What does it mean to “exceed” teacher salaries? (Opinion)

Earlier this summer, a story made the rounds on social media accusing a school district of “overspending” on teacher salaries.

Cara Jackson, a former contributor to this blog, shared an informative “thread” on the subject on Twitter, and I asked her if she would be willing to guest post it.

She agreed, and here it is:

Cara Jackson is a Senior Associate at Abt Associates, where she works on systematic reviews of research evidence and conducts program evaluations:

Last month I came across an article about “widespread overspending on teachers’ salaries” in the Rochester City School District. It’s presented as a story that literally talks about how much we pay individual teachers. I interrogates this supervision in part because the salaries of teachers and administrators seem to have been confused. Another reason the framing seemed questionable is that Rochester’s median teacher salary is $67,552, which is slightly higher than the average public school teacher salary in the United States and significantly lower than the average for New York State, where Rochester is located.

It turned out that a local newspaper had reported in 2019, the school district said it may have significantly exceeded its 2018-19 budget for self-insured health care and special education. When it comes to special education, the district appears to have overcompensated for previous shortages by hiring significantly more special education teachers.

Former CFO resigns and settles U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges against him. Clearly, the district suffered from fiscal mismanagement. Yet the story was presented as if the district was overpaying teachers, when perhaps the real problem was hiring more teachers than needed.

But I wondered what it would mean to “spend too much” on teacher salaries? Teacher salaries generally reflect college degrees and years of experience. For example, the pay scale for 12-month teachers in Montgomery County, Md., starts at $61,436 for new teachers with a bachelor’s degree (for 10-month employees, it’s $52,286). More experience translates to higher stages and therefore a higher salary.

If a district had many teachers with higher salaries, this suggests that the district either recruited very experienced teachers or was successful in retaining teachers. And that’s not a bad thing! More experienced teachers tend to be more effectiveon average.

As noted elsewhere, studies in Florida, Denver, and Tennessee indicate that teacher bonuses help retain teachers. Michigan Research and multiple studies of the North carolina find that the length of time teachers stay in teaching depends on salaries and opportunity costs, that is, the salary teachers forego by staying in teaching instead of changing fields. Further illustrating the role of opportunity costs, a Washington State study found that female teachers stay in the profession longer when local teacher salaries increase relative to salaries available in other local jobs. Men stay longer when teachers are better paid statewide.

In addition to retaining experienced teachers, salary can play a role in attracting highly qualified teachers. Within local teacher labor markets, a study using data from the Schools and Staff Survey metropolitan areas with higher teacher pay tend to have more qualified teachers, as measured by undergraduate college selectivity and subject matter expertise. This matters because college selectivity and subject matter expertise are measurable and policy-relevant characteristics of teachers. associated with teacher quality.

Consistent with these studies, recent research reveals that teacher salaries are linked to student achievement. Use of nationally representative data, a study found that math and English test scores are significantly higher in districts that offer higher base salaries to teachers. Additionally, higher base salaries for teachers reduce achievement gaps by increasing test scores for black and Hispanic students. Another study using data from Texas suggests that it might be possible to improve student performance growth at no cost by reshaping salary grids, since salary increases have the greatest effect on hiring rates among teachers with 2-3 years of experience. experience.

a study

College graduates weigh many factors when deciding which career to pursue. Salary is only part of the equation; working conditions, work-life balance and opportunities for career advancement are also important. But if we are truly concerned about providing high-quality educational opportunities for all students, we must consider the role that salaries play in attracting and retaining effective educators.

Thank you Cara!

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