Better Pay Attracts Better Teachers


How do you explain Finland and New Zealand, where they pay the teachers about the same as here but the test scores are off the charts?
While I think teachers are often unsung heroes and generally underpaid as well, it's also worth noting that for a given purchasing-power-pay-range (mid-$30k's), only one other country produces poorer performing students than the U.S., and Finland does better than anybody.

There's lots more both to attack and praise in this line of reasoning, and I'm sure my fellow Sloggers will have at it.
@1: What the fuck don't you get about statistics? (Oh. Perhaps you had particularly low-paid teachers.)
@ 1, I'd explain that with cultural differences which are not germane to this discussion.
Okay, so how much do we have to pay our teachers to guarantee that all students score perfectly on all tests?
Goldy, see what I did @ 4? That's how you do it.
Apparently you brain trusts had such an awesome education that *correlation does not equal causation* just failed to make a fucking appearance.

How many of those higher countries have more than 199 different spoken or written languages, multiple large ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities, span multiple timezones, are split roughly 50/50 in urban/rural population... Come on, damn it. You can do better than this.
@3, what the fuck don't YOU get about statistics? Or logic, or complexity, or basic human decency, for that matter?

That chart shows correlation but not an extraordinarily high one. And @1's question is extremely pertinent: the success of the Finnish model is pretty damned interesting. There is a lot more involved here than teacher pay.

To quote this recent story in the Atlantic, "[t]he Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence."…
Might work long term but short term you're just paying the same crummy teachers more. To make things better now you need a way to fire the current set of teachers and then buy better ones.
Matt @6: No, that's how you do it. @3 is the way I do it.
@9, I submit that it has little to do with good teachers vs. crappy ones, and everything to do with what those teachers are told to do with their time.
@7, Goldy originally posted this at 10:05, then pulled it. I was sure he would change "direct correlation" (which is perilously close to cause-and-effect), but no. Not sure what changed, since I didn't capture the original.
There's so much involved. Not just pay, sure, but pay is part of it; Goldy has a point.

My kid's teacher is TERRIBLE. She's lousy at time management, she's abysmal with classroom instruction...

I won't make this a rant about her, but will point out that you could attract better teachers by paying them more and then expecting more. And no, that's not going to fix our education system all on its own, but it's part of a step towards a better system.
@1, more from the article I linked to:
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.
Also, Finland has no standardized tests.

Abolish private schools and things will start to change in America. Not before.
@9 There currently are plenty of ways to fire the hoards of "crummy teachers" you think are plaguing the profession; however, most administrators don't want to do the paperwork so they usually opt to make that particular teacher's life miserable enough that they leave the school or the profession. This tactic is commonly used against teachers that the administration doesn't like for any number of reasons, most of them due to differences in philosophies and education politics. So don't worry Quinte, plenty of teachers are being driven from the profession all the time, many of whom would be classified as "crummy" using the simplistic and unreliable measure of student test scores.

Interesting that the US was (by appearances anyway) the second-largest negative deviation from an already weak trendline
Fnarf - Just so we're clear, you would ban people from using their own money to educate their own kids? Lol get fucked
@ 10, what makes that preferable to engaging? To me, it looks defensive and a bit bullying, which I interpret as an outsized reaction to the fact that someone didn't just agree with you.

Fnarf makes a good point about @ 1, something I overlooked myself when I read that comment, but as the guy who was just making fun of Rick Santorum's children on the other thread, maybe he shouldn't be lecturing others about "basic human decency."
@19, absolutely. You shouldn't be able to buy a better school than your neighbors. All schools should be public. Not just because of equality; because taking the kids of the wealthy, committed parents out of the public schools leaves those public schools bereft of the best. Private schools enrich the lives of wealthy but weaken America. They're unpatriotic and indecent.
@11 & 15

1. You would be correct by stating that teachers are PAID for nine months. The rest of the time is essentially a furlough during which we are required to take professional development and further our degrees on our own dime, on top of the countless hours spent outside the paid 7.5 hours a day devoted to planning, assessing and developing curriculum. This directly connects to your question @13...

