Raising the level of pay does improve performance over time according to new research

But  you also need improved Continuing Professional Development and to sack  bad teachers

Yes  its down to teacher quality again


The debate over teachers’ pay rumbles on. But most of it focuses on linking teachers’ pay with their performance and how much value they add. This sounds good, but becomes a trifle problematic when you try and isolate and measure individual teacher’s performance and link it to pay.

How do you devise a reliable, transparent  system that is seen to be fair and disaggregates an individual teachers performance and impact on outcomes, from other teachers who teach the  same child? And, how do you take into account and give weight to  the other factors and variables that influence a child’s performance and which  have nothing to do with the teacher. In the United States, where teacher quality and performance- related pay is central to education reforms, they are still arguing over this issue and the merits and demerits of different types of value added measurement. Most educators now believe that value added measurement is not sufficient  alone to rate teacher performance and needs to be combined with  structured  classroom observation . You need data  on pupils performance in   order to measure teachers performance.  That data normally comes from test scores.  In the States  the teacher‘s impact on student achievement is measured by scores on the annual standardized  assessments, required by each state.

But what if the tests are flawed? And, crucially,  quite a lot of what pupils get up to in schools  and what they are learning is not tested, so you dont have the data  on  which to evaluate teacher performance, do you?  So what do you do about that? And arent educators trying to persuade teachers not to teach to the test anyway? Surely they will  be incentivised to teach to the test if  pupils’  performance in those tests determines their rating and pay? The problems and challenges in this area are legion, and have not, so far, been addressed.

But, what if  all  teachers were better paid and higher up the national income distribution, would there be  an improvement in pupil performance? Do massive variations in the way different countries treat their teachers matter for the outcomes of their pupils? Bear in mind that around 70% of   school budgets go on teachers’ salaries.

New research considers the determinants of teacher salaries across OECD countries and examines the relationship between the real and relative levels of teacher remuneration and the measured performance of secondary school pupils over the last 15 years.

The report says ‘There are two potential explanations as to why teachers’ pay may be causally linked to pupil outcomes. The first is that higher pay will attract more able graduates into the profession. As the potential supply of teachers rises because of the higher pay on offer, entry into teaching as a profession will become more competitive. This in turn will mean that the average ability of those entering the job will rise. Once recruited, higher relative pay and/or more performance-related pay may provide teachers with stronger incentives to improve their pupils’ educational outcomes.  The second mechanism is more subtle – namely that improving teachers’ pay improves their standing in a country’s income distribution and hence the national status of teaching as a profession. As a result of this higher status, more young people will want to become teachers. This in turn makes teaching a more selective profession and hence facilitates the recruitment of more able individuals.

The research looking at aggregate country data supports the hypothesis that higher pay leads to improved pupil performance. As an indication of the relative size of this effect, researchers find that a 10% increase in teachers’ pay would give rise to a 5-10% increase in pupil performance. Likewise, a 5% increase in the relative position of teachers in the income distribution would increase pupil performance by around  5-10%.

The solution though is not to immediately pay teachers more. Simply increasing pay would take a very  long time to improve the system, possibly 30 years.

The researchers say if the government were to ratchet up starting pay, this would secure better quality new teachers. But improving the stock of existing teachers would require continued professional development and in-service training and/or attempting to fire the worst teachers.’  Fire  bad teachers- now  who could object to that?

If You Pay Peanuts, Do You Get Monkeys? A Cross-country Analysis of Teacher Pay and Pupil Performance’ by Peter Dolton and  Oscar Marcenaro-Gutierrez, Economic  Policy 26(65): 5-55, January 2011




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