Search This Blog


Friday, July 8, 2011

Keeping good teachers...the dirty secrets

The Las Vegas Sun editorial board recently wrote a fairly vapid piece on keeping good teachers in Nevada. Sticking to the usual meaningless platitudes, the Sun simply calls for more spending and higher pay for teachers. Additionally, the editors seem to wrongly assume that every teacher is a good teacher.

Once again, I'm going to school the editorial board of the Las Vegas Sun. Let's begin...again.

Note any relevant facts or academic research and you're bound to be attacked...

First, Nevada spent an estimated $7 billion on K-12 education in the last biennium. We spend so much money on a per-pupil basis, that if Nevada were its own nation we'd rank about 10th highest in the WORLD! That is right, we spend as much, if not more, than France and Germany.

Spending more money on education has nothing to do with actual education - its actually all about creating jobs for adults. This is why most studies show no correlation between spending and student achievement

The relationship between spending and student achievement is this picture.

Next, Nevada teachers are not underpaid. According to the Nevada Department of Education the average teacher is paid around $50,000 a year for 185 days of work. Including benefits the average teacher earns a little more than $70,000 in compensation. Additionally, there is evidence that because of the last round of salary schedule negotiations with the union that teachers in Nevada may not have had an actual pay cut....AT ALL!

CCSD Teacher Pay Schedule,
Growth in teacher pay 2007-2011

Oh and a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey estimates the average teacher works about 36-40 hours a week during the school year. That is only about 1,600 hours or 400 less than the average American. Thus, the average teacher is NOT overworked as the Las Vegas Sun claims.

Finally, bad teachers exist. They really do. Some teachers are so bad, in fact, that students will know less at the end of the year than at the beginning. Worse still, there is evidence that teacher skills begin to deteriorate over time. According to this study by Paul Peterson and Mathew Chingos of Harvard find that teacher skill (in terms of student achievement) tends to rise and then decline over time

In an interesting side note, Mathew Chingos is a fellow at the left-of-center Brookings Institution where Las Vegas Sun editor and owner Brian Greenspun is a board member. This begs the question...does he actually read their reports?

So why are the Las Vegas Sun editorials on education so cowardly? mute on real meaningful education? I'm not sure; maybe the editorial board really believes what they write (and don't bother reading the research on the issue). Or, maybe they're afraid that doing real journalism would bring down the wrath of the education union (it will).

When it comes to teachers we need to end or reform tenure, eliminate lock-step pay, terminate bonuses for extra degrees (more on ending additional degree bonuses for teachers because its a hot topic), and convert the pension into a 401K (pensions trap teachers in teaching long after they've burnt out. Converting to a 401K allows teachers to take that money and go at any time).