2. Teachers should be spending more time with things that directly connect to our classroom and our students. High-stakes testing means that now we are spending that time analyzing test scores and working on things that directly connect to raising those test scores. Contrary to what Arne Duncan might tell you, obsessing over standardized tests lowers the quality of our teaching because we have less time for the truly important stuff.
@3 Wow, that's a really hostile response to a legitimate question. Maybe explain to me what I don't get about statistics instead of insulting me. To my eyes, that chart doesn't show a tremendous amount of correlation. And when you have some outstandingly successful outliers like Finland and New Zealand, as well as Australia, Japan, and Korea, it seems completely obvious that you'd want to ask what's going on there. Unless you're just some asshole with an ax to grind, of course.
@8 My god, that's a fascinating article. I want to read Sahlberg's book now.
@21, why is this not a thing yet? Simply staggeringly good idea, as far as I can see.
Why on earth would the US government want to pay for better teachers? Schools are for producing obedient workers, and we have a surplus of those already. Their secondary purpose is to keep children busy and out of the work force, and they do that just fine with the teachers they have.
Finland has a lot of things going for it. It has the best schools in the world by almost all measures (e.g. PISA, etc.). Some surprising facts about Finnish education that we might be able to emulate in this country if more educators and parents got their heads out of the ground:

1. Kids don't start regular school until age 6. Before that, (free universal) nursery schools and preschools focus on letting kids play, play, play, and play more. Play is learning, and the Finns see play-as-learning as the cornerstone of early chidhood education. Finnish kids don't even start to learn to read until age 6-7.

2. Not only are there no private schools (or at least no schools that are not publicly funded), there are no "school districts" as we think of them. Every school is a fairly autonomous entity unto itself. Each school and each teacher gets to decide independently on how to structure the curriculum, what materials to use, what pace to go, etc. While there is a very loosely defined national curriculum, it makes almost no requirements of individual teachers.

3. Teachers stay with the same group of kids for multiple years, becoming an additional "parent" in many ways, and the small, cohesive classes learn to support and help each other.

4. There is essentially no standardized testing in Finland. The success of educational programs is observed indirectly in the employability, creativity, and innovation produced by the society in general.

5. Teachers teach in teams and come up with ideas together for dealing with the specific needs of specific classes and students.

Here are some things about Finnish education that the United States would have a harder time emulating:

1. Although teachers earn salaries comparable to their counterparts in the U.S., Finnish teachers all enjoy free universal health care and universal pension/retirement plans and ample paid vacation and sick days. If you factor these and other benefits in, Finnish teachers have a total compensation package nearly twice the value of what the average American teacher gets. (Note that Finnish teachers are unionized as well.)

2. Teachers incur no education debt because postsecondary education is free there. Teachers are required to have advanced degrees and undergo long-term apprenticeship teaching. American teachers typically graduate with debt and have spent less than a year student teaching, at most.

3. Teachers are treated as professionals and act like professionals. There is no micromanaging of their time and qualifications the way American teaching contracts do. Becoming a teacher is something many kids aspire to. In America, professionals from other fields cannot easily jump into teaching the way they can in Finland because of onerous qualification and labor union rules in the United States.

4. Because of universal health care and social benefits, Finnish children and their families do not have medical issues or nutrition issues the way a large percentage of American kids do. Thus, the schools are freer to focus on education and less on many social problems that plague American schools.
The author of LeisureVille makes a similar point about retirement cities.

When elders pull out of communities, the schools have a smaller, more limited tax base. And these retirement cities do not, generally, support school funding levies for the children of people who work for the businesses these retirees frequent – so the new communities are just as screwed as the abandoned ones. I’m not saying (nor was Blechman) that there should be laws against moving to retirement communities, but people should be aware of the social contract and what their lifestyles are doing to schools.

Affluent parents decide that public schools are doing poorly, so they pull their kids (and support)(and volunteer hours) out, ensuring that those schools will continue to do poorly, and worsen.
@13: Nothing changed. I pulled it because there's only a couple of us filling Slog today, and a cluster of posts all went up within minutes of each other, so I wanted to spread things out.

That said, I said "correlation," not "causation," so any attempt by folks here to discredit me with the latter is bullshit. The study showed a correlation.

Furthermore, as my post points out, this is a correlation that capitalist theory predicts we should see: higher pay should attract higher quality workers. That's the way labor markets are supposed to work. And I find it absolutely baffling that the folks hawking market based education reforms should insist on dismissing this basic principle.

Or maybe schools shouldn't be funded on the local level. Retirement communities or not, the fact remains that our current model of funding benefits rich districts at the expense of poor ones.

Teachers are required to have advanced degrees and undergo long-term apprenticeship teaching.

