NCTQ reports on a story in The Journal that West Virginia’s state Senate has voted to raise the minimum starting salary for teachers from $27,917 to $43,000…by 2019.
First thing: Thanks West Virginia senators! You’ve taken a big, badly needed, step forward.
Second thing: A little context. I looked at salary data (from the most recent Current Population Survey) for college graduates under age 30 in West Virginia who work full-time. Add in a couple of percent annual inflation between now and 2019 and a rough guess is that the median competitive salary in 2019 will be about $50,500. (Mean salary estimated at $58,775.)
So good on ya, West Virginia senators. And here’s hoping you’ll do even more.
America continues to reward teachers with a pat on the back. Hedge fund managers we reward with cash.
Three-quarters of teachers think they’re appreciated…only half think their salaries are okay. At least that’s the most recent numbers from the Digest of Education Statistics.
How about we pay teachers adequately, then we give ‘em a pat on the back.
There’s been a considerable push in the last couple of years to focus on early childhood education. This is a case where science is successfully influencing public policy, as the evidence is good, although not conclusive, that early childhood intervention provides works. All the same, it would be unfortunate if this good idea led to us giving up on older kids. A new paper,
“The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth,” provides some healthy pushback against the idea that adolescence is too late to create change.
The study reports on a small, randomized experiment implementing a two-pronged intervention for disadvantaged 9th and 10th grade boys in Chicago. The first part of the intervention was to teach social-cognitive skills in weekly, one-hour sessions where one adult worked with about 8 young men. The second prong was a daily, one-hour math tutoring session where one adult worked with two students.
The important finding is that academic performance, as measured both by math grades and by standardized math tests leapt up. As a comparison, the improvement of the treated group relative to the control group was equivalent to more than half the black-white test score gap on national tests. (Because the sample size was small, the investigators were unable to determine whether the gain was due to the “social-cognitive” training or to the intense academic tutoring.)
The second finding is that the intervention was relatively cost-effective, although not cheap. Both parts of the intervention were designed to be delivered by college-educated adults with relatively little training. Specifically, the trainers did not require the kind of skills that teachers have in classroom management and curriculum design. This lets the training be delivered at low-cost.
The authors emphasize that their results are from a small pilot. (They are working on larger trials.) Nonetheless, this is a very interesting example of how a small group intervention can make a big difference even when applied at an age where many think it’s “too late.”
For all the talk of both fluctuating education budgets and increased teacher evaluations, teaching remains a remarkably secure job. The latest figures from the School and Staffing Survey (Table 8, giving 2010-2011 data) show that, nationwide, less than two percent of teachers were dismissed or didn’t have their contracts renewed for any reason. Just over half a percent lost their job for cause.
Here’s a picture showing the country as a whole together with the top five states for nonrenewal.
Teachers just don’t get turfed out. Except in Washington, D.C.
One of the definite downsides of the education reform movement is that some of the changes damage teacher morale. Here’s a depressing graph taken from survey data reported in the Digest of Education Statistics. Look at the upsurge in the fraction of teachers worried about losing their jobs as a result of testing.
In the most recent data, just under half of teachers feel that testing results put their jobs at risk. Now the fact is that teachers almost never risk their jobs over anything. (More on this next time.) The fact that teachers worry about losing jobs is bad news. You just can’t inspire employees by threatening them–at least not professionals, at least not over the long haul.
Dan Goldhaber and crew have asked a question about the teacher labor market that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere: Do student teachers go into teaching or do they end up in some other job? I was surprised to see how many student teachers end up doing something else. The authors’ picture gives a great snapshot of the outcomes.
Basically, a third of student teachers end up not teaching. This strikes me as high, since it means a lot of training resources are “wasted.” On the other hand, lots of folks have romantic ideas about teaching. If student teaching disabuses a candidate of the idea that the job is easy, then switching directions before landing a teaching job is a very good outcome.
Note: The sample is from Washington State. Student teachers who do not receive a teaching credential are excluded, so the actual fraction who end up not teaching is probably somewhat higher than a third.
