American education in 2030: teacher pay

The Hoover Institution’s K–12 Education Task Force has produced a series of thirteen lectures on the subject American Education in 2030. These lectures take a look at what American education might look like in 20 years.

In one lecture, Caroline Hoxby, a Stanford University economics professor who studies the economics of education, looks at the future of teacher pay and teaching. While her vision of what might happen is positive for both teachers and schoolchildren, substantial change will need to take place for this vision to be realized. Specifically, the nation will have to overcome the harmful effects of our nation’s teachers unions.

(In Kansas, the teachers union is Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA). Locally in Wichita, the union is United Teachers of Wichita. It should be noted that Barb Fuller, the current president of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, is a former president of the teachers union.)

In the future, Hoxby said teachers will be paid and managed as true professionals. Teachers will be paid based on what they contribute to student learning. This encourages productive teachers to stay in education, while unproductive teachers are encouraged to improve their skills or find other work. This is the same dynamic that is in effect in almost all fields of work.

In the future, good teachers will be paid well not because of union contracts, but because they are worth their high salaries. In 2010, at the present, Hoxby says that teacher pay, hiring, and training has more in common with auto industry workers than professional workers. Pay is based solely on seniority and educational credentials, not on how well teachers teach students.

“Schools paid more to teachers with education certificates even if everyone knew that the credentials were worthless.” She criticizes the present-day schools of education that she says are more interested in “inculcating social philosophy” instead of training effective teachers.

Factors that will work to increase our understanding of what works include longitudinal databases, which track individual students over time. These database have been helpful in understanding the effects of teacher performance on student learning. Teacher quality has been found to be a powerful effect, with the best teachers producing learning gains of half a grade equivalent per year. Some teachers consistently produced learning losses.

Once past the first year of teaching, these teacher effects did not depend on credentials or experience, the two factors that teachers unions insist must be the only basis for teacher pay.

A second factor that will change teaching is technology, allowing students to interact with expert teachers who are remote.

The third factor is choice and competition among schools. With parents able to choose among schools, there is a reason for principals to seek out and reward the best teachers.


6 thoughts on “American education in 2030: teacher pay”

  1. As a teacher, I welcome privatization, The entrepreneurial model of education, and the dissolution of collective bargaining for individual and voluntary group contracts. Successful education thrives on diversity, research & development, and dexterous and adaptable schools, and the current organizational model of most schools prevents this environment.

  2. In the mid-1970s many of us on the police department argued that if we were ever to be considered “professionals” we needed to avoid unionization. We won the battle in that the AFL-CIO affiliatied National Union of Police Officers was defeated, but lost the war, in that the Fraternal Order of Police was voted in instead. FOP turned out to be a defacto union, and to this day I believe the officers suffer lack of recognition as professionals as a result.

    I do not understand why this is not intuitive, and I do not understand how teachers can boldly insist they should have it both ways. Apparently I am wrong and they are right, in that it seems they do, in fact, get to have it both ways. It is a contuniuing puzzlement to me.

  3. Let me add that I DONT relish the possibility of losing my job – a free-market system of education would create a wealth of jobs and the possibility for individual contracts and small-business creation that is enormously difficult now.

  4. OncomingStorm,

    None of us relishes that possibility, though in most cases job insecurity compels us to work even harder. Imagine the customer service you’d receive from your favorite business if they weren’t concerned about losing their positions. I suppose we might be hard pressed to find an exception anywhere job security prevailed.

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