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How to make teacher salaries look better

Earlier this month, I noted a point made by columnist Robert J. Samuelson about teacher salaries. We all think they are lousy, but looked at in a certain way, that is not quite right. Their average pay is $53,230 a year, nothing to brag to your parents about. But if two teachers were married to each other and making that much, they “would belong to the richest 20 percent of households,” Samuelson said.

Now McKinsey and Co., the giant management consulting firm, has taken a deep, detailed look at teacher recruitment and retention and come up with a similar finding. Teachers are making significantly more than many of us, particularly our most academically successful college students, think they are.

The firm surveyed 900 college students who were in the top third of their cohort academically. These otherwise bright young people were way off when asked what they knew about what educators make.

“More than half of respondents believed that teachers’ starting salaries were under $30,000, when the national average is actually $39,000, comparable to what 25 percent of top-third students expect as starting salaries in their preferred profession. Similarly, fully three quarters of top-third students not planning to teach believe that teachers’ maximum salary is below the current national average maximum of $67,000 per year -- and again a quarter of these students expect to earn less than what teachers will earn at the peak of their earning potential.”

The McKinsey report, “Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching,” compares how we recruit, develop and retain teachers with how that is done in Singapore, Finland and South Korea. Those countries were selected as benchmarks because 100 percent of their teachers come from the top third of their academic cohorts, while only 23 percent of new teachers in the United States, and just 14 percent of those in high-poverty schools, are in that category.

The McKinsey researchers admit that research on whether a teacher’s high grades and test scores predict classroom effectiveness is “very mixed.” But school systems in the three comparison countries usually score far ahead of American students on international tests. The report provides a good starting point for seeing what else we can do to make better teachers.

The report looks not only at how the countries that hire only top-third people as teachers recruit them, but the way they train them and compensate them. It culminates with an series of scenarios -- what the McKinsey computers predict would happen if we adopted several practices that seem to work in the three comparison countries.

They refer to this as a “top third +” strategy. My favorite scenario is this: “The U.S. could more than double the portion of top-third+ new hires in high-needs districts from 14 percent to 34 percent without raising salaries.”

How? “Non-salary changes are targeted at the neediest sixth of school districts: the government pays for teacher training rather than the trainee; schools offer excellent leadership and professional development; shabby and often unsafe working conditions are improved; high-performing teachers get performance bonuses of 20 percent; and an effective marketing campaign promoting teaching rolls out.”

Some of these measures had much more influence than others on top-third students entering teaching, according to what the McKinsey number crunchers lovingly call “choice-based conjoint analysis,” often used in consumer marketing. Improving the working environment, school leadership and professional development did not impress many potential recruits, although top-third people already in teaching valued those factors more highly as they decided whether to join or stay in high needs schools.

A marketing campaign to show students that teachers made more than they thought they made “would induce a 7 percent increase in the number of top-third students entering teaching each year (or an equivalent nationally of 4,000 additional top third students above an estimated baseline of roughly 55,000 who enter today,)” the report said.

Paid training increased the number going into teaching by 11 percent. A 20 percent performance bonus to the top-performing 10 percent of teachers would produce the same 11 percent gain in top-third students.

(Note my blog post just below this one: A Nashville study showed that such bonuses did not produce better results from the teachers who got them, but this study indicates that the chance to get such money, even if it does not affect learning, attracts more successful college students students.)

If you don’t want to pay teachers higher base salaries, you can still attract more high-level college students into the profession. But if you want to get a big jump in recruiting top-third students, higher salaries are the way, the report concluded:

“Offering starting compensation of $65,000 would induce a 15 percent increase in the number of top-third students entering teaching,” the report concluded. “Offering maximum compensation of $150,000 would attract a 39 percent increase in the number of top-third students becoming teachers.”

Singapore, Finland and South Korea do other things we don’t do. They make admissions to rigorous teacher-training programs very selective. They tie the number of teachers they train to the number of available teaching positions so jobs are guaranteed. They offer opportunities for advancement and growth. They offer great social prestige.

As many comments on the previous blog post note, teachers tend not to be motivated by money as strongly as many of the rest of us. So perhaps it would be worth trying some of these non-salary incentives. At the center of any new recruiting scheme would have to be better methods of teacher training. Anyone who has spent any time in an urban school knows that getting on the dean’s list at Enormous State University does not guarantee you know how to survive in a classroom.

By Jay Mathews  | September 24, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  Closing the talent gap,, McKinsey study shows college student underestimate how much teachers make, how to make teacher salaries look better, two average teachers married to each other are in the top 20 percent wealthiest households  
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Comments

As long as the public discourse on teachers is about teachers being lazy, making too many benefits, and scamming the taxpayer, smart college students are not going to be attracted to the field. Who would?

My school district has no trouble attracting bright, hard working teachers. The district pays really well, the working conditions are good, parents generally support the schools and the teachers, and the students don't go around assaulting teachers. Any opening in our district gets many applicants. It seems pretty obvious to me - you pay well and offer good working conditions, and you will attract good candidates.

Posted by: bkmny | September 24, 2010 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Agreed with the first poster.

Also, you are going to have difficulty attracting the top third (as you call it), because although the salaries are pretty good (really, they are), there is basically a zero percent chance of ever making a LOT of money.

