Sunday, March 09, 2008

ECON 365: Higher Pay for Teachers

On Thursday, we discussed various ways schools might improve performance. One of the hypotheses we discussed was higher teacher pay. A school in NY is going to (sort of) test this hypothesis:

A New York City charter school set to open in 2009 in Washington Heights will test one of the most fundamental questions in education: Whether significantly higher pay for teachers is the key to improving schools.

The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide.

It's unclear to me exactly what kind of evidence this will provide. I think the school will be successful in attracting high quality, motivated teachers. However, I don't see how this will inform the policy community. There are, to me, two important questions relating to teacher pay: will boosting teacher pay lead to better performance from existing teachers and will boosting teacher pay lead more people with the potential to be great teachers to choose teaching? I doubt this effort will provide meaningful answers to either of those questions.

Here are some more links related to these points:

Here's one discussion and here's another discussion of the decline in teacher quality overtime (due to improved labor market opportunities for women).

Here's a hodge-podge of links to a variety of education related papers -- including a paper on improvements in teacher quality from pay-for-performance and paper that argues that school accountability programs lower high-ability students performance in college.

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