed advantage Hanushek lays out derives from and requires continued inequality. Even if he were right about test score-income linkage, the hoped-for benefits of being at the 84%ile disappear if lots of other people formerly below me in test scores join me at 84%. The very same teaching that supposedly once gave me a $400,000 now would yield me zero lifetime salary advantage, because I’ve been joined at that level by all the 1-83% folks.

    Most workers are simply being underpaid, and endlessly claiming they need more education is a convenient excuse for underpaying them (aren’t many of our leading CEOs college dropouts?). The main culprits in stagnant/low wages are tax policies and trade policies, not educational attainment. It’s time to raise taxes and have a policy that protects our products as other countries protect theirs.

  • NYCee says:

    Oh, hear, hear, Karl Wheatley!

    Dear Meddlers (aka Ed Reformers, many of whom havent a clue what teaching entails):

    Leave us alone!

    Those who can teach, teach. Those who cant (or dont want to), dont.

    As in any profession, there are some who screw up. Take WALL STREET. Now, if only all these edu-reform zealots would turn their attention to really reforming THAT, make that their pet cause to write columns on and bloviate about on TV – then maybe we’d actually have a better chance at a better economic future for the youth of America. They have pretty much trashed it for most of us who are already in the game.

    Look at all the well-educated folks out of jobs. Look at the meager jobs available, what they pay, the benefits they give, er, dont give. I guess it’s just too outrageous to think that teachers should still get a good pension and job security. Why shouldnt they be made to suffer like the rest?

    So they make us our project to reform? Hands the F off!

    Why in the world do these meddlers keep telling us that offering teachers big fat salaries will get us better teachers?

    Take Teach for America. Why dont most of their “members” stay? Hey! There’s a clue right there – they are called “members,” as in of a club, not “teachers”… because they arent. But they are the “best and the brightest,” offered carrots to come play where we live, as career-oriented teachers. Actual teachers.

    Hey! Maybe it’s by design that the TFAers skip out so soon, in huge numbers, after only 2 or 3 years of “teaching.” Maybe designed by the business-model-ed-reformers, to show us that we simply have to pay more money to keep these ‘genius’ bestest-ever teachers around? (No, they havent been shown to be better than other new teachers). Yeah! Merit pay!!!

    Merit pay.

    Trade off? You betcha! Lose job security, job protections; today’s celebrated meritorious teacher, waving that fat paycheck, can easily become tomorrow’s pink slipped cast-off. Under these “reforms”, whatever greater pay they give in merit will be greatly offset by what they rake in by hacking off job benefits and protections, reducing higher salaries for long time teachers, paying far lower salaries for the great many non-merit-pay-receiving newbies at the low end, the ones theyll have to hire in droves to replace the ones they drive out, because, again, we are told to bargain away better work conditions, a say in what we do, etc… to drain the joy of learning from teaching with test prep, to fear the test, as it could axe our jobs… wow, what a dream teaching scenario!

    It is just hokum to begin with, this idea that a decent middle class salary isnt enough for someone with a strong desire to teach, as a career, not a drive-by stint to notch up the resume… as it is for many in TfA.

    These so-called “best and brightest” dont leave because teaching doesnt give them enough money, but because teaching was NOT what they were ever committed to doing in the first place ie, they are NOT teachers. (Or, because the uber-reformed/uber-worsened workplace has become so difficult to teach in, some bona fide teachers leave as well…)

    It is as simple as that. So…


    Leave. Us. Alone.







  • NYCee says:

    My “hear, hear” to Karl W. went especially to…

    his last paragraphs on the harmful, phony edu-nomic forecasts the reformers spread: bright and sunny, cloudless skies and balmy temps ahead… if only we all jump on the business model, “reform” bandwagon!

    Obama has been guilty (in chief) of spreading this fantasy of a bright economic future for our youth, en masse, if his reforms are fully implemented, which he pushed thru with Race to the Top – which include charters (privatizing gateway) and evaluating teachers on test scores (highly flawed and unfair – lets see them implement this!), merit pay (but there is a payoff… lose the job security, whoops, yesterday’s happy merit pay winner is tomorrow’s sad pink slip holder… without a life raft in sight.)

    He borrowed the whole conservative kaboodle… which is why he had no trouble getting laws changed in 40+ states for RttT. The Republicans were waiting with open arms… into which the Dems (and go-along union leaders) did fall. After all, these ideas are their babies. Now the Dems have become eager adoptive parents.

    What was that well known escape hatch for the masses during difficult times in the past? Hollywood! Let’s go to the movies! (Waiting for Superman?) Fantasy. Feel good. Let reality slip, slip, slip… away.