To people at the top of their classes, the possibility of being really rich (or at least quite rich) is a very realistic possibility, and teaching offers no way to ever do that. This is especially true since a decent percentage of those top third students come from families making more then you can make as a teacher, and so if they enter education, they are accepting that they will never be as wealthy as their parents.

My father reminded me of this quite often when I chose to teach instead of working on Wall St. (I have a BS in Economics and was accepted at a number of pretty good MBA programs) because there is no way that I can ever make the money that he did. I have chosen a less risky, but ultimately less financially rewarding job. That's fine for me. Realistically, 18-22 year olds look at their maximum potential a lot more then you would think.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 24, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the notion of focusing on top 3rd college classes. This implies that someone in the 60th percentile at MIT is less talented(?) than someone at the 70th percentile of Mid-South-East Mississippi Tech.

I also am with the idea that pay doesn't need to go up, but respect and working conditions need to improve. And just wait until test-based decision making comes along, and you take away job security. Watch how many good teachers you get then.

The article even says that among this group of "top third" that we want to be teachers, teachers are in the 25th percentile of pay. You have to improve the other things to bring in more attractive candidates.

Posted by: someguy100 | September 24, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the notion of focusing on top 3rd college classes. This implies that someone in the 60th percentile at MIT is less talented(?) than someone at the 70th percentile of Mid-South-East Mississippi Tech.

I also am with the idea that pay doesn't need to go up, but respect and working conditions need to improve. And just wait until test-based decision making comes along, and you take away job security. Watch how many good teachers you get then.

The article even says that among this group of "top third" that we want to be teachers, teachers are in the 25th percentile of pay. You have to improve the other things to bring in more attractive candidates.

Posted by: someguy100 | September 24, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

When a teacher gets his/her first job,and for the first couple of years, I would agree working conditions are not a major concern...just getting a job is the reward.

However, if a teacher is a savvy professional, and wants to try things or suggest changes or interventions and continually bumps heads with the bureaucracy, my guess is, working conditions become more important.

The conversation keeps circling back to the "top students." We have to ask ourselves WHY don't those students consider teaching as a first choice? Could it be as the first commentor said...the media has turned teaching into a professional leper?

SALARIES. In my school district you have to teach for 20 years to reach the national average. Starting salaries are just a little below the national average and the maximum salary for a teacher with a BA is approximately $63,000. There is $25,000 between a first year salary and the top-of-the-scale @ 30 years.
That's the problem....that average's to an increase of less than $1000 a year.

None of my children's friends went into teaching...they became accountants, sales reps, lawyers, doctors, bartenders, managers, etc. The reason one of them expressed to me, as he wanted to be a teacher...was that while the starting salaries were competitive, the life-time earnings were limited. He became a CPA.

We can offer bonus' or whatever you want to call it...but until all salaries are professionally competitive, fewer and fewer of the "best and the brightest" will chose teaching....and if they do, they will not stay. The physical, emotional, and intellectual toll's are too great....and the freedom to use creative and intellectually challenging teaching strategies and curriculum has been purged from the profession. A good teacher doesn't want a script.

Posted by: ilcn | September 24, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

When you factor in that teachers get pensions, all of a sudden their compensation package looks pretty sweet, indeed!

Having our schools attempt to compete on salary with private industry is unpractical and undesirable. When I graduated college over 15 years ago, my starting salary was $60k. After 4 years' experience, I was making over $100k. Are you really willing to pay the property taxes that would be required to support that? Me either.

It's also undesirable. Remember the glory days of IT where "HTML Architects" who read a few chapters of a For Dummies book were being hired like crazy? Remember how many incompetent morons got jobs they had no business getting? Do you really want idiots like that teaching your children? I don't want those idiots teaching mine.

What schools really need is to address is retention. Talented, creative people have difficulty sticking with a profession where administrators systematically crush their souls.

If you want to attract professionals into teaching, make teachers back into professionals! Right now, they're glorified babysitters. Good luck convincing our best and brightest to tolerate that.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | September 24, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

For Wyrm1--- a good point, but wouldn't energetic and bright college students be fairly confident that they would have a shot at being a principal, and in most big districts breaking the $100,000 mark? They would still get to work closely with kids, be absolutely vital to the success of the school and have lots of exciting things to get them up each morning. (Being a high school principal is my little fantasy if I ever get a second life.)

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 24, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

The issue I have with this study is that Finland, South Korea and Singapore have nationalized education systems, which makes guaranteeing jobs possible. Because of our decentralized system of education we would not be able to do that. I do agree with the premise of the findings that we do need to recruit more highly motivated individuals into teaching (I won't limit myself to the top third) and non-salary incentives are an excellent way of doing it. I also agree we need to make teaching similar to being a doctor, etc. a highly selective field of study that students must work hard to get into.

Posted by: welangIII | September 24, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

afsljafweljkjlfe:

While we do get a pension, it is based (in Va, anyway)on a percentage formula of your 36 highest consecutive months. When your highest salary is $50,000 (and there are 8 school districts in Va where a teacher can retire making $50,000 or less) that is not a lot of money to live on.

Also, the state legislature is always "borrowing" from the fund to help balance the budget, making the fund worth less...and minimizing or eliminating cola's.

