IMPACT is Working

by on January 27, 2016 at 7:25 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

In Launching the Innovation Renaissance I wrote:

…teacher pay in the United States seems more like something from Soviet-era Russia than 21st century America. Wages for teachers are low, egalitarian and not based on performance. We pay phys ed teachers about the same as math teachers despite the fact that math teachers have greater opportunities elsewhere in the economy. As a result, we have lots of excellent phys ed teachers but not nearly enough excellent math teachers….

Soviet style pay practices helped to eventually collapse the Soviet system and the same thing is happening in American education. Michelle Rhee is no longer the DC Chancellor but IMPACT, the teacher evaluation system developed under her tenure, is in place. IMPACT uses student scores to evaluate teachers but also five yearly in-class evaluations, three from the school administrator and two from master educators from outside the school. Evaluations are meant not only to reward but also to discover and spread best teaching practices.

The results from IMPACT are starting to come in and they indicate that pay for performance is encouraging low quality teachers to leave, good quality teachers to get better, and high quality teachers to continue teaching and improve even further.

Perhaps not surprisingly the schools with the poorest students see the most teachers leave and they also see the largest gains in student performance as average teacher quality rises. From a new NBER paper by Adnot et al.:

More than 90 percent of the turnover of low-performing teachers occurs in high-poverty schools, where the proportion of exiting teachers who are low-performers is twice as high as in low-poverty schools.

…Our estimates indicate that there are consistently large gains from the exit of low-performing teachers in high-poverty schools. In math, teacher quality improves by 1.3 standard deviations and student achievement by 20 percent of a standard deviation; in reading these figures are 1 standard deviation of teacher quality and 14 percent of standard deviation of student achievement.

These are big effects especially when multiplied over many generations of students.

Hat tip: Eric Crampton at Offsetting Behaviour.

1 Ziel January 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

Well it’s not going to be ‘multiplied over multiple generations of students’. A .2 s.d. Improvement is significant, but there’s no evidence of any such effects lasting into adulthood, at least not on an industrial scale.

2 Axa January 27, 2016 at 8:04 am

If you are quoting why Head Start effects fade out…….students alumni end in poor quality middle grade schools. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1164270?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

3 ziel January 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

No, I’m not “quoting why Head Start effects fade out”. All such effects fade out – what I said was that there’s no evidence of any of these educational effects lasting into adulthood, other than those 2 or 3 small scale dubious studies from decades ago (Perry, Abecadarian).

And I’m not saying that trying to get decent teaches to teach at underperforming schools is worthless, but Tabarrok’s suggestion that these are big effects that will me “multiplied over many generations of students” is just ridiculous.

4 Harun January 27, 2016 at 11:58 am

I learned Calculus, but its faded now.

So, its true.

5 derek January 27, 2016 at 8:55 am

It depends on the age of the student. A first or second grader who learns to read reasonably well will have a large impact over their lives. By 4th grade if they don’t read well improvements are difficult and probably not as helpful.

As for what happens afterwards, it isn’t up to the teacher. They can only control what is in front of them and the results they can produce. A teacher who doesn’t do well can find lots of other things to blame.

6 ziel January 27, 2016 at 9:10 am

that sounds like it might be true, but there’s no evidence of it being true. A person can only progress as fast and as far as his natural endowments allow him. Learning to read at age 8 vs age 10 will help performance at age 10, but at age 25 not likely.

7 John L. January 27, 2016 at 9:51 am

Ha ha ha ha.

8 Dude January 27, 2016 at 12:08 pm

What if better performance at age 10 helps the person become associated with different peers? Or perhaps take more interest in school? Both of those can have long term positive effects, regardless of “natural endowments”.

9 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 27, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Nope. No such thing as cumulative effects or path dependency. The only consequence of reading well at age 8 is reading well at age 8.

10 Urso January 27, 2016 at 12:40 pm

This is all plausible, but that’s not the same as saying it’s established.

11 Chris S January 27, 2016 at 9:43 am

By extension, are you saying that NO intervention can have any effects lasting into adulthood? What if we decrease educational quality? Cut class time in half? Remove education altogether?

Even if those examples sound contrived – of course removing all education will have effects lasting into adulthood – it makes the point that the return on childhood education is not zero and follows some sort of cause-effect equation.

12 Lord Action January 27, 2016 at 10:35 am

He’s saying that twin and adoption studies show that no “normal” family and education interventions have any effect. Take the inner-city kid, put him in a nice family in a great suburb with wonderful schools, and it won’t help him long term. It might make his childhood more pleasant, but the adult turns out no more capable.

He’s not saying that if you shut him in a prison he’ll turn out okay. He’s just saying that vaguely normal American differences have no effect. It’s a huge evidentiary hurdle to overcome.

13 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

That seems highly unlikely to me. How are we measuring “help” and “capable”? I mean, how can you on the one hand say that just locking him in prison will produce a bad result, but that taking him from a bad situation to a good one has no effect? Whats the cut off beyond which no more external help improves his outcome?

14 Chris S January 27, 2016 at 11:24 am

Last sentence, exactly.

15 XVO January 27, 2016 at 11:39 am

Probably, where you start physically or emotionally traumatizing the person…

Trying to teach computer programming to a person with an IQ of 80 is a worthless waste of time, even if they do temporarily learn some things they will be incapable of producing software. There’s obviously some cutoff point where it’s wasteful to teach people certain things and that’s going to be different for different people based on their natural abilities.

Much of our time being educated is useless. Would be time better spent on specialization or working.

16 Lord Action January 27, 2016 at 12:26 pm

“Whats the cut off beyond which no more external help improves his outcome?”

Something below poverty in America. But I’d bet it’s above poverty in Africa – access to basic sanitation, vaccines, and antibiotics are probably important. I don’t think there’s strong evidence for the latter point, but it would surprise me if it weren’t the case.

17 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 12:49 pm

@XVO

Sure teaching programming to someone with an 80 IQ will not result in a good programmer, but not teaching programming to someone with a 140 IQ will also not result in a good programmer. Or are we just assuming that everyone who is smart will simply teach himself?

18 XVO January 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Assuming the 140 IQ person is not a lazy piece of crap, they will be better than the 80 IQ person with a 4 year degree in computer science (if that feat is even possible) in a month.

I can teach myself a lot cheaper and quicker than school ever taught me. Times are different, all knowledge could be (and much of it is) freely available on the internet. Hopefully someone finds a way to get over the issue of credentialism, because that is costing society a very heavy toll, the huge cost in education costs and the huge opportunity cost of having capable people stuck in bad jobs.

19 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 2:26 pm

@XVO

So then you are assuming that smart people will teach themselves. At least thats what it sounds like. If thats the case, then i disagree. Part of being a good parent is forcing your children to do things they might not like but definitely need. One of those things is education. I suspect you are overlooking a lot of the basic learning you did in school and focusing on the self education you did later. Do you really think you would have been so eager to learn if you hadnt been through any school at all or a very minimal schooling?

20 Dan Weber January 27, 2016 at 3:09 pm

MOFO, are you aware of the large research body on this?

What’s the word for people that keep on trusting their gut over the academic literature?

21 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 3:21 pm

@Dan Weber No, not really.

22 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm

@Dan Weber: “What’s the word for people that keep on trusting their gut over the academic literature?”

Depending on the field, id say a sensible person.

23 XVO January 27, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Smart people can often teach themself, at the very least they can direct themself to knowledge that is important to them and their career when it becomes necessary. I agree with you that even smart children would not have the same motivation without some sort of tutoring, especially with younger children. I think that school could be much less onerous than it is today, really it’s not that far off from a prison as I recall.

24 Axa January 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

Lord Action, I’m really curious of your opinion of sports. It seems you consider training as a variable irrelevant to athletic performance. Also, coach choice is irrelevant, athletes will just perform according to their aptitudes.

Not every person can excel as college graduate, basquetball superstar, car mechanic or food grower, but every human requires training and mentoring to maximize outcome according to personal preferences. It’s true that no person can go beyond the limits that are written in the genes, but reaching that limit is seriously hard. The job of teachers and mentors is to help us to reach that limit.

25 Lord Action January 27, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Good athletes seem to come disproportionately from underprivileged circumstances, so that suggests the difference in access to good training and coaches between the poor kids in lousy schools and the rich kids with their private coaches and summer programs is not important. That doesn’t mean you can be a star without training, it means having very limited access to facilities, PEDs, etc, is not a significant impediment. The system is good enough at getting resources even to kids in the worst circumstances.

But I’d be wary of drawing conclusions about the median person from the experience of the 0.01% who make the pros.

26 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm

@Lord Action

It could also be that good training and coaches arent dependent on money and hence are available to those who are from underprivileged circumstances.

27 Lord Action January 27, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Could be. Addressing XVO’s question above as well, I suspect the cut-off is somewhere around Kenyan standard of living. Kenya seems to turn out world-beaters. So not famine and pestilence, but not much.

Kenya doesn’t turn out world-class polo players, though, so obviously there are some limits on this.

My (rich) kids get fantastic sports training and coaches that no poor kid gets. They have a great time and I wish I’d had their experience when I was growing up. But I have no illusions that that’s going to make them stars.

28 Harun January 27, 2016 at 11:53 am

Now let’s look at the reverse situation. Someone with some ability, but who gets subpar education.

For example, they have some aptitude for math, but they have 2 teachers in a row who are horrendous.

They then finally get to a normal teacher, but they are now a year behind and have gaps in their skills and knowledge, and “hate” math because they don’t understand it.

This is the real problem, not trying to help IQ 80 kids.

Improving the quality of teaching seems to be assumed to be providing brilliant educators to dunces.

I think of it as more of removing dunces teaching to a population of students that will include a range from dunces to average to genius.

Also, dunce teachers cause more issues than just bad education. Bored kids may act out more or disrupt more.

29 Nathan W January 27, 2016 at 5:48 pm

“Bored kids may act out more or disrupt more.”

this

30 rayward January 27, 2016 at 7:35 am

Of course, being a good teacher in a school with low performing students has no reward – unless that teacher is paid more for enduring (teaching) the low performing students. I assume that Tabarrok would support the higher (combat) pay for those valiant teachers.

31 Chris S January 27, 2016 at 9:44 am

Why do we need Tabarrok? It seems like the market would do that. If you want the high-quality teachers at low-performing schools, increase pay there until they show up. Or do teachers not respond to incentives?

32 rayward January 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Of course, the school districts with an abundance of undperforming students can’t pay better teachers more because the school districts are relatively poor (relative to the districts with high performing students). If there was state-wide (or even nation-wide) equalization of funding for school districts, the market could correct the imbalance. Instead, an artificial boundary (the school district) prevents the market correction. Maybe Tabarrok would favor equalization so markets could work properly and efficiently.

33 rayward January 27, 2016 at 12:45 pm

I would point out that equalization is analogous to open borders, allowing resources to be applied in the most efficient way possible. Since Tabarrok favors open borders, I assume he must favor equalization.

34 adam January 27, 2016 at 1:38 pm

“Of course, the school districts with an abundance of undperforming students can’t pay better teachers more because the school districts are relatively poor (relative to the districts with high performing students).”

This is certainly not true in most/all states. There has been a concerted effort over several decades to boost funding in poor districts so that now the poorest districts are quite often the highest spending districts. To take one example, in NJ, Newark (very poor) spends $22,267 per pupil while Bernards Township (very rich) spends $17,210 per pupil. http://www.nj.com/education/2015/04/nj_schools_how_much_is_your_district_spending_per.html

35 rayward January 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Maybe all those children in poor school districts around the country should move to New Jersey. Open borders!

36 adam January 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm

This pattern repeats itself in pretty much every state. It’s a myth that poor-performing districts are getting lower funding.