In America, professionals from other fields cannot easily jump into teaching the way they can in Finland because of onerous qualification and labor union rules in the United States.

How are these two points not contradictory?
@3 What an asshole.

From your study of statistics you probably understand that @1's question was perfectly legit when trying to understand this linear relationship?

Since you state "a direct correlation between teacher pay and student performance" by looking at that scatter plot, I too would like to hear your explanation of the New Zealand and Finland outliers. Else, cum hoc ergo propter hoc, vobis mentula.
@31, as I thought: you don't know a fucking thing about statistics. Not one single, solitary fucking thing.
As a former classroom instructor I can assure you that there are not all that many 'bad' teachers. There are a few in every school, probably about the same number of folks who are bad at their jobs as anywhere else. What there is a lot of is bad administration and curriculum development.

Case in point- Block Scheduling and Integrated Math instruction. The theory behind integrated math is that each concept builds on the last, so young folks are learning basic skills, algebra, geometry etc all at the same time. Seems logical enough, but here is the problem: admins decided to reduce transition time by making classes longer and only meeting every other day- also seems logical. Now combine the 2. You have learning that is supposed to build on the previous lesson, but math class only meets twice a week (plus a short check-in w/ each class on fridays, with no instruction), and if you miss a day, or there is a holiday (of which there are many), you only have class once a week. The teachers know this won't work. American education is a fad-driven field, always on the backs of teachers who over the course of a 30-40 year career will probably suffer through a dozen totally different modes of doing their job, most of which will make things worse, over which they have little input.

also- how many of these countries have mandatory education through the age of 18? are we comparing ourselves to countries that 'turn loose' the kids who do poorly after age 14 or 16?
@7: The US Census seems to think that there's about four times more people living in urban areas than rural areas.…
@32 But President Perry is going to close the Dept of Ed, so I doubt he'll want to change the funding structure of local school districts. And I doubt that red-states will want us liberals force-feeding their kids all that new-fangled sciency-type-jargon-stuff.
Teachers are more sucessful at teaching in cultures that value learning. Here in the U.S.A. pupils and parents often look down on teachers. After all, how important can someone be if they can't afford a cool car? Only here in the States do you hear; "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" Americans distrust education unless it related directly to making money.
@28, that's a great point about benefits, particularly health care, bringing up the compensation package of Finnish teachers up far higher than what that chart says. America is such an outlier on health care now, as we continue to pretend that we're not paying for it even as we continue to pay twice as much as anyone else for it, that all our statistics are skewed this way. It's similar to the way health care costs are making economic recovery impossible, since health care is a hidden, massive tax on employment in this country that hirers in other countries don't have to pay.

What's your reasoning behind thinking that taking wealthy and a few lucky exceptional students out of public schools hurts the public schools? I'm not trying to be argumentative; I'm just curious because it flies in the face of what I've personally experienced.

Is the reasoning that exceptional students set a good example for everyone else? Or is just that they raise test scores for the school as a whole?
@30 Actually it's quite the opposite. Private schools are self-segregated by race and class, creating a homogenous environment that creates a fear of the "other." Culturally and economically diverse schools have a much easier time teaching compassion and inclusiveness. Not that they all do, but the opportunity is there. Most teachers see a heterogeneous classroom as the key to teaching for social justice and equality.
@40, it's partly the example, but it's also things like rich parents refusing to put up with inadequate libraries, inadequate teachers, inadequate educational programs like art and music, inadequate supplies, inadequate field trips, ad infinitum. Basically, rich parents demand more, and are better equipped to understand what "more" really means.

In addition, public schools bear almost the entire burden of the "difficult" children, such as the physically disabled, mentally disabled, mentally ill, emotionally troubled, and almost all the kids on the spectrum from "acting out" to "actively criminal". These kids are incredibly expensive to educate.

I'm not that interested in test scores. At the end of schooling, sure, the SATs are one of a dozen useful indicators, and some testing along the way can point out incipient problems, but really, ugh. An interesting test from my perspective would be scoring kids on the answer to "what's the last book you read?"

We're pretty confident that hiring better teachers improves educational outcomes. Pay can help, but generally teachers in America are in low-status jobs in comparison to the amount of education they have to pay for to get their jobs in the first place. Other countries can attract better teachers for less money than we can for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are working relatively high status jobs.