Public employee pensions were devised as a way to provide deferred compensation to public employees rather than raising their actual salaries.

There have also been years where my take home pay has been less in January than it was in December and the previous months because my health care costs went up more than my salary increase. And that was when times were "good."

And FYI... in far too many school districts, the Principal's did not get their jobs because they were a good teacher or because of excellent people skills or management skills and the only "best practice" they were an expert in was b.sing and "sucking up."

Posted by: ilcn | September 24, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

For Wyrm1--- a good point, but wouldn't energetic and bright college students be fairly confident that they would have a shot at being a principal, and in most big districts breaking the $100,000 mark? They would still get to work closely with kids, be absolutely vital to the success of the school and have lots of exciting things to get them up each morning. (Being a high school principal is my little fantasy if I ever get a second life.)


Jay, I read this and cringed.
I'd like to suggest that you research on and write about the whole process of becoming a principal. The system now does anything BUT select for the best and the brightest. I don't want that to sound disrespectful, a great principal is the single most important factor in how a school functions.I just think that a discussion of how the system works or does not work is a great direction to go in. It is an insanely hard job to do well, and really takes a toll on someone trying to do it right.

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 24, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

For years Jay Mathews has been writing articles to make teaching in public schools as a career unattractive.

A few months ago Jay Mathews was praising the idea of using stress to get the most out of teachers.

The hero of Jay Mathews is Ms. Rhee whose primary concept was "I never met a teacher, I did not want to fire."

The reality is that you would have more talented individuals interested in teaching in public schools if you had less columnists like Jay Mathews.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 24, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

A marketing campaign to show students that teachers made more than they thought they made “would induce a 7 percent increase in the number of top-third students entering teaching each year...
......................
This is sheer idiocy.

Enrollments of Americans are down in the computer sciences since Americans know that the jobs for this field are no longer for Americans. Americans read articles of American jobs being sent offshore weekly.

Marketing campaigns are not going to increase the enrollment of Americans in the computer sciences.

Last year 6 weeks into the start of the school year over 200 career teachers were let go in D.C. No concern that these teachers after accepting a position for a year would not have any chance of getting a teaching position for a year.

Columnists like Jay Mathews and the Washington Post cheered on the loss of the jobs of these teachers.

There has been for quite some time a campaign of bashing teachers. Any individual seeking a career as a professional would be turned off by the idea of their compensation being based upon bonuses as though they were used car salesmen.

Top tier Americans do not rush into careers in fields where there are known problems.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 24, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

@ilcn Every dollar you get in pension payouts is one dollar more than I will ever get. Furthermore, your outrage that your take-home pay dropped once shows how insulated you are from private industry.

In private industry, pay cuts happen all the time. Unemployment and underemployment happen all the time.

By the way, VA has 227 school districts. You conveniently used the bottom 3% of districts to "prove" your point on teacher poverty, and I'll assume those suffering teachers live in low cost of living areas where $50k goes a long way. How's life for the other 97% of districts?

I'm with you that teachers aren't exactly jetting around in private planes, but I'm still of the belief that teachers are paid decently. Certainly they are paid better than the media (and the teachers themselves) let on.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | September 24, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The McKinsey report, as respected as it is, is comparing apples & oranges. The reason the countries mentioned are able to recruit from the top third of academic cohorts has less to do with actual recruiting and salary prospects & more to do with the level of respect for the profession in those countries versus the obvious lack of respect for it in the USA. In the US, there is a decreasing respect for teachers and the reasons are numerous. Writers like Mathews aren't helping the cause, and superintendents like Rhee won't help it either. Neither will the Oprah effect glorifying Rhee and charter schools. Of course there was no mention about the degree to which parents in the aforementioned countries are held accountable either. We are definitely at a low point when it comes to respect for teaching as a profession.
My very talented son will be going to college soon. He wants to major in music education. He could go to a conservatory. With his personality and degree of talent, he has been told he would be a fantastic teacher. However, 9 of 10 people tell him to steer clear of education due to the respect issue.

Posted by: scpaintz | September 24, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Scpaintz and others are right on. There is a high level of disrespect for teachers that is epitomized by Michelle Rhee and others like her. In my opinion these people do more than any other factor to discourage "the best and the brightest" from making teaching a profession. Talented people do not seek jobs that are low-paying and lacking in autonomy and prestige.

My son's roommate at Harvard grew up wanting to be a high school Spanish teacher like his dad. However, as the time went on at the college, more and more people pressured him to be "more" than "just" a teacher. Finally, these people won out and the young man chose another career.

In our country there are many people, mainly from the upper middle class, who do not see k-12 teaching as an honorable profession. It's OK for two or three years but that's it. Read the blog Eduwonk and you get a good understanding of this point of view. This attitude hurts our system more than any other factor.

What to do? This is the sort of problem that cannot be tackled overnight because it is cultural and deep. However, the present "reform" movement is taking us in the absolute wrong direction because it seeks to deprofessionalize teaching and take decison-making away from practitioners.

Here's my plan:

The federal government could institute a scholars program for young people who want to be teachers. This competitive program would offer full scholarships at top universities (with excellent teacher preparation programs) for talented students who intend to teach in urban schools. Graduates would be placed in urban schools that are run by the federal government. These schools would be teacher-managed and have career ladders and healthy salaries. Teachers would be decision-makers as they are at the college level. They would make decisions about curriculum, instruction, and evaluation of peers. In short, it would be the beginning of teaching as a full profession.

By doing the above, a select group of teachers would emerge. If successful, the program would be copied by the states, and gradually the profession of teaching would become prestigious and able to attract the best students.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse


I don't think most teachers are in it for the money, because with all the skills they have, teachers could (if the economy were better)get other jobs.

There are many teachers who leave teaching and go on to lucrative careers in real estate, business, etc.

So, perhaps attracting the top students, is not really a criteria for a good teacher. Top student of what? I suspect you are thinking about math or science where top students do have opportunities to make a lot more money. Those jobs are also have a lot of prestige, while teachers are routinely denigrated by everyone from the President on down.

The ones who are in teaching now are in it because they love kids or love their subject matter so much that they don't care about a job that basically is being blamed for all of societies ills.

I think the problem that people might want to look at is the large number of teachers who leave the profession in the first 5 years. The reasons behind those numbers should give some insight into why there is not much interest in the profession.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 24, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

To mamoore1---Sorry. You have a point. I have been influenced too much perhaps by the remarkably high quality of principals in the Washington suburbs, particularly Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery. I have interviewed many of them, and their career paths suggest to me that bright young people have a good chance to get there. IN other parts of the country there may be problems, but there are a lot of bright spots. The principal selection system that I know best, for the KIPP schools, is particularly good---exhaustive vetting and interviews, followed by a year of training.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 24, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

This study could be analyzed in many ways, but I think perhaps it just reflects the general disrespect that people have for teachers thanks to the media.

Students think teachers aren't paid a lot because to them it looks like a loser job.

They know that in their high schools kids and parents showed disrespect to teachers and got away with it. The idea is that teachers have to put up with a lot of garbage from people.

And since basically we now have almost all the major newspapers, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Partiers etc., etc. bashing teachers and making heroes of those who fire the most, I guess no one wants to do the job anymore. Can you blame them?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 24, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

For Wyrm1--- a good point, but wouldn't energetic and bright college students be fairly confident that they would have a shot at being a principal, and in most big districts breaking the $100,000 mark? They would still get to work closely with kids, be absolutely vital to the success of the school and have lots of exciting things to get them up each morning. (Being a high school principal is my little fantasy if I ever get a second life.)
-------------------------------------

I suppose. However, teaching and being a principal are two different things, and in the past 10 years it has become increasingly obvious that the powers that be do NOT want to draw principals from the teaching ranks, but from the ranks of "trained business people". Over half of the Principals and Assistant Principals in my building taught not at all or for only one year.

I suspect that a lot of TFA graduates have that track in mind, but if you are looking for career TEACHERS, that's a lot different then looking for career administrators.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 24, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

afsljafweljkjlfe: Va has a 132 school districts....

This is the 21st Century...anyone with a college degree who retires after 30 or
more years teaching school making $50,000 or less...as a country that says we value education...we should be ashamed...not making excuses.

While I'm at it....In this great commonwealth....there are only 29 school districts where a teacher can retire making more than $60,000. Hardly a salary for a lazy retirement.

The issue is, as I understand it...Why don't more talented, smart people go into teaching? My humble answer is... working conditions and too many opportunities to make better money over their lifetime in other professions.

Ask yourself...why are 80% of teachers women?

Posted by: ilcn | September 24, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful comments and information in most of the entries above. Celestun100 makes expecially good points. Jay and the rest of you, are you heeding what they are saying?

One more little-known aspect of teaching: they are paid only for the days of the year that they actually work, around 194 on average, I think. "Plays with numbers" groups like McKinsey try to make it appear that teaching is a reasonably paid profession. They conveniently ignore several major aspects of the job: no paid holidays and no paid overtime for the many hours put in at home most nights (we're talking 10-12 hour days). Other public employees like police and firemen get overtime for any additional work needed. The public has no problem paying for that but not getting the best for their children?
Teachers are told to suck it up and don't try to make a life for yourself outside of the job. And School Boards and others wonder why the attrition rate is so high!! Turnover is greatest after 4 to 6 years in the job. This means the teaching work force after 6 years is almost 50% newbies.

So much for professionalism and experience. This way the public keeps the cost down and expertise short. The unmitigated gall of 30 year veterans wanting to have a decent retirement, much less respect from the American public and media! After all, we need scapegoats ("bad"
teachers)and whipping boys (those horrible unions) to vent our frustrations on, just like a certain World War II instigator!

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | September 24, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about Singapore, but comparing US stats on education with countries like Korea and Finland seems rather fruitless; they are small, very homogeneous societies with long histories. The US is such a gigantic, swirling kaleidoscope of many cultures, constant change and young in its historical development, that it would make more sense to compare it to Europe as a whole, or Brazil.

The one big thing almost all other countries have going for them is the respect and esteem held for people in the teaching profession. I rejected several teaching jobs because I was clued in by other teachers that in one job I was applying for, the students had put the previous teacher in the hospital from assault; a second job I was told that I would like it if "40 kids in a classroom saying FU all day long" were appealing. I finally wound up in private schools because
the arts were appreciated and not worrying about my physical well-being made the lower pay and lack of decent benefits worth it.

Public school teachers earn their money.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | September 24, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Referring to a number of excellent points by previous writers: First, "top 1/3 of class" is a vague standard, as remarked on by one writer because, as observed by another, the US has a highly decentralized education system; the criterion is probably more meaningful in Singapore or Finland. Nevertheless, the underlying point remains valid: it's better to have good students than poor students enter the profession. I don't buy the argument that teaching has everything to do with motivation, personality, and training in methodology. Much of teaching has to do with knowing things well enough to be able to pass on that knowledge--no mystery there. The notion that you can scrape by academically and then magically thrust yourself upon a group of unsuspecting 7-year-olds as a school teacher has got to be put to rest.

Although teachers in high-income areas may not be rolling in the dough, they don't do badly. I know a reading specialist in the DC suburbs earning close to $100,000. In a world where $70,000 makes people happy, this woman is overpaid. For the right personality, teaching, with all its stress and frustration, offers some very real though inchoate benefits that add to quality of life, and are probably a main reason some top students DO dare to enter the profession. In short, salary isn't everything for a lot of people.

People outside the profession don't often make the connection between the competence and integrity of a school administration and its ability (and desire) to hold onto bright young educators. For anyone who hasn't worked at a school, let me suggest that a mismanaged one can bear a frightening resemblance to the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company in the TV show The Office.

Finally, I do believe that one on-the-cheap way of attracting more good students to the profession could be as simple as a media campaign, supported by more rigorous selection criteria, that would define teaching as a "best and brightest" profession like medicine or law. It must be disappointing to an intelligent but impressionable young person to find that his or her peers view teaching as a "loser's" profession--what you do when you can't do. I am perversely hopeful that the present economic downturn might have at least the positive effect of attracting more good students to the profession, although with government budget reductions it's not clear they will have anywhere to teach.

Posted by: lynnmathias55 | September 24, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"These otherwise bright young people were way off when asked what they knew about what educators make."

"Otherwise bright"??? You are confusing ability (bright/dull) with knowledge; the fact that these students are ignorant of a fact, and istead believe a fact that may be false but is routinely repeated in mass media, does not render them any less "bright."

Also, KIPP principals may be selected well, but they are not unionized, are they? I am in Montgomery County and have met some great principals, and also some great illustrations of the Peter Principle.

Posted by: ragingmoderate | September 24, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the issue is so much pay but rather that there's no real chance for advancement unless the teacher wants to go into administration. Most students who are in the top third of college graduates got where they are in part because they are ambitious. They want new challenges, not just doing the same thing over and over again for 30+ years.

There are other types of "helping" professions that don't pay particularly lucrative salaries either but do offer better opportunities for advancement. And those are going to be more attractive to top college graduates.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | September 24, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

100,000 in Montgomery County is not a starting salary. That is at least 15-20 years and a Master's in Education.

A single family home in Montgomery County still costs about 400,000 and can easily cost 550,000. For a townhouse you are looking at something like 250,000.

Yes it is decent, but it is inflated because the cost of living is very high there.

New teachers in Montgomery County often live in Frederick County because it is less expensive, that salary is for someone with a lot of experience.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 24, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

(excerpt from this
J. Mathew's article) =>

....... "Anyone who has spent any time in
an urban school knows that getting on the dean’s list at Enormous State University
does not guarantee you know how to survive
in a classroom."

So --
Let's be realistic
(although I know that's not
your forte, Jay) ---

(?)

does a privileged wealthy
attendee of a private prep school
who then makes the dean's list
of an ivy league university or
of an elite (small-boutique)
private college
(but -- who has never before
set foot in a distressed,
lower-income neighborhood
or witnessed an urban school setting
drastically affected by the CIA-induced crack epidemic, gangs & drive-by shootings,
unemployment, homelessness & other severe
conditions) --
does this blindered, inexperienced,
sheltered, naive, or perhaps
luxuriously pampered college student
on a slum lark (filling their resume
with a "gap year or 2" experience)
really automatically have ---
the knowledge & abilities to
survive, thrive and to effectively
both
challenge + nurture
the students toward
healthy choices, resilience
and academic accomplishment
in these
struggling urban settings (???)


Posted by: honestaction | September 24, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

honestaction- actually, 2/3 of those attending Ivy League schools are graduates of public schools. All the classmates I know who did TFA came out of the public system. They actually have a stake in improving it rather than writing it off as a lost cause the way most of our classmates who had attended private schools did.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | September 24, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

DCPSparent :
---------- "re: Michelle Rhee's "mom friendly" comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms
not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally. Well. The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally, TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . . . (this principal) hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say "yes" to their boss. Too bad they don't know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction.

It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.

Rhee's influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.

Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film ("Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers") with her comment insulting DC voters. My kids, and the 350 others in their school, will not be devastated at all when she leaves. We assume she will head to the business world for which she may have more appropriate skills."

-------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 24, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

from a concerned DCPS parent:

DCPSparent :
---------- "re: Michelle Rhee's "mom friendly" comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms
not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally.
Well --- The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally,
TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . . . (this TFA principal) hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS
to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say "yes" to their boss. Too bad they don't know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction.

It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.

Rhee's influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.

Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film ("Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers") --
with her comment insulting DC voters.

My kids, and the 350 others in their school, will not be devastated at all when she leaves.

We assume she will head to the business world for which she may have more appropriate skills."

-------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 24, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

for honestaction--Nobody in their right mind can answer your good question about the chances of a young person doing well as a teacher until the young person tries it. Motivation is probably more important than background, and that is very hard to measure, except for the fact that if the young person wants to teach in such a school, they are obviously a better bet than someone who doesn't want to. I have interviewed many people who came out of the environment you describe, and few if any are as sheltered as you say. Dave Levin, from the most privileged of upper East Side backgrounds, had to struggle with reading difficulties and spent a lot of time in high school playing basketball in Harlem. I don't think it is a good idea to stereotype disadvantaged kids or advantaged kids.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 24, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Jay, thank you for responding in your above post.

however.......

do you think it is a "good idea" or not ---
to stereotype college students
who attend & graduate from state colleges
or public universities
--- note: including
some of those higher ed. colleges
or universities with 'large enrollments'
(such as the University of Maryland,
Towson State, Portland State (Oregon),
San Diego State, or
Pennsylvania State).

* By the way (Jay),
all teaching credentials in California
require more than 36 units of graduate coursework
post-baccalaureate), at least 36 to 60 units
of graduate courses, depending on the type of credential;
and, instead of undergraduate
degrees in education, teaching credential
applicants are required to already possess
at least a B,A. or M.A. degree
(or at least substantial upper-division coursework)
in a specific major (such as: Math, Biology,
Chemistry, History, English Literature, etc.)
or alternatively they must pass specific subject area
examinations which are quite rigorous.


---------------------------------


Posted by: honestaction | September 24, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Why do we want more folks from the 'top third' to enter the profession? If we want to make changes in the way education works now it seems like those who were so successful in the current system may not be the best to think about it differently. If school worked for you there is little reason to change it.

I'm not against bringing in better teachers. I'm just not sure that aiming for the 'top third' is the best way to do so.

Posted by: Jenny04 | September 24, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

"...jobs are guaranteed. They offer opportunities for advancement and growth. They offer great social prestige"

In other words, pretty much opposite of Michelle Rhee's management style.

Posted by: Trev1 | September 24, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Questions I have:

Are the teachers at top private schools top 1/3 kind of people? Are they paid a lot more than public school teachers?
How are top private schools doing with retaining teachers?

Why did this marketing firm undertake this study? Did a philanthropist fund it? Did the government? A university?

As much as I dislike the idea of spinning the teacher salaries to trick people into education, I have been thinking about it. It will probably work to attract people, but not to keep them.

I do think their study hit the nail on the head with the money attracting the new recruits and then after a year or so of teaching the working conditions mattering more. Once you find out you can't even take a bathroom break for 4 hours straight, working conditions quickly become top priority.

I agree with you that teacher motivation is probably more important than background.
However I am not convinced that academically advanced students are always going to make the best teachers. I have worked with people who had test anxiety themselves but had a real knack for motivating kids to learn. A scientist friend is brilliant but would not make a good teacher because as he puts it " I just bore everyone."

And, as honestaction noted, it is tough to teach in a different environment than the one you grew up in, and many of us hold stereotypes and misread actions/intentions of people from other cultures. This can be very tricky territory for both the teacher and the students. Although, I think kids usually give teachers a chance if they see they like them as people, know their stuff, and are trying. Usually.

But back to private or any schools that are considered really excellent, I mean cream of the crop, Sidwell Friends kinds of places. Are they paid more? Is it "cool" to work there? Why?

Would those teachers do as well in a school with a high percentage (12% or more) of kids in crisis in their classes?(without support of course) Would they do well with scripted lessons?

What if some of the best teachers start off in urban schools and then move to higher paying, less problematic, easier jobs in the suburbs because the perception in education is that that, (not becoming a principal) is moving up? Would experienced teachers move to cities if it were "in" to do so? For $?

Would a "Be All that You Can Be" type marketing solve these disparities? Would we be singing "I Want a Be a Teacher There, so very bad..." to the tune of the billionaire song with a tough, gritty, city showing in the background as dancers and musicians whirl to the music?

Would it be absurd to ask the good teachers that are out there what motivates them to stay?

I notice that Linda has moved on to constructive ideas. Perhaps that is what all of us who care should be doing. Proposing solutions.

Jay, thanks for reporting on this or we teachers may have woken up one morning feeling more prestigious and wealthier without an extra dime, all thanks to the powers of marketing.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 25, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Actually, maybe the 150,000 is a good idea. I volunteer for the job and MAYBE I will stay.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 25, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Jay, like many of the public school secondary science teachers I work with, I was in the "top third" - and then some! It is still surprising to me that none of the current "reform" efforts are at all interested in our input into this discussion.

The deal-breaker for most colleagues is the lack of material support for us to engage in actual teaching. A real teacher is in the ethical position of a professional. We sell our expertise and judgement. In my case, what I "profess" is a commitment delivering what I know to be the necessary introduction to the discipline of chemistry.

The mention of dilapidated facilities is quickly passed over in this piece, but commentators on the story have done a good job of bringing out real issues, like the profit-driven motive to deprofessionalize teaching itself. Education is not delivered under a business model in Finland, Singapore, or Hong Kong - we are moving more toward Pakistan's system of lies and fake enrollments.

Finally, Jay, again I ask: how can you justify failing to disclose your own employer's financial stake in the deprofessionalization of the teachers it employs? Yes, the Washington Post corporation, through its wholly owned subsidiary Kaplan K12 Learning Services, employs non-union teachers with public funds. I know you are aware that the Post Corporation runs a kindergarten to grade 12 subsidiary, Kaplan K12. I sent you a link to their website, which contains pages of shadowy scams like this one:

"Program Solution: District-Label Virtual School

Districts can provide services to a wider variety of students, adding new students, increasing per-pupil funding, and serving students who are currently difficult or expensive to serve. Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan."
http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

You advanced your own salary and retirement benefits as a reason to ask readers to support the Post's fraud-ridden Kaplan Higher Education arm.

Everybody knows I get paid for teaching, so wouldn't it be fair to disclose that you get paid, in the end, for promoting "district-label virtual schools"? Their business model is to conceal their real nature and steal money from "hard-to-serve" children, and from the teachers who actually serve them.

Posted by: mport84 | September 25, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Instead of "marketing" teaching....we need to be "selling" the IMPORTANCE of being educated....wouldn't that be more effective to those disinterested students?

Posted by: ilcn | September 25, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

The full-time teacher model has been fighting uphill against market forces for decades, in terms of inferior pay and professional status. There is a better model not even mentioned in this study - dual career p/t teaching. I'm one of these people.

I work afternoons as a contract scientific software developer to make a very comfortable living. I co-teach a cutting-edge high school course just one period a day. The course is Algorithmic Geometry, advanced math problem-solving where students write software for every problem they solve, and then reuse it to solve harder problems. I developed this course myself over 7 years, and co-teach it with the school's Math Dept. chairman who also hails from the real world of high-tech. I don't need to get paid for teaching, so long as I hold on to my software job.

Under this model, the students are benefitting from a state-of-the-art math curriculum, and are learning more advanced problem-solving techniques than kids their same age in Europe, China, Russia and India. The school can afford my expertise because I don't need to charge them for my time, just the textbooks and software.

Under the dual-career teaching model, we would need many fewer f/t staff in schools. Their role would be recruiting and managing a stable of p/t subject-area experts from industry, and thus the schools could afford to pay them double what they're paid now.

How about a study looking at dual-career teaching, and the way it systematically solves the problem of engaging the top people from every field to be teaching youngsters what they know? How about it, Jay?

Posted by: pbinCA | September 25, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I can only speak for the very high performing school district in which I live - Fairfax County. For the most part, I consider our teachers excellent and I want them paid top dollar. The teachers are why our school district is great. And I want to invest in my community and our students - OUR FUTURE - by investing in our teachers. They've done their part during the economic crisis and gone without a pay increase for two years now. Now its time for the county to do its part and invest in the building blocks of our schools - meaning our teachers!

Posted by: abcxyz2 | September 25, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

abcxyz2:

Thank you on behalf of teachers everywhere. I'd be willing to bet your children are high-achievers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 25, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

"But if two teachers were married to each other and making that much, they “would belong to the richest 20 percent of households,” This is laughable. As a successful teacher (according to test data) for years, i am tired of people like Jay who want to exist on the "dole" at a teacher's expense. Pay me my value, and incidentally, for what my responsibilities consist of, the salary is no where near what it should be.

Posted by: agra09 | September 25, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

and by the way, i do understand where jay gets empowered with this something for nothing attitude. he gets paid for his self serving, agenda driven, biased, and more importantly valueless arguments.

Posted by: agra09 | September 25, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, agra09. I wanted to say that, but my post was already too long. Lets connect another dot - a very ugly one that cropped up on edweek.org.

Published Online: September 24, 2010
School Closures Hit Homeless Students Hard, Study Finds By Sarah D. Sparks
comments
“Close the school and reopen it as a homeless shelter. People look to the schools to solve too many social problems. “

“Provide online courses K-12 aligned with state and national standards at the shelters. No vaccination/health records or permanent folders needed. Transferrable credits throughout the US.”

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/09/24/05homeless_ep.h30.html?qs=school+closures


“IMAGINE REACHING EVERY CHILD,
EVEN IF SHE NEVER WALKS
THROUGH THE DOOR.”

“Districts can provide services to a wider variety of students, adding new students, increasing per-pupil funding, and serving students who are currently difficult or expensive to serve. Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan.”

http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

Kaplan Online Schools is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Corporation. Nationwide virtual charters is the explicit agenda of Duncan’s Race to the Top.

Posted by: mport84 | September 26, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I read the report and could not find a source cited for the $39,000 figure. The report does cite an OECD report for other data (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/41/25/43636332.pdf) and spread sheet linked off of that report (http://statlinks.oecdcode.org/962009061P1G022.XLS) gives US average starting teacher salaries (with minimum training) as $35,907 (primary); $34,519 (lower secondary) and $34,672 (upper secondary). These are all well below the cited figure. Perhaps the "minimum training" is the catch.

I would like to know the source of the $39,000 and how it was derived. The round figure leads me to believe that it was not derived by any real calculations.

Posted by: tjmertz | September 26, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@ pbnca

I like the part time teacher for high school, but for middle school and elementary school we need full time teachers. Basically in elementary school and middle school schools serve a double role as day care providers for most children.