Discussions of teacher tenure largely omit the first point any economist would make. Tenure is valuable to teachers. Tenure may or may not be a good idea. (I think it’s a very good idea, albeit a healthy dose of reform is needed in the way it’s applied.) Whether tenure is a good idea or nor, tenure is an important part of teachers’ overall compensation package. Wouldn’t you value a guarantee that you can’t be fired?
North Carolina just eliminated tenure. (Here’s the NPR story.) North Carolina also cut out extra pay for teachers with a master’s. I don’t want to push too hard on tightly-linked cause and effect, but here’s the last line of the NPR story about North Carolina.
Freshman enrollment in the state universities’ education schools is down between 20 and 40 percent.
We know that the best teachers get incredibly more out of their students than do the worst teachers. So why not assign more students to the best teachers? While the best teachers probably would do a little less well with bigger classes (although would be partially offset by the weak teachers doing a bit better with smaller classes), the effect of class size is small compared to the effect of teacher quality.
Mike Hansen puts together some very nice numbers on what could be gained by sorting more students toward good teachers. What he finds is that the effects are pretty encouraging overall. I would characterize the gains as nice, although not overwhelming. Hansen also shows that this kind of policy change would do less for economically disadvantaged students.
Here’s the experiment: In each school assign students to the best teacher until the point at which the larger class size effect begins to outweigh the teacher being really good. Then start assigning students to the second best teacher, and so on. Here’s how Hansen describes the outcome.
Intensively reallocating eighth-grade students—so that the most effective teachers have up to twelve more pupils than the average classroom—may produce gains equivalent to adding roughly two-and-a-half extra weeks of school. Even adding a handful of students to the most effective eighth-grade teachers (up to six more than the school’s average) produces gains in math and science akin to extending the school year by nearly two weeks or, equivalently, to removing the lowest 5 percent of teachers from the classroom. The potential impacts on learning are more modest in fifth grade…
Hansen also writes “this policy alone shows little promise in reducing achievement gaps.” The problem is that economically disadvantaged students are largely clustered in schools where there just aren’t enough great teachers to make much of a difference, no matter how you juggle student assignments.
One more important point, Hansen suggests that differential class sizes provides an opening for paying more to more effective teachers in a setting that might be relatively palatable.
…one of this strategy’s unique features is that it’s a way of paying high-performing teachers more—under the cover of giving them more students….The policy outlined here simply suggests being selective about which teachers receive the extra students (and extra pay).
ProfitOfEducation.org is closed for President’s Day. See you later in the week.
Recent correspondence with Arthur McKee at the National Council on Teacher Quality brought up an interesting question: What happened to teacher unemployment in the Great Recession? I don’t think anyone has a for-sure answer, but I’ve cobbled together a bit of information.
First fact (from the Digest of Education Statistics): In the 2007-2008 school year (before the Great Recession) there were 3,405,000 public school teachers. In 2011-2012, after the end of the recession, the number had fallen to 3,385,000. That’s a drop of about half a percent.
Second fact, well factoid anyhow: I’ve put together a graph based on the American Community Survey of the fraction of teachers who report being unemployed or out of the labor force versus the same fraction for other college-educated workers. For reasons discussed below, take the graph with a grain of salt. What seems to have happened is that fewer teachers were out of work when the recession first hit, compared to other occupations. (The vertical line marks 2009.) Then a year or two later teachers continued to lose jobs while the market for other workers started to recover. That accords with my sense of what was going on with state budgets around then.
Now for a few caveats. This was a quick and dirty analysis, so there might be some gotchyas that I missed. You have to wonder about what exactly it means when someone both gives their profession and says they are “out of the labor force.” Moreover, the data source includes “unemployed” as once choice for occupation, which is coded separately from whether the interviewee says he’s unemployed or not. I excluded the “unemployed occupation” from the analysis since there’s no way of knowing whether the respondent’s regular occupation was teaching or something else. (Real world data is never straightforward.)
By the way, the data is from that great source of micro data on people, usa.ipums.org. The official citation is
Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center [producer and distributor], 2010.