    Ah, and so it goes with education. One can fudge it and fuzz it up and pretend it can be what it cant, including the new engine for the nation’s economic strength. Oh, and it’s the civil rights movement of our time. And, dont forget, a matter of national security. These are all fantasies Obama, Dems and Republicans spin these days to push these hokey reforms.

    I predict that by the time the hard sell of the latest reforms shakes out as a the scam it is, the fantasy spinners will have moved on, not having to answer for the mess they left in their wake, with something new to spin, of course. The conned populace will have forgotten, largely, that the edunomic miracle never panned out. And those still left in the classrooms will be left to pick up the pieces, to try to make something good, during the short period of respite their lack of attentions and “good intentions” afford us, until the next great reform wave comes barreling thru.

  • NYCee says:

    Education Reform – An attack on the middle class, by any other name… (Neoliberal Swindle)

    Education reform as economic engine to drive us to boom times is a handy diversionary game, played by our shameless, corporate-embedded politicians, as neither the Dems nor the Republicans will do what is necessary to really improve the job scene.

    There is still nothing done about free trade/globalization, as it drains away companies and jobs; creates desperate, non (or weakly) unionized workers scrambling for disappearing jobs for far lower wages and little to no benefits.

    There are no great innovative works projects – like a green energy works, writ large; a national rail system… (while oil companies guard their tax exempt billions)

    I ask, where are all these great jobs galore going to come from when they dont change the economic landscape? Even the highly qualified, highly educated are on desperate job searches, or, upon getting a job, have to worry over how long it will last.

    Well, we certainly have a lot of financial ‘service’ jobs for the elites. That sector is booming. Despite how badly they screwed us, despite that we had to bail them out for playing with our pensions, our homes… Yet now, you have hedge fund operators meddling in education, like they are the “experts,” foisting these horrid reforms on us (as they did in NY, apparently paying off the legislature to get RttT evaluations and charter expansions thru). And now their boosters have the nerve to cry how teachers (and other union beneficiaries) are living the lux life, let’s let’s cut their fatty pensions!

    They let corporations get away with murder – of the middle class. Of course, they dont want to tax the wealthy (should be at a rate even more than Clinton did, for the millionaires and over) so they have to lay us off cause they dont have the funds to keep us. Again, our fault! Those fat cat middle class pensions.

    Take Gov Cuomo – he got loads of money from NY real estate moguls. Now (connect the dots) this “good Democrat” refuses to reinstate the millionaires’ tax – at the peril of teachers’ jobs and more ( the seniors, the firefighters, et al who must “sacrifice”) while those economy wrecking Wall St gamblers get off scott free to make more billions than ever before in that great Casino in southern Manhattan. Let’s not forget the free trading offshore job shifters/tax ditchers – they get a pass too. And even those who deal right here at home – if you are rich, you get a pass.

    At the same time, Bloomberg is launching an all out war on teacher seniority. Full bore TV ad campaign, posters everywhere, money galore behind it. Get the picture? Pink slips for higher paid teachers, lower paid teachers take their place… they keep telling us younger is better. So they say. So THEY say.

    But, I guess teachers are to blame. We made this economic mess, we are holding back boom times – especially the few “poor” ones amongst us. So we need a complete overhaul. Make it a punitive one too. That’ll teach us!

    If only we could be more like Finland – respect teachers, understand teaching isnt incessant test prep, stop harrassing teachers re benefits, protections, conditions, etc. And stop asking for the impossible. Then they would realize that we cant be Finland in test scores, because we arent Finland in demographics; we are like the polar opposite: diversity, minorities, poverty, immigrants – we’ve got these, they dont.

    Unfortunately, the realm of education has always been the most vulnerable to fuzzy, fudgy reforms… so easy for the corporate media to endorse and quack about, like overnight experts, so easy for the politicians to spin. And now, for Wall St, for billionaires, hedge fund operatives, to meddle with, for profit and, of course, to show they “care.” (Thank you, Bill Gates and Eli Broad! Waltons too!) At this point, there is such a heavy nexus btw govt and the monied private sector, well, the business model for education has been having a very “good day” indeed.

    Reform the business community and then we can talk.

    Until then, please…

    Leave. Education. Alone!

  • NYCee says:

    Oh my! Looks like my comments didnt make it past the mods.

    And I didnt even curse!

    Well, if this one makes it thru, just let me say “hear, hear, Karl Wheatley!” like I said before, due to your very keen remarks re the whole hokey business model approach being laid on education these days by the rheeformers… and by god, are there a lot of them…

    Like Madonna sang: We are living in a material world

    And Cindi: Money changes everything…

    Well, it’s no surprise when both parties are slurping from the same trough. And the unions are tied to one of them. Along for the ride!