But why would that allow schools to pay the dual career teachers double? Also, are the part time teachers going to be available for hallway duty, chaperoning and coaching sports also? Will they be required to attend team meetings and faculty meetings, back to school nights and parent teacher conferences? Will they be on the numerous committees required of teachers? If not, who will do those things?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 26, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

for celestun100---we know that private school teachers on average make less than public school teachers. I havent seen the data lately but I think it is in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent less. I have seen no data on the percent of top thirds in private schools, and what trouble they have keeping teachers, but my sense it that the privates are no different on that score than the privates, and may not do as well, given the salary difference.

Posted by: jaymathews | September 26, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The starting salary for teachers has been competitive with many other professions for years. The problem is 10, 20, 30 years down the road. My children are in their mid-to-late twenties and work in non-education fields. They make more than teachers who have worked for 20+ years. When my wife and I finished college, we received about the same starting salary. Six months later she earned a 25% raise. Within ten years her salary was double what mine was. If I had not become a school principal, my salary would have topped out at the low $60's. Given the level of responsibility I have as a manager of a large school in a large Texas city, my friends in business who have equal, or even lower, management responsibilities are making 50-100% more than I earn as a principal. When the economy turns around, their bonuses and perks will skyrocket while I have topped out on the principal salary scale based on my years of experience. The study doesn't tell the whole story.

Posted by: TXSchoolmaster | September 27, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm 30 veteran teacher and graduated from my high school with an 1100 on the SAT, from my undergraduate college with a 2.75 QPA, and graduate school with a 3.75, and doubt from what I've read I am considered the top 1/3 of anything. But I do have an advantage. I'm not very smart, compared to software engineers, etc that consider teaching a non-paid hobby. So I study and practice, I struggle with concepts and study harder. And I am better able to teach most students since 2/3 of us are still able to be taught and are willing to work hard for it. i've watched PhD's come and go in my school systems, mostly go. So much for the top 1/3.

There will never be enough "hobby" or top 1/3 people to teach all the students who need to be taught. I knew I would never be rich and at present with a master's plus 60 credits work 3 jobs to make $136,000. I married a teacher and together with a combined salary of $208,000 we have to pay AMT, making us "rich". My friends who had lower scores that me and some who didn't go to college at all, are anywhere from double to 5x my salary as we close in on reirement. Pretty happy though and I've had and continue to have a good life and have loved my job.

So there's value and real worth in the other 2/3, hell most of us are the other 2/3.

Posted by: chemdork1 | September 27, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

@chemdork1

Your're right, but I think the toop 1/3 idea is just a way to imply that current teachers are dumb.

Jay, thanks for answering my question about private schools, but why did Mckinley do this particular study? Who asked them to or do they just see it as a possible money maker?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Glad to read that, for a change, most of the posts here seem to be based on logic and are not full of teacher bashing. As a public school teacher, who was raised by a public school teacher, I can agree that teacher salaries are not horrible (at least not in this area). My benefits are great, obviously the vacation is substantial. And, as you said, two married teachers can have a decent lifestyle. Not lavish, but you can purchase a home, take a couple of nice vacations, etc. The problem with teachers' salaries comes when you compare them to other college educated professionals with the same work experience and amount of education. It is then, even when you factor in summer vacation, when teachers don't get paid, that the difference is stark. I have been a teacher for nearly 15 years, have had a Master's degree most of that time, and my friends' son, who just graduated from college, is making what I make. (He's an engineer).

Posted by: 39aka94 | September 28, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

@Celestun-
I am a middle school teacher and currently teach part-time. Several of my coworkers have been part-time as well. In all of our cases it has been due to family. I have two young children, including one in school. This allows me to be involved with the morning process, including dropping off at school. As for the schedule/duty/meetings, etc. that will vary depending on the situation. My position is .8 (vs. 1.0) so I teach 4 classes instead of 5. I arrive later in the day and therefore have bus duty. Part-time teachers who arrive earlier have a.m. duty. We are all expected to monitor halls between classes. Staff meetings would depend on a schedule. A.M. meetings I miss. P.M. meetings, I attend. It works. Not sure how it would work for an elementary classroom teacher, but I do know that it has been done.

I like PBinCAs idea though. For some it may work well.

P.S. Teachers are not there to be day care providers.

Posted by: 39aka94 | September 28, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

@39aka94

I know teachers are not there to be daycare providers, but they actually do fill that role. I mean that once there is full day kindergarten the parent is free to work full time or whatever, without having to pay for more than before or after care.

I have also worked part time and it can work well. I wish there was more of that. The point I was making was that to run a full fledged elementary program you would need full time teachers. It would not be enough for businesses to provide part timers.

I know you are on duty for the time you are at the school, but my point is if all the teachers were teaching say 2 classes, then they would have to be required to do the other stuff as well. Schools of young children are not like universities where you teach the class and have a few hours of office hours per week and the rest of the work can be done at home. Elementary and middle schools require a ton of supervision of students all the time and classroom teachers are the ones who do the bulk of that work.

I have absolutely nothing against part-timers, I have been part time and know they basically work full time anyway.
Teaching is never done.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 1:34 AM | Report abuse

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