Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Teacher salaries, then and now by gender

Last week I showed the relative change in income for teachers versus others over the last 50 years. It’s interesting to break down the comparison by gender. Here’s a picture doing men and women separately.

Historical 2

A couple of interesting facts. Teacher income has gone up for both men and women, although not by much, but income has gone up a heck of a lot less for teachers than it has in the rest of the labor market. Interestingly, while women teachers earn less than male teachers, the gap has closed somewhat over the last half century. Since most teachers, then and now, are on a salary scale, I assume this means a relative increase for women terms of education and years of experience.

Here’s the same data presented a little differently.

Historical 3

 

Then and now, teaching has been a relatively better-paying job for women than for men. That the majority of teachers are women is surely not a coincidence.

Fifty years ago, teaching paid was an average-income job for women. Nowadays, median income for women teachers is only 80 percent of the income in other professions. The drop for men is also large, dropping from 78 to 61 percent.

Pay matters.

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5 Responses to Teacher salaries, then and now by gender

  1. “median income for women teachers is 80% the income in other professions…for men…61%” http://t.co/g7uJfbIwHw

  2. @mazehr says:

    RT @ChadAldeman: 50 years ago, female teachers made more than female non-teachers. Not anymore: http://t.co/VgY68yC6Az

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Student teaching and teacher placements

My friends who know much more than I do about the nitty-gritty of teacher education say that the student teaching experience is critical. One thing districts could do more of is to provide well-mentored, student teaching opportunities and then go after the student teachers who looked particularly good as potential recruits.

A new paper,  “A Foot in the Door,” explores the link between student teaching assignments and placements into first teaching jobs. The authors look at 8,000+ student teachers from six schools in Washington State.

Findings:

  • 40% of first placements were into the same district as the student teaching. (15% into the same building.)
  • First placements are typically near the student teacher’s home, as measured by high school. But the location of the student teaching experience was more important than location of the student’s high school.
  • Student teaching opportunities tend to be in better performing districts than are first placements.

It would be interesting to know if these same patterns show up in other states. Unfortunately, most states don’t make available the kind of data needed to do this kind of research.

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3 Responses to Student teaching and teacher placements

  1. RT @NCTQ: Good @ProfitOfEd write-up of @CEDR_US paper on role of student teacher placement in #teachers teaching near home http://t.co/t5f9…

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STEM and STEM trained teachers

Tim Sass’ paper “Understanding the STEM Pipeline,” contributes a lot to our understanding of the linkages between K-12 teaching and studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in college. One particular point caught my eye. Sass asks how having a teacher who herself majored in a science subject affects the likelihood of a student taking a STEM course in college. (Data is from public universities in Florida.)

Specifically, Sass asked how a student having taken a biology course in high school from a teacher who herself majored in biology changed the probability of that student’s taking at least one STEM course as a frosh in college. Same question for chemistry and math.

The answer is that having a trained science teacher in this way does matter. The effect isn’t huge, but it’s definitely there. The effect size  (these are my reading of the author’s tables) is about a quarter the size of the gender effect. (Women are less likely to take a STEM course.)

Interestingly, conditional on having gotten themselves into a public college in Florida Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to take one or more STEM courses their first year in college.

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Teacher salaries, then and now

In the “old days,” teaching was a more respected profession and relatively better paid. I decided to do a little historical research about the actual facts of earnings using data from the fabulous source, iPums.org. I measured median annual income in 1965 and 2014, about 50 years apart, for teachers and non-teachers, keeping the sample to full-time, college-educated workers. (Everything is adjusted to 2014 dollars using the consumer price index.)

The picture:

Historical 1

You’ll see that teacher income has gone up just a smidgen (red bars). In contrast, income in competing jobs has gone up a fair amount. Surely, this is a piece of the explanation of why we can’t get enough great teachers.

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8 Responses to Teacher salaries, then and now

  1. @chartutor says:

    RT @MrPABruno: “teacher income has gone up just a smidgen. In contrast, income in competing jobs has gone up a fair amount” http://t.co/gCJ…

  2. RT @MrPABruno: “teacher income has gone up just a smidgen. In contrast, income in competing jobs has gone up a fair amount” http://t.co/gCJ…

  3. “teacher income has gone up just a smidgen. In contrast, income in competing jobs has gone up a fair amount” http://t.co/gCJvGyIEPL

  4. Dan says:

    And importantly, many occupations were closed off for woman and minorities in the 1960s so they couldn’t access some of the higher paying jobs that were out there.