37 Alan January 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm
38 derek January 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

In many states, school district salaries are essentially set by the state, mostly depending on achievement targets. This is good, in that we don’t want to reward bad school districts/teachers by throwing more money at them. But this is bad, since as Chris S recognizes, there is a need to pay high quality teachers at low achievement schools a premium. One middle ground would be to pay only the demonstrated high quality teachers at low achievement schools a premium, but lots of states only test every 3 years, so this solution would require increased testing, which many people don’t like.

Teachers would respond to incentives, but offering incentives at all is a pretty controversial issue in education for pretty much all sides.

39 Leon January 27, 2016 at 7:38 am

I really like the fact that they’re trying to discover and spread best practice. Too often, schemes like this place great emphasis on discovering and eradicating bad practice, but nothing on best practice. Placing an emphasis on spreading best practice is likely to make the scheme more popular among people who think they’re in favour of good practice.

40 dearieme January 27, 2016 at 7:46 am

Bad practices undoubtedly exist; good practices too, I dare say. “Best practice” seems to me to be potentially a very silly idea. How can there be a best practice irrespective of the subject, the pupils and the teacher? Isn’t “best practice” likely to turn out to be yet another way of oppressing people? Still, Stalin would have liked the idea.

41 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 10:53 am

Surely there are “best practices” with teaching in general. Are you unfamiliar with the concept of best practices or are you skeptical there applicable to grade school teaching?

42 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 10:54 am

“they’re applicable”

43 dearieme January 27, 2016 at 7:42 am

But is it racist?

44 Moreno Klaus January 27, 2016 at 8:14 am

You mean is there evidence that black teachers fare worse? I couldnt find it on the paper…

45 Moreno Klaus January 27, 2016 at 8:06 am

According to Figure 2 in the paper, only 2% of the teachers were considered innefective. Thus either, teachers are not so bad or this evaluation system is probably not that good….

46 Axa January 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

Perhaps it’s an agreement to avoid a costly battle with the teacher’s union. Also, consider it’s an annual rate, cumulative effects after a few years could be important.

From a pessimist point of view, 2% (or 0.5%?) is already an improvement compared to what’s happening in other places. According to Newsweek, in Chicago the teacher dismissal rate due to poor performance between 2005 and 2008 was 0.1%, or 0.025% per year. =) http://europe.newsweek.com/why-we-must-fire-bad-teachers-69467?rm=eu

47 Moreno Klaus January 27, 2016 at 10:17 am

woow… cocaine and porn, was not enough to fire him/her….ok this is bad!

48 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 10:59 am

The teachers union’s in many school districts is remarkably powerful.

49 Nick January 27, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Does that figure only count teachers who have already received tenure? Certainly teachers who have not yet received tenure (which takes 4 years in Illinois) are fired all the time, possibly in double-digit percentages, it is hard to know how to separate the quits from fireds for new teachers.

50 Harun January 27, 2016 at 11:55 am

Even so, 2% is a high number when you consider the damage they can do.

51 Corbett January 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

“…like something from Soviet-era Russia… Wages for teachers are low, egalitarian and not based on performance.”

Comparison to Soviet Russia mentality is spot on, but the teachers wage issue is merely a secondary symptom of that underlying faulty concept and management of American public schools.

Some teachers are underpaid, but most government teachers are far overpaid.

According to the U.S. BLS, the average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.

Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are actually working (“school year”). By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week.

Compared with public school teachers, news editors and reporters earn 24% less than teachers on average; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.

52 Jason January 27, 2016 at 8:52 am

“Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are actually working”

lolwut? I’ll be sure to let the teachers know about that.

53 Urso January 27, 2016 at 11:46 am

Hm, does that include 4 day weeks (Labor Day, etc).

54 Dan Weber January 27, 2016 at 1:32 pm

I’ve lived with teachers. They put in some work after hours, but not crazy hours.

Like other professionals, performance really drops somewhere around 40-50 hours of work a week. The good ones are aware of this and manage their hours appropriately.

55 Dude Man January 27, 2016 at 9:35 am

Where are you getting your data? I just checked the BLS and it said teachers have a median salary of about $51k, while that number was $70k for psychologists, $80k for mechanical engineers, $74k for chemists, and $95k for economists.

56 Dan in Euroland January 27, 2016 at 10:08 am

Dude man,

That is not considering the benefit structure which is very generous.

57 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:29 am

Exactly. The total compensation picture is drastically different than salary alone would indicate. Most teachers get pensions that have a Net Present Value of well over $1 million.

58 Urso January 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

Define “most” . Most 55 year old teachers, maybe; most 25 year old teachers, probably not.

59 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:57 am

“Define “most””: Teachers that retire after 35 years of teaching.

60 eccdogg January 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm

This is true of at least my parents, both teachers in low paying NC.

At retirement they got a pension that I believe was 80% of their 5 best working years for the rest of their lives with cost of living adjustments. You would need to have saved something like 1.2 million for each of them to fund that kind of retirment. And the pension comes with very low risk (at least in NC where the pension system is very well funded).

In addition to this they got good lifetime healthcare. Plus they got the summers off (or could get a second job as my parents occasionally did) and had a schedule that timed up very nicely with their children.

I am not saying they had a lavish lifestyle, but from my seat as the son of two teachers it looked (and looks) like not so bad of a deal.

61 eccdogg January 27, 2016 at 12:33 pm

I looked up the NC retirement handbook and I overestimated the percentage. Its more like 60% of your best 4 years.

Still to get this kind of benefit over 30 years with reasonable returns (5% real) you would have to save around 25% of your income every year.

62 Urso January 27, 2016 at 12:47 pm

NC appears not to have reduced benefits for younger teachers. In my state your benefits get worse the newer you are – those who started pre-1999 have the best, with slightly worse benefits if you started post-2000, significantly worse benefits if you started post-2010, and again slightly worse for newbies who started in 2015. So file it under boomers pulling up the ladder behind them (man, that file is getting pretty full).

63 mavery January 27, 2016 at 12:52 pm

So to be clear, you’re assuming that they live to be 90 years old (25 yo when they start plus 35 years to fully vest plus 30 years of benefits = 90 years old), which while possible may be optimistic.

I won’t argue that pension plans are probably too generous for a lot of private sector workers these days as a result of changing life expectancies and health care costs. Perhaps the more relevant comparisons would be the packages offered to new hires vice folks who’ve been working for 20 years under a certain contract.

Regardless, if teaching was such a plum gig, you’d expect people would be knocking down the doors to get in, right?

64 eccdogg January 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm

I am assuming a 4% withdrawl rate which I think is pretty standard. To get a 60% of your income in retirement with a 4% withdrawl rate you need 60%/4% of income saved on the last day of retirement or about 15 times the average of your last 4 working years.

Lets say final salary is 70k, then you need to have saved around 1.0 million which should provide about 40k/year using 4% withdrawl rate.

65 Dan Weber January 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm

The payment structure is top-heavy: you earn not much when you start, and a lot more later.

There is no real reason that it should operate this way.

NC has been having trouble with recruiting young teachers, FWIW. It was a campaign issue last year, with even Republicans bragging about how hard they were fighting to increase new teacher pay.

66 eccdogg January 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I agree, it is very back loaded and should not be.

67 Thomas January 28, 2016 at 6:19 am

“Regardless, if teaching was such a plum gig, you’d expect people would be knocking down the doors to get in, right?”

They are. Go look up applications/opening for teaching positions.

68 Dude Man January 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

In order for that to be true, teachers would have to make half their salary in benefits (probably more than that since economists probably get at least some benefits of their own). That’s certainly possible, but I’m not going to believe it without a link to the evidence.

69 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:59 am

“The average teacher working in a public school today receives total compensation roughly 52 percent higher than what he or she would receive in private-sector employment. … Total fringe benefits for teachers are equal to 101 percent of their salaries, versus just 44 percent for workers in large private firms.”

http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/are-teachers-overpaid/average-public-school-teacher-is-paid-too-much

70 Cliff January 27, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Is that public school teachers?

71 Ray Lopez January 27, 2016 at 9:26 am

But wait, don’t the studies show education is just signaling, meaning there’s really no benefit to most education, and the bright kids will learn on their own anyway? If so, is education just ‘glorified day care’ for two-income families while the adults are working? In my experience, growing up in the DC area and having excellent schools (so they say), I learned nothing. Most of my learning was done on my own, outside the formal curriculum, and that includes calculus and physics.

72 Chris S January 27, 2016 at 9:46 am

Are you saying there is no benefit to signaling?

73 Ray Lopez January 27, 2016 at 11:33 pm

Very little, probably a per-employment IQ test or on-the-job training can screen the slackers.

74 jim jones January 27, 2016 at 9:59 am
75 Moreno Klaus January 27, 2016 at 10:25 am

woow this is depressing… But yes the fact is, no one really has the right answers for this kids…

76 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 10:58 am

I dont agree with that. I think that no one has an answer that fits into the current educational regime. By declining to deal with the bad students, you are in effect saying that their “right” to disrupt or whatever is more important than the right of the other students to learn.

If there were no political constraints, i think i could come up with a much better solution to a lot of these issues. Kick out the worst offenders. Create schools specifically to deal with the problem children and, at a minimum try and salvage the ones who are in a bad situation but at least want to learn and do well. If there are no negative consequences to acting badly, you really cant expect educators to be able to halt bad behavior. At least give educators the ability to get rid of the worst, and they wind up in reform school, at least they wont be holding anyone else back, and maybe a school custom tailored to deal with them will have better luck.

77 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

Yes, there is clearly a right answer. Intrinsically these kids aren’t any worse than the kids from 100 years ago. But schools took a hard line 100 years ago. Discipline was maintained and kids that refused to behave were expelled. Now, they’re ignored or passed back and forth among schools when the behavior becomes too unruly to ignore ( “a safety transfer” ). When the majority of kids see what the hard core trouble makers get away with, they emulate the behavior. And then you end up with the situation described in the article.

78 Moreno Klaus January 27, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I have heard these arguments in other countries as well, but it is not that easy. The problem is that the standard is quite low, but if you put the bar a bit higher, a significant percentage be left in the cold (aka the streets). On the other hand not moving the bar, will be bad for a lot of kids, since it will keep the ones who are willing to learn, from learning. So there you go….

79 ladderff January 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm

There is a thing called discipline, though. We’ve apparently decided that the troublemakers have some kind of a right not to be touched, without considering whether giving them that right is actually good for them (or their neighbors, or their nation). So it’s not a matter of throw-them-out-or-take-their-crap; you can beat them too, and in many cases you’ll be doing them a favor.

It is inherently dishonest to go about treating childhood education like cold fusion, with novel and important new discoveries ahead of us through the use of statistical analysis and related techno-porn.

80 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 1:09 pm

“The problem is that the standard is quite low, but if you put the bar a bit higher, a significant percentage be left in the cold (aka the streets). ”

But you don’t actually have to put them out on the streets. The US used to have “reform schools” where the unrepentant would be sent.

81 ashby January 27, 2016 at 11:21 am

Why aren’t they hiring veterans for these teaching jobs? Reading that article, there was clearly physical intimidation involved in the job. They need to hire teachers who can cope with that.

82 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:46 am

I doubt many Veterans would put up with the job very long. The rules keep both the teachers and students from any kind of normal accountability. The teachers can’t be fired and the students can’t be expelled or punished. How many Veterans are going to be able to deal with a Principle who refuses to expel students outside of the most outrageous offenders?

83 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Of course, one of the few circumstances where a teacher is likely to be disciplined is for meeting threats with threats, so it’s not like a veteran’s ability to stand up to some punk would really make a difference.

84 Art Deco January 27, 2016 at 10:44 am

Education Realist shall soon arrive with his flamethrower in tow….

85 ashby January 27, 2016 at 10:47 am

“These are big effects especially when multiplied over many generations of students.”

I take that to mean that successive classes will progressively wash out more of the bad teachers gradually improving the average level of competence. Remove the bottom 3% every year, reward the top 10%, you’ll incrementally improve your pool of teachers… (Heck, I’d settle for reliably removing the bottom 1%!)

86 Rob January 27, 2016 at 11:21 am

I disagree with the premise that teacher salaries are shockingly low as a rule. Here in Austin, TX, AISD teachers start at about $46,000 straight out of school. Adjusting for inflation, that is within a few hundred dollars of what I made as an Aerospace Engineer straight out of school in 1979. Put another way, entry level teachers here make about 80% of a median income. Doesn’t seem low or unreasonable to me.

87 mavery January 27, 2016 at 12:57 pm

According to Forbes, in 2012, the average starting salary for an Aeorspace engineer was $64,000 for folks with Bachelor’s degrees, or 40% more than teachers. Doesn’t look at total compensation, though.

88 Thomas January 28, 2016 at 6:26 am

According to Jwatts’ post above, teachers on average receive 101% of their base pay in benefits. It’s safe to say that aerospace engineers receive benefits at a much smaller rate of base pay. Then, let’s think about the intellectual horsepower of the average aerospace engineer and the average teacher. Then, let’s think about the yearly hours worked for each job. The idea that teachers are underpaid, on average, relative to other workers, is indefensible.

89 Dude Man January 27, 2016 at 11:28 am

“We pay phys ed teachers about the same as math teachers despite the fact that math teachers have greater opportunities elsewhere in the economy.”

Is this actually true? Most math teachers have degrees in math or teaching. The first isn’t in demand all by itself and the second is only used by teachers. Plus, any benefit of their math training disappears after a little while. Someone who is 30 and has been out of school for several years and has been spending his time teaching material that a high schooler could do would have a hard time getting a job in a technical field without starting back at square one.

90 Thomas January 28, 2016 at 6:28 am

Are you really claiming that a degree in physical education is as valuable in the job market as a degree in math? Is defending your prior (and wrong) belief regarding teacher pay really important enough to harm yourself with such intellectual sabotage?

91 Albigensian January 27, 2016 at 11:35 am

“teacher pay in the United States seems more like something from Soviet-era Russia than 21st century America. Wages for teachers are low, egalitarian and not based on performance.”

More accurately, teacher pay has been back-loaded. Starting salaries have been very low, but teachers received an automatic “years of service” raise year after year. So if you stuck it out for twenty years or more you’re pay could be quite good.

Especially considering that the deal included summers off, near-ironclad job security, a defined-benefit pension (usually with early retirement).

Retaining high-seniority teachers was never a problem; the problem from the teachers’ union perspective was that school boards would (if they could) fire the costly high-seniority teachers and replace them with lower-cost low-seniority teachers, or with new hires.

92 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 11:53 am

“the problem from the teachers’ union perspective was that school boards would (if they could) fire the costly high-seniority teachers and replace them with lower-cost low-seniority teachers, or with new hires.”

The problem from society’s point of view is that low competence teachers are rarely (almost never fired), as long as they actually show up for work sober and don’t commit any felonies.

93 Harun January 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

There are places where drunkeness must occur more than a few times before it can be a reason for firing.

http://www.weaselzippers.us/125546-union-contract-teachers-can-be-caught-in-school-drunk-five-times-and-on-drugs-three-times-before-being-fired/

Same for garbage truck drivers in Hawaii.

94 prognostication January 27, 2016 at 2:40 pm

“The problem from society’s point of view is that low competence teachers are rarely (almost never fired), as long as they actually show up for work sober and don’t commit any felonies.”

According to pretty much everyone I know in education, this is a LOT less true than it used to be. Early-career teachers I know in even some fairly low-quality schools are subjected to annual make-or-break reviews (that are in part based on student performance) every year until tenure, even at the elementary level.

95 Ethan Bernard January 27, 2016 at 11:53 am

A math degree is an extremely powerful signal. It shows that a person can learn a class of very difficult material. Companies know this, and they hire people with math degrees.

96 Dude Man January 27, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Doing what? Most jobs that want a quantitative skill set also want actual skills in their entry-level hires; skills people with math degrees are unlikely to have. Potential is meaningless, employers want skills.