    But hey, all are one.

    And yes, these people have not a clue why teachers teach.

    They think we think like they do.

    Thank god, not. Not yet. Hopefully never.

    I wouldnt want anyone who thinks like them teaching my kids.

  • Ayn Marie Samuelson says:

    The term “merit pay” has become an emotional trigger point, and sides have been taken. Implementation of merit pay within the current system would be difficult, as the political-bureaucracy gets stuck on one-size-fits-all, and we know how that turns out – not well.
    But, there are other issues involved in the discussion of merit or performance pay, such as the reaction to teacher tenure and pay scales based on seniority and advanced degrees without actual reference to classroom competency. The public is attracted to the concept that educational funding, which is taxpayer funded, should be targeted to those educators who are competent in subject matter and can teach. Those teachers are the ones who are wanted and needed in the classroom, and they should be well-compensated in their jobs.
    But we need to take the merit pay dialogue to a higher level: How can we ensure that teachers in the classroom are reaching and teaching children? Isn’t that the point? Competent teachers who know their subject, teach it and care about their students are like gold. And how can we find out which teachers meet those criteria? Don’t we need to do that for the students?
    The issue is not that teachers should be accountable for poor parenting, but there are some common-sense factors that we can extol. For example, gain scores for students are important, and regular evaluations should be based on assessing and assisting student learning. This also depends on the student population the teacher is teaching and what type of courses as well. Peer reviews, principal reviews, mentor reviews, support-group reviews, parent reviews and student progress can be measured, some more subjectively than others, but measured nonetheless. Properly designed and fair assessments can assist a teacher understand where she or he needs to improve to become a more accomplished teacher, and he or she should be held accountable to do so.
    Exposing the Public Education System is a new book that documents and explains how the system has failed us all, and shows how the entire system can be transformed, not just one part of it.

  • […] teachers. Writing in Education Next, Eric A. Hanushek explains the importance of academic achievement of schoolchildren, the low […]

  • […] What is the value of a good teacher? Eric Hanushek has done a lot of economic analysis to answer this question. I particularly like […]

  • […] that does not require across-the-board changes in the teacher corp. I recommend Hanushek’s article in Education Next, but let me give a quick summary […]

  • Richard J. Keck says:

    I agree 100% that a lousy teacher can have a lasting and negative impact on students. I’m not really sure how anyone can disagree with this.

    Sure families matter and great teachers matter, but how can we rationalize letting any bad apples stay in the system with the near universal immunity that unions contracts offer.

    So, rather than fight unions, maybe we can improve education by offering lump sum “transition bonuses” to teachers who promise to leave the education game forever.

    The ROI for a $50,000 lump sum “transition bonus” could be extraordinary. Remember that bad teacher impacts 30 classrooms over their career, not just one.

  • H. Dennis says:

    If Finland has one of the top models for education in the world, why doesn’t the USA pattern its system after Finland? One word: POLITICS!!! If we stop the politics in the public schools, we’d have better schools. One of the things that impresses me about Finland is “the lack of politics” in its system. For me to express further thought on this subject would take a “thorough treatise” – too long for here! So, in short, I’ll just say this: “The arrogance of America, to think that she is still ‘the model’ for the rest of the world, is apparent in our world stats in education”.

  • Mike T-B says:

    If student A’s parent(s) is living below the poverty threshhold and I manage to have her graduate, go to community college, and find a decent job at a working-class income – then I have improved that student’s “earning level” by 200-300% – what should my pay be?
    If, on the other hand, student B’s parent(s) makes a strong 6-figure income and he drops out to work at the same working-class wage – then I have impaired that student’s earnings by 1000-2000% – how will that affect my earnings?
    However, the reality of the situation is entirely reversed. Education does not fit the business model across the board; nor do platitudes about improving state-of-life. Perhaps we need to view some schools as entrepeneurial experiments that deserve larger start-up budgets than existing manufacturer’s of successful students…
    But how do you give a child his/her life back if, after 12 years, it just didn’t work?

  • Dad2Luke says:

    Funny how many teachers are asked that the parents butt out of their jobs and yet also insist that the parents’ input to the children is essential for their success. As far as I can tell what I am being told is that parents should pay no attention to the man behind the curtail and let teachers work their magic. But if the magic fails it is the parents’ fault. Anyone ever read Galen Alessi recently?

    As in any other profession the ineffective need to be removed. There is no other way to turn out a quality product. But my vote goes to vouchers. Hold the whole system from top to bottom accountable – not just the teachers.