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More on teacher experience

A quickie on teachers getting better with more experience. The long-held view was that teachers improve rapidly for two or three years, or at most five years or so, and then do not improve much past that. (On average, of course. Every individual is different.)

A paper entitled  “Productivity Returns to Experience in the Teacher Labor Market,” is adding to the accumulating evidence that the average teacher keeps getting better for many years–especially in teaching math.

John Papay and Matthew Kraft tried out a variety of empirical specifications and put together the results in a neat picture. The top panel gives math results and the bottom panel gives results for reading.

papay kraft

It’s true that teachers improve very quickly in the first few years. But it’s also true that they continue to improve gradually thereafter. In the authors’ preferred model, about half of the return to experience shows up in the first five years and the rest is spread out over the rest of a career. Other models show the later-career gains being a little less, but still there.

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6 Responses to More on teacher experience

  1. RT @NCTQ: .@ProfitOfEd: new evidence that #teachers improve beyond 5 yrs exp. http://t.co/u8XUR3H5lK Top is math, then reading http://t.co/…

  2. “half of return to experience shows up in the first five years and the rest is spread out over the rest of a career” http://t.co/9DPsvfIRs6

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Disappointing evidence on board certification

National Board Certified teachers have to go to great lengths to prove their accomplishments. Quite a few states offer moderate bonuses to teachers who achieve NBCT status. So I’m a bit surprised at evidence offered by James Cowan and Dan Goldhaber that shows that getting board certified teachers into high-poverty schools doesn’t seem to do anything for student achievement.

Washington State has for some time offered bonuses, around $5,000, to board certified teachers. More recently Washington started paying an additional $5,000 to board certified teachers at high-poverty (as measured by free or reduced lunch enrollment) schools. Cowan and Goldhaber begin by checking whether the added bonus increased NBCT participation in schools. The answer is yes. More NBCTs were hired and more teachers in eligible schools applied for certification.

Looking at the authors’ picture you can see the jump up in eligible schools.

Cowan and Goldhaber 1So the new bonus program did increase the number of certified teachers at eligible schools. It’s worth noting that there aren’t very many certified teachers around. So while the program increased the number of NBCTs at eligible schools by about a quarter, on average this is only about half a teacher per school.

Did the increase in board certified teachers lead to better student outcomes? Since there are relatively few NBCTs, you might expect a relatively modest improvement for the average student in an eligible school. Surprisingly, the evidence is somewhere between nothing happened and student achievement declined.

The authors’ student achievement picture:

Cowan and Goldhaber 2
Cowan and Goldhaber are quite careful with their statistical conclusion, pointing out that while the estimates are that more NBCTs led to a decline in student achievement that the estimates are imprecise. They can’t rule out small improvements in student achievement.

In sum, the evidence is weakly negative with regard to the impact of board certified teachers. Disappointing, and not what I would have expected.

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11 Responses to Disappointing evidence on board certification

  1. @NCTQ says:

    .@ProfitOfEd: CEDR on Natl Board Cert (http://t.co/uXp1U7DX8Z): bonuses get NBCT’s into high-poverty schools – at best no impact on outcomes

  2. @WilsonBoyd says:

    RT @MrPABruno: They find bonuses increase NBCT participation but not achievement.//Disappointing evidence on board certification http://t.c…

  3. They find bonuses increase NBCT participation but not achievement.//Disappointing evidence on board certification http://t.co/TVT9N2iP9H

  4. @nwaymack says:

    RT @ProfitOfEd: Disappointing evidence on board certification: National Board Certified teachers have to go to great lengths to … http://…

  5. @ChadAldeman says:

    RT @ProfitOfEd: Disappointing evidence on board certification: National Board Certified teachers have to go to great lengths to … http://…

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Pension debt: not the unions’ fault

If you don’t have enough to worry your mind, read the NCTQ’s report on teacher pension funding. The unfunded part of pension debt has risen a 100 billion dollars over the last few years.

