We all understand intuitively the difference a great teacher makes....Here's a problem.
One Los Angeles study found that having a teacher from the 25 percent most effective group of teachers for four years in a row would be enough to eliminate the black-white achievement gap.
Recent scholarship suggests that good teachers, even kindergarten teachers, increase their students’ earnings many years later. Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that an excellent teacher (one a standard deviation better than average, or better than 84 percent of teachers) raises each student’s lifetime earnings by $20,000....
A teacher better than 93 percent of other teachers would add $640,000 to lifetime pay of a class of 20, the study found.
Look, I’m not a fan of teachers’ unions. They used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective.It appears to be a chicken and egg situation. What should come first? Should we pay all teachers more now, and then hope that reforms will help match pay with performance in the future? Or, should we institute pay for performance standards now as the way to reach that end? Either way is bumpy, but what can we actually afford?
And what about class size? Increasing class sizes could free up money to pay top teachers the salaries they deserve. Remember, the money has to come from somewhere and in this dismal economy taxpayers are just about tapped out.
Indeed, it makes sense to cut corners elsewhere to boost teacher salaries. Research suggests that students would benefit from a tradeoff of better teachers but worse teacher-student ratios. Thus there are growing calls for a Japanese model of larger classes, but with outstanding, respected, well-paid teachers.ADDED: Kristof is getting bashed in the blogosphere for insulting teachers with this:
These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores).