BY PAMELA BROOKE There are many variables in education that make it difficult to measure exactly what produces a quality education and how money is best spent. Teacher salaries are common point of discussion. The conversation surrounds whether or not teachers are paid too much or too little, but the data suggests a clear solution: increased teacher salaries have a direct and beneficial effect on student performance and their chances of going to college.
Salaries and Reading Proficiency
There are many differing methodologies of education throughout the world, indicated by the wide variety of median salaries for teachers, but the relationship between salary and performance is telling as this graphic clearly shows. In the Republic of Korea, teachers are paid the highest salaries of any country in the world. Unsurprisingly, North Korean students have the highest average reading proficiency. By the same token, Mexican teachers are paid the least in the world and their students have the lowest average reading proficiency.
High Value Teachers and Student Performance
The effect of well-paid teachers on their classrooms is easy to measure. Most of these teachers have an immediate positive effect on test scores, and make long-term life improvements on the lives of their students. Being assigned a high-value teacher decreases a student’s likelihood of becoming a teenage mother, and increases their ability to save for retirement, go to college, and command higher wages. Studies estimate that students with well-paid teachers can expect to earn almost $50,000 more over their lifetime.
People will continue to ask whether or not teachers are overpaid, even though their salaries are not competitive and are increasingly inadequate in an environment of rising living expenses and inflation. In North Carolina, the average teacher salary, which has declined nearly 16% over the last decade, is close to $10,000 less than the national average of $55,418. One can’t help but assume there is a correlation between being in the bottom 5 states in teacher compensation and the fact that fewer than half of North Carolina public schools met the expected learning objectives in 2012.
The studies, however, are very clear about the benefits of paying our teachers well. A simple 5% increase in the relative position of teachers in income distribution would yield a 5-10% increase in student performance overall. Additionally, in terms of the work they do and the importance of their position in society, it is a clear conclusion that society should pay them a competitive and livable wage, lest they turn to a different profession.
Pamela Brooke is a freelance writer and editor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She considers herself a lifelong longer and enjoys researching and writing on topics that assist students and professionals further their careers. As one of contributors to Master of Arts in Teaching Guide, you may direct any comments and questions about this graphic to her here