A great comparison would be the military. Being an enlisted soldier in the US is a much higher status job than what it's pay would indicate. This is cultural and it took a long time to develop. Suddenly increasing existing teacher's pay won't change the culture we live in immediately.
Interesting stuff about the Finnish system. The ban on private schools makes a lot of sense. But what about New Zealand -anyone know much about their system? I believe they do have private schools there, unlike Finland, and they seem to be extremely successful by the measure of this chart, despite paying their teachers pretty badly. What's the deal there, anyone know?

Also, even though I realize the benefits are way better in other countries, I am still really surprised at how low actual wages are for teachers are in some very rich countries! I mean, Norway? Less than 30K? wtf!
Simac@28 puts forth most of the reasoning for why Finland does better.

Here are a couple more.
1) the teachers spend nearly as much time with other teachers at their school as they do with students. They talk about each student and ask for strategies to help the student. They talk about coordinated lessons. In short, they build a teaching corps in each building so that each teacher isn't in his/her own vacuum. It builds teamwork and pride in the profession.

2) Years back, if Oprah mentioned public school teachers, loud cheers. Today, not so much. There has been a systematic demonizing of teachers and I can't say why precisely except some are anti-union (and want to break the teachers' unions) and they need someone to blame. Do you hear any of that ire directed at superintendents and principals? No.

3) The public support and belief in public education is stronger in many countries. Teachers in Finland are as educated as doctors and lawyers. In Singapore, it is consider a huge job because of the teacher's influence on the child. We do not have that respect for education or teaching in our country. We have idiot presidents who say "hey I got Cs and I'm President." We have stupid tv shows like Jackass that celebrate being dumb. As the Dean said in Animal House, "Dumb and fat is not the way to go through life, son."

4) Lastly, the third rail of public education that no one talks about. Parents. Kids spend more time out of school than in school. They are in a country where being stupid is celebrated more than being smart. We are in a country where many people make the choice to be a single parent even though they have no real way to support/guide their child.

It can't all fall on teachers.

It's interesting because Teach for America basically bribes Ivy Leaguers to deign to teach inner-city kids for two years. The majority leave after two-years but some stay on and the cry is always "if they just paid more."

Teachers should get paid more (and not stupid bonuses but within their salaries).
Finland has a more homogeneous population but as immigration is changing their demographics, schools are having more problems (particularly in the greater Helsinki
area where immigrants prefer to move).

Note it can take just a few weeks to learn to read and write Finnish - each letter makes
one sound, almost every word is spoken like it is spelled (tuli, tuuli, tulli, etc are all
different words which their ears differentiate easily - not so easy for many Americans
and just don't get started on the fact the nouns decline into ~17 cases and there are
enclitics and postpositions (vs prepositions)).
I'd be interested to see a chart like this that measures test scores against how much time teachers have to focus solely on planning, prepping, assessing, and modifying instruction for their classes.

Personally, I'd rather have more time than more money. It's impossible to be the best teacher one can be with the 115 minutes of the contract day I have to do the above (along with various other duties like parent communication, IEP meetings, ordering supplies, etc.) for 5 classes/150 students a day.

Obviously I and every other teacher I know works long past contract hours just to keep our heads above water.
I'm a little puzzled by the vitriol against the "reform" movement -- are "reformers" really against paying teachers more? I know plenty of "reformers" (myself included) who think that paying teachers more (and generally improving the stature of the teaching profession) is critically important. I happen to think that the way we pay teachers doesn't make much sense (experience and degree-based schedules ), but the amount clearly should be higher on average. Anyways, there are lots of thoughtful "reformers" out there, it's not only people who worship at the alter of competition...
@45, the ecstatic celebration of stupidity, and the concomitant conviction that you don't need no durn-fool book-larnin' to know wut's wut, is indeed astonishing in this country -- and unlike any other; even places that have a little of it (Australia, Italy, the UK, plenty of others) don't have it in the overwhelming totality that we do, and they generally don't have it in their top offices. In no other nation would an entire lineup of presidential candidates express not just the lack of knowledge and awareness but the exuberant pride in that lack that the Republicans have been offering us.

Which is awful, because Americans used to stand for knowing how to get things done. Now our heroes are Kardashians.

