The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

Here’s a great article in the New York Times about teachers, by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari:

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

It turns all the conventional wisdom of the last several decades completely upside down, and challenges all the rhetoric about “teacher accountability.” And it asks us to decide what sort of a nation we want to be, and with what sort of priorities. These are the right questions to ask.

In the end, the answers are unsurprising. There are successful models elsewhere in the world for what works well in education.

These are models we must follow if we are ever to achieve greatness in education.

Excerpts from the article:

“WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

“And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

“Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.

” … So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and Décor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again.

” … every year 20 percent of teachers in urban districts quit. Nationwide, 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year.

” … The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

“Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

“And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.”

Read the full article here.

Here’s the trailer from the documentary, American Teacher:

Comments

One Response to “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries”
  1. Jim Kilmer says:

    Exactly how does higher teacher salaries increased the quantity of goods or services produced? If you doubled teacher salaries, you wouldn’t double the quantity of students… Just the cost… Which consumes the resources of our society.
    Unlike Karl Marx’s thesis, the way for society’s to grow more prosperous over time is to produce more goods and services per capita. Paying teachers more money doesn’t achieve that goal. In fact it consumes resources that could be allocated elsewhere.
    Pay teachers what the market demands. In areas where you have teacher shortages, you need to raise wages. But in areas with no shortage of teachers, a pay cut may be in order.
    It was hilarious to see the teachers in Madison Wisconsin protesting… They earn an average of over $100,000 in pay and benefits… Triple the average US worker…
    Consuming more taxpayer money for the same job makes society poorer, not richer…

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