97 MOFO January 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm

yea, but with a lot of jobs, companies will make do with smart in hopes of teaching them the rest. There are tons of jobs that you wont learn in college but can be mastered by a reasonably smart person.

98 Thomas January 28, 2016 at 6:30 am

Are Fortune 500 companies beating down the doors of Phys. Ed graduates with teaching certificates for their “skills” of directing ultimate frisbee and running laps?

99 mulp January 27, 2016 at 12:35 pm

“We pay phys ed teachers about the same as math teachers despite the fact that math teachers have greater opportunities elsewhere in the economy.”

Sorry, but the facts are the opposite. Anyone involved in sports in schools is paid more than those in science and math, plus those in sports get far more capital equipment than those in STEM. While math seems like it requires zero capital equipment, that is based on making math totally boring to 99% of students. Calculus is tied to physics and engineering problems – Newton would not have explored it without the real physics problem to be solved.

Hey, I argue that sports can be taught in a classroom from a textbook just as well as math can.

100 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm

“Sorry, but the facts are the opposite. Anyone involved in sports in schools is paid more than those in science and math …”

Once again mulpland reality deviates sharply from normal reality. The linked article and all the discussion are for public schooling, not university level.

101 Thomas January 28, 2016 at 6:32 am

Giving Mulp the benefit of the doubt, I assume he was referring to the Phys. Ed. grad teaching world history out of the publisher’s syllabus and receiving extra pay to coach the football team.

102 Dan Weber January 28, 2016 at 9:47 am

Or maybe it’s a reference to the very biggest colleges, where the sports department brings in money. (He can bemoan that reality, and I bemoan it too, but it’s still very real.)

103 Tom G January 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Tyler should have pressed Kareem a bit more on this Education — Kareem has the ideas that a) conservative solutions don’t work, and b) Republicans don’t offer any solutions.

Most of the comments I skimmed above don’t mention gov’t funded vouchers, to allow parents to choose where to send their kids, but that’s a standard conservative-Rep solution that teacher unions fiercely fight against. Vouchers plus IMPACT would have a an even bigger good result.

104 derek January 27, 2016 at 3:48 pm

If you’re keeping track of articles posted on MR, you are seeing the really really really bad initial performance of Louisiana vouchers, right?

105 Alan January 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm
106 Jos. S. Laughon January 27, 2016 at 2:33 pm

The actions of teacher unions to protect the pay/privileges of low performing teachers makes sense once you realize their institutional interest lies with their membership and is inherently contra their serfs…I mean students.

107 Floccina January 27, 2016 at 3:53 pm

This is believable but it would be interesting to see what the education is 80% signaling 20% education people (like Bryan Caplan) have to say about it. Do the improvements last and do they change lives significantly, do they narrow the gaps or push everyone up and if they push everyone up does the country as a whole do better or does everyone stay in their relative position? If it reduces crime a small amount it would be worth spending a lot. Is the increase learning is anything useful?

My position has been that we have not showed that we can people much more so let’s try to teach more useful stuff and less not so useful stuff.

108 JWatts January 27, 2016 at 4:57 pm

“but it would be interesting to see what the education is 80% signaling 20% education people (like Bryan Caplan) have to say about it. ”

But does Caplan believe that with respect to K-12?

109 AIG January 27, 2016 at 7:32 pm

We need to pay teachers more. Teachers are the most important members of society. Think of the children.

– Unionized failing teacher in a failing school where I don’t even bother teaching them to read.

110 AIG January 27, 2016 at 7:38 pm

It always fascinates me when people claim that teachers are not paid enough. Apparently a teacher in a NYC suburb making $100k 9-month salary to teach 3rd grade math, thinks they have better opportunities elsewhere? A lot of jobs out there which require 3rd grade math level of skills, which 99.9999% of people couldn’t fill?

I think they forget that the job they do, can be done by anyone with a 4th grade education. Considering the skills they bring and use, the amount of vacation time they enjoy, and the job security they have, they are extremely over-paid, not under-paid.

I’d say that in my experience, the least intelligent people I’ve ever met are elementary and middle school teachers (HS teachers have more variance).

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