Case in point: Steve Jobs is a hero, and was lionized when he died. But his products were all wholly dependent on dramatic improvements in battery engineering; those brick-like cell phones of 20 years ago were all battery. Name one battery engineer.
That's right folks, hire nothing but Ivy leaguers @ $100k each to teach at Rainier Beach high school and it'll be cranking out future Rhodes Scholars by the pound.
So you say it would be easier to give everyone a 15% raise than to implement a bunch of crazy liberal do gooder scheme (like charter schools).


I definitely agree with your second and third paragraphs, but I'm skeptical about schools improving because rich parents won't put up with inadequate facilities. I grew up in a rich school district, and our schools weren't inadequate, not so much because parents in that town wouldn't put up with it but because those schools were drowning in property tax income.

Our country is greatly segregated by income and race, and I don't see getting rid of private schools as a solution unless we also completely change the way schools are funded.
@52, I absolutely agree.
I'm a part-time teacher. The expectations are ridiculous, the support is nominal and the pay is abysmal. I do it because it is the most rewarding and fun job I've ever had, and I'm pretty good at it, to boot. I wish I could do it full time (the college has asked me to), but I can't afford it. It's unfortunate but true: With few exceptions, the most meaningful and rewarding jobs pay terribly.
The whole Pay-Performance thing is subverted by figures that show that suburban schools that have half the funding per pupil of urban schools often have stellar performance, while city schools have abysmal performance.

Some suburban districts can fund schools with as little as $6000 per pupil, and yet they matriculate at Ivy League colleges. Washington, DC, the most expensive in the nation at $11,000 is more of a jail system.

Even here, Seattle public schools are terrible, yet have some of the wealthiest families living here along with the very poor. Meanwhile, Bellevue, which is far more homogeneous and middle class spends much less on schools and government in general, yet has nice houses, with larger plots, and also better schools (last I read, something like 11 Bellevue high schools schools are in the nation's top 1000).
Wow, what a lot of intelligent discussion. Can we start an alternate Slog, written by all of you commenters, including @1 Mr. Avacado, so we don't have to put up with more of Goldy's statistical wizdom?
@16, that's an excellent point. Get rid of the private schools and you're putting the kids of every greedy rich fucker in a public school. When their kids are in the public schools with the rest of us schleps they'll be more willing to invest in public education.

@Goldy, By raising teacher pay you not only incentivise better teachers to enter the profession but you also give current teachers reason to be better at their job. When my company raised my pay I worked harder. If they paid me more I might not spend so much time on Slog. ;)

@28, thank you for that extremely comprehensive post. That was very helpful.

@55 it would be interesting to know how many of those "wealthiest families" send their kids to public schools rather than private.
Two things would help: front load the pay scale to give starting teachers more than 25K a year, and then defer and then forgive part/all of student loans after 5 or so years in the profession. They are so many great potential teachers out there but can't afford to get into the profession.
There was a NYC charter school in the news a few years back that was going to try a new pay scheme - the teachers all got more than $100k, which was more than the principal earned (and the principal was the brain behind the plan). The goal, obviously, was to attract the best teachers and cut in other ways. Not sure what happened though...
Why is nobody considering the amount of instruction time students receive in different countries? Seems more important than how much their teacher gets paid (per hour).

Teachers should get paid more because they should work more. A teacher's contract in Seattle is for 1,600 hours or so which is ridiculously less than the 2080 the rest of the full time workforce works. Add the 15% of additional time teachers put in and it still comes up way short.

Students learn more when they are taught more. Simple.
@60, simple. And stupid. You're like one of those yahoos who complains because Bash McSlugger only plays baseball three hours a day for his pay, completely neglecting the thousands of hours of training he does. 15%? You don't know any teachers. Even the bad ones put in more than that.
#59 - do you read Metafilter?
@62: No, should I? I actually have to cut down on my internet time, actually...

@60: Finland and a lot of other high scoring countries already do better with LESS instructional time:

"According to the OECD, the hours of compulsory instruction per year in these countries range from 608 hours in Finland (a top performer) to 926 hours in France (average) at the elementary level, compared to the over 900 hours required in California, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. Of particular note, no state requires as few hours as Finland, even though Finland scores near the top of nearly every international assessment. As a matter of fact, Vermont – a high-performing state7 -- requires the fewest number of hours (700 hours) for its elementary students (grades 1-2) than any other state, and it still requires more than Finland. Vermont’s requirement is also more than the 612 hours high-achieving Korea requires of its early elementary students. Moreover, all but 5 states require more hours of instruction at the early elementary school level than the OECD countries8 average of 759 hours."…
Well, in countries where education and knowledge are respected, so are teachers. As previously stated, the U.S. loves ignorance. Only country in the world where "intellectual elite" is considered an insult. All the people I graduated college with a degree in education have left the profession at this point and honestly it wasn't just crap pay and having to pay for the course materials and supplies out of their own pocket that made them leave teaching. It was complete and total disrespect from parents, students, admin, the public, and politicians. The crap pay would have been bearable if they'd been shown any sort of respect, treated like they were a professional, and not demonized as burden's on the taxpayer's teat. I'm told that pay in Finland is low but teachers and education is held in high regard and their profession is considered as important and valuable as doctor. I know that if my friends had been held in that regard they would certainly still be teaching even if the actual pay was rather low. Ditto: my librarian friends.
@60- yes, when you factor in all the overtime and time off it comes out to something like 1800 hours. The only people who work less for full time pay are sheriffs' deputies and the fire department.

Again- I used to do the job, and I can assure you, as nice as it would be to make a few more dollars, the money was actually pretty good, as were the benefits. During the summer I picked up a ton of extra $ working construction, did odd jobs on my many long breaks (2 full weeks off during xmas!).

There are a million things that need to be done to fix the system we have built. And if a few teachers or potential teachers would be motivated by a few extra bucks, that is money well spent. but it is far rom the first thing needed. There are qualified teachers lined up 5 deep for every potential job. If you want to get work immediately out of college you are advised to focus on 'profound needs' special ed. otherwise you're likely going to spend 3-4 years working as a sub or temp or extremely prt time.
@55 Seattle has around 25% of it's children in private schools, compared to a roughly 10% national average. PTAs cover a wide variety of things from their own funds, everything from arts & music instruction to classroom grants to scholarship funds for the children at their school who can't afford extra curricular or field trip fees. Private schools also rely extensively on parent donations beyond plain tuition, so cost-per-child comparisons ignore a huge amount of actual cash that goes into the education of these suburban and upper income children. Furthermore, upper income parents often have flexible schedules that allow one or both parents time to volunteer at schools and invest themselves in school politics and improvements in a way that poor working families do not, and those highly skilled, unpaid hours contribute dramatically to education.

Fnarf is dead right about this.
So because teacher pay is low we don't attract the best teachers? Therefore it's the teacher's fault?

Face it, some communities simply don't give. As hit about education and 'acting white'. You could
pay their teachers $250k a year and the results would be the same. How come north end Seattle schools do a great job educating kids, at a lower cost per student than southend schools?

Parents maybe?
@47 I agree, that for me, it's more about time than money. Imagine giving a presentation for five hours of your work day, EVERY DAY. You have thirty minutes for lunch. You can't leave the building. You can't leave the room, even to pee. How long would you need to prepare? How much time would you need after to just decompress and think? Put aside that teachers present to children with all the myriad issues that others have mentioned. Most teachers have the best intentions, but with a work load like that I'm not surprised that many burn out.
Do not know about New Zealand.
Finland has an average class size of 15, plus a teacher aid in each room so the individual attention is high.
They have a large Swedish speaking minority, and they are taught in Swedish. There is also a smaller Lapp minority to the North of the country.
Higher pay, longer school year or school day would all help, as well as small class size.
I would like to see a graph with multi dimensions including pay, class size, and wether those on the trade track are included in the testing. Sure, in the lower grades before the kids are tracked, but what about the upper grades.
There is no doubt that higher pay would get a different teacher mix, perhaps better. I think we all understand this is a more complex issue that teacher pay. Again, class size and number of hours of instruction in a year would help.
I currently teach high school here in WA, but did my teacher training and first year of teaching in the UK. Teacher pay is definitely an issue that needs to be reformed in education, but it is so much more than just raising the base pay. And there are many more factors that make teaching in America less than ideal. The UK achieves quite a bit higher test results without paying much better, and there were a lot of things that I liked better about teaching there. (Although there were a lot of things that the UK needed to improve on, as well.)

UK teacher training involved two different schools and collaboration with more teachers than student teachers in America have. Training was also subsidized in subjects that struggle to attract teachers, such as math(s) and physics, and trainee teachers earned a $12,000 stipend. The first year of teaching is also designed to provide the newly qualified teacher more support and a reduced workload to aid in the learning curve and ease the transition. I also can’t verify this, not having done any teacher training in America, but I think the UK programs provide much more training in classroom management, which really helps.