I had assumed that teacher unions and politicians have basically agreed to promise good teacher pensions without bothering to set aside money to pay for said pensions. Turns out it’s true that money has not been set aside, but it looks like unions had nothing to do with it. I’ve made a little graph of all the states showing unfunded teacher pensions per student (taken from the NCTQ report) against the fraction of teachers unionized (from the School and Staffing Survey).

pension debt vs union

The scatter is totally random. There’s just no relation there. The politicians may well be responsible. But it’s not the unions.

m4s0n501
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  1. @NCTQ says:

    RT @ProfitOfEd: #pension debt: not unions’ fault: If u don’t have enough to worry about, read @NCTQ report. http://t.co/pQ0vtccFS6

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How do teachers spend their time?

The “Teaching and Learning International Survey” (TALIS) asked lower secondary school teachers around the world how they spend their work time. American teachers report working 45 hours a week during the school year. Teachers in other countries report an average 38 hour work week. (Do note that self-reports of work hours aren’t always terribly accurate. Also, the American number is a bit higher than other sources show. But even if the measurements are imperfect, there’s no reason to think that any biases are different in the U.S. and elsewhere.)

Interestingly, the 7 hour difference in work hours is entirely in the time spent actually teaching. There’s not much difference in the time spent on other tasks. Teachers in the U.S. spend more time teaching than do teachers elsewhere. Here’s a little chart of how the American teachers spend their time.

Teacher hours US

Perhaps not surprisingly, after actually teaching, time is spent mostly grading and planning.

The numbers for teachers outside the U.S. look pretty much the same, except for fewer hours teaching and a bit less in the catch-all “all other” category.

Teacher hours international

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Spending on K-12 and college

American colleges are the envy of the world. Our K-12 system, not so much. Let me offer two pictures taken from Condition of Education 2014 that just might shed some light on the situation.

First, a graph showing spending per student for elementary and secondary

K12 expenditure

 

You can see that what a country spends on K-12 is essentially proportional to the country’s income. The U.S. is a relatively high spender, but we’re also wealthy. For K-12, the U.S. spends just about exactly what you’d expect given our income level.

Now what about college?

postsecondary expenditure

Not only does the U.S. outspend other countries on college, we spend much more than would be predicted from the fact that we’re wealthy.

Do we spend more on college relative to K-12 because colleges are relatively more successful, or does causality go the other way around? In other words, are colleges in the U.S. relatively more successful because we spend more? I don’t know the answer, but it’s an interesting comparison to think about.

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2 Responses to Spending on K-12 and college

  1. “what a country spends on K-12 is essentially proportional to the country’s income” http://t.co/B8Uxud2qkC http://t.co/9AOpnxuTP7

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Incentive pay

I am not the greatest fan of incentive pay for teachers. Higher pay for all teachers, yes; big bonuses for just a few teachers, not so much. Given that, I’m intrigued by a new report by  Victor Lavy about an incentive pay experiment in Israel that seems to have been a raving success.

The Israeli experiment, which Lavy helped design, offered incentive pay to grade 10 through 12 teachers in 49 schools. Bonuses depended on how well students did on exams compared to their predicted scores from a statistical model. Teachers were ranked according to how well their students performed compared to students of other teachers of the same subject in the same school. Winners received one-time bonuses ranging from $7,500 down to $1,750. This at a time when teacher salaries averaged around $30,000. Note these are potentially very large bonuses.

Lavy finds that a decade and a half later, students in the schools where bonuses were offered are earning 7 percent more than students who’d attended other schools.

Big deal? Yes, very big deal.

Suppose we run these numbers into an American context. U.S. labor earnings are around 6 trillion (which leaves out all sort of stuff that probably ought to be counted, so we’re going to get a low-ball estimate). 7 percent of 6 trillion is $420 billion a year.

What about the cost side? We don’t have numbers on the total cost of the bonuses in Israel. We do know they ranged from 25% to 6% of salary, and that not all teachers won a bonus at all. Let’s be outrageous and imagine that every teacher got a 25% bonus.

A very rough number is that in the U.S. we spend $250 billion on teacher salaries. 25% of that is $62.5 billion.

In other words, the payback is 7 to 1. Hmmm, once you account for not all that many teachers getting a 25% bonus the payback would seem to be more like 15 to 1. But even 7 to 1 is an extraordinarily high return.

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