I was also observed much more frequently in the UK than here in America, mostly informally, and graded on a four-level scale of outstanding, good, satisfactory, or poor for the 2 formal observations, with a lot of constructive feedback about what I was doing well and needed to improve on. Also, I was observed by people who knew about the teaching specific to my field (German). Here in America, I am only observed twice a year, by someone who doesn’t know German or how to teach a foreign language. There are also county-wide education authorities and a national office for standards which come in and observe teachers in every subject across the school every few years in the UK.

My experiences so far in America (I am in my third year of teaching, but my first year full-time) are that the pay isn’t what bothers me. (But I’m not choosing between a career of teaching or as an engineer in a private firm…) It’s that, once I’m a certified teacher, there isn’t really anywhere for my career to go – to earn more money, I can become head of the department, which doesn’t bring enough of a raise with it to make the time spent worth it to me, I can earn more credits, and I can build years of experience. If I’m an excellent teacher, there’s not many ways for that to be recognized or any advancement to be made within the hierarchy of the school. Contrast that to England, where there are many different levels within a school – it’s too complicated to explain succinctly, but excellence in classroom teaching is more easily recognized and rewarded with positions that have higher pay. These positions also result in a lightened teaching load to accommodate the extra demands. There also seemed to be more money available for me to use in my professional development. There was never a question of having my school pay for a conference or class; I just had to submit the right paperwork.

Overall, I felt way more supported in my quest to become a better teacher and that there was more of a need to, with all of the different levels of observations and the frequency of them. Here, I could easily coast along for the rest of my career taking bs credits to fulfill requirements and never strive to improve, and because I am a good teacher, no one would care.
The only things that I think can really be taken from this data is that paying teachers really low is a surefire way to screw your education system and that paying teachers a ton insures that you will do better than average. the mid to high ranges are a total grab bag, leading me to believe that in the mid pay ranges culture and the way systems are structured are way more influential on education quality then they are at either extreme.
@64: Ah, but in private schools, the teachers ARE treated like this. Rare are the public schools where this is the case, but there's an occasional similarity...
So what's the deciding difference in contrast to public schools? The pay? The hours? Class size? I think these are factors that weave together, but I think above all: "Parental/family/community respect for education". No one in a private school spends their energy on a bitch&moan blog or writing eloquent protests to stupid decisions at board meetings; no one expects the school to feed 2 square meals to their special little snowflake for free; no one treats the institution as their rightful free daycare.
They are there to learn (even if their kids aren't always).
The Rev's easybake new school reform recipe/brainstorm:
LOWER CLASS SIZE (to ~ 1:15 ratio);
GIVE INSTRUCTOR RAISES TO PUT SALARIES IN COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SCHOOLS (and actually build schools that COMPETE with private schools and use economics of supply/demand to put them out of business);
DROP STUDENT TESTING DOWN TO 3 PER SCHOOL CAREER (grade, middle and high)...(but institute principal and administrator testing for job evals);

@31: yes, pay can attract better workers. but workers do better and increase innovation when they are given total freedom to create + LESS 'managing'. BETTER, EVEN, THAN GIVING THEM outrageous RAISES. see also Dan Pink's RSA talk on "What Motivates" and the MIT study here:…
aside: slog is something which must be filled daily? Oy.

@12: add also; Year after year, teacher unions ask for ONE THING: smaller class size. Listen to the teachers!**
@32: If fairness/financial equity is paramount, redraw the districts then, like congress.
@35: word. Bad and good WORKERS exist in any organization, regardles of industry (Gov however seems especially good at gathering in their top ranks more of the latter).
@thatsnotright: isn't that quote a question posed to Batman from the Riddler?
@Fnarf: Name one american cell phone battery FACTORY and I'll name a battery engineer. =)
@5 get rid of the tests - problem solved.
@60/65: you seriously think a teacher's duties are limited to 7.5 - 10 hrs /day for only the mandated 180 school days? I don't know these teachers. in SPS, ISD, LWSD, etc 40% additional time is typical (12+ hrs/day for 180days or 6 day workweek), and CE eats up an average of 3 to 5 weeks of the 'summer break'. The "summers off" lazy teacher is as rare and inaccurate as the '100% Bootstraps Student' meme.

...Doubling the number of teachers in the union scares somebody, I guess.