Selection Bias

I thought it was kind of interesting that upon reading this McKinsey & Co study (currently the top one in the list) on education, Kevin Drum and a number of other left 'o center blogs pulled out this one chart to highlight.  It shows starting teacher pay  (i.e. out of college) as a percent of the economy's average)

Blog_mckinsey_teacher_starting_pay

The author's of the study argue that the countries higher on this list also have better student results.  Now, I will confess that this is a pretty interesting finding in the study -- that starting teacher pay is more important than teacher pay in later years, because the key is to attract talented people right out of college away from other professions.  Interesting. 

But here is the quite fascinating selection bias by the lefty blogs:  I have read the whole report, and this is absolutely the only chart in the whole study that in any way, shape, or form might be interpreted as a call for higher government education spending.  Even more interesting is what these bloggers left out.  This is the other half of the starting teacher pay analysis Drum et. al. chose note to include, and makes clear that even this chart is not a call for more total spending:

South Korea and Singapore employ fewer teachers than other systems; in effect, this ensures that they can spend more money on each teacher at an equivalent funding level.  Both countries recognize that while class size has relatively little impact on the quality of student outcomes (see above), teacher quality does.  South Korea's student-to-teacher ration is 30:1, compared to an OECD average of 17.1, enabling it in effect to double teacher salaries while maintaining the same overall funding level as other OECD countries....

Singapore has pursued a similar strategy but has also front-loaded compensation.  THis combination allows it to spend less on primary education than almost any other OECD and yet still be able to attract strong candidates into the teaching profession.  In addition, because Singapore and South Korea need fewer teachers,  they are also in a position to be more selective about who becomes a teacher.  This, in turn, increases the status of teaching, making the profession even more attractive.

Whoops!  Don't want our friends at the NEA to see that!  Most of the study turns on McKinsey's finding that teacher quality drives student results, way ahead of any other factor, from class size to socioeconomic background:

Teacherquality

Well, now the NEA might be getting really nervous.  Something like this might cause parents to do something rash, like demand that low-performing teachers get fired.  Gasp.

Anyway, to get back to the cherry-picking and selection bias issue, the study is pretty clear that it thinks that "more spending" is a failed strategy for improving public education
Education1

If school choice is off the table, then I would be very supportive of a program to increase starting teacher pay, funded by larger class sizes and substantial reductions in useless administrators and assistant principals.  Anyway, it is kind of an interesting study, though you may find the pdf file format really irritating to try to read.  Lots of funny formatting. 

  • Bearster

    I am not in favor of the government edukation-crats to increase teacher salaries, decrease teacher salaries, increase class size, or decrease class size.

    How about a separation of education and state, the same way we have separation of church and state and for the same reasons?

  • mith

    "the study is pretty clear that it thinks that "more spending" is a failed strategy for improving public education"

    I was not aware that inanimate objects and abstract concepts such as scientific studies were capable of rational thought.

    ;)

  • Emil

    Do those studies say anything about changes in evaluation criteria ? Or about changes in the curricula ?

    If those are not taken into account, it's just a waste of time and money. If I remember well, France had quite radical changes in curricula and general philosophy about what should be the outcome of education ( moved from training for skills to training for "culture" during the '70s).

    Class size does not matter ? Oh, my ... it does not matter only if the parents are paying private tutors to compensate.

  • Bob Smith

    If class size did matter, the push by the NEA to "help children by decreasing class size" (not coincidentally, help itself by massively increasing the number of dues-paying union members, who now do less work for the same pay) would have resulted in better test scores. It didn't.

  • Mary

    I've been a reader of yours for awhile. I'm a speech therapist who used to work in the public schools and now own a private practice (hence, my being part of your readership). While we disagree on many issues, I've never felt compelled to respond to any of your posts before this one. I wholeheartedly agree that cutting useless administrators are a great way to slash education budgets. However, your stance on class size is typical of someone who has never run, or spent much time in, a public school classroom. Without having been responsible for it, I know you cannot appreciate the time it takes to differentiate lessons for 3 types or levels of learners. Most teachers have to differentiate for at least that 3 levels (high average, average, low average) to teach their students.

    If you were to increase the numbers of students per classroom, basic statistics indicates that you'd also have the demand for increased levels of differentiation. Chances would be higher that the class would contain a learning disabled student or two, and also an above average learner who'd need (and whose parents would demand) enrichment opportunities. Well, my friend, that type of teaching takes time to plan and prepare for.

    To effectively reach the increased levels of abilities in your classes, you'd either have to increase teacher prep time or hire more staff to support the differing levels. To increase the prep time, you'd have to increase dollars spent on "specials" or "related arts" to free the teachers up. Either scenario results in more money being spent, making your "increase class sizes" argument null and void.

    And don't even suggest that we track elementary classes. We all know that the veteran teachers will end up, invariably, with the high ability students and the new teachers who are just learning their trade will end up with the class of difficult to teach low achievers. Result? Weak student achievement and high new-teacher turnover. Sure-fire budget suckers. Then you have to put the low-achieving students in to costly remedial programs to make up for their weak year (or two) spent with the weak teachers. It's a fact.

    You are right that teacher quality ultimately is the #1 predictor of student learning, and we need to pay higher starting salaries (thereby increasing budgets and higher salary scales) to attract better quality teachers. But even the best teachers I know would prefer a class of 20 over a class of 35. That's just too many to effectively reach all of them, especially at elementary levels.

    I'd love to hear your other ideas on ways to improve student learning, but this proposal is flawed. Again - not surprising given your lack of background in public education. You can't read a few studies posted on the internet and know what I've dedicated my entire post-graduate career on.

  • mary

    Please excuse my errors - emotions are running high over here! After "administrators" in p1 change "are" to "is"; change last word in post to "to".

  • Rob

    My wife is in her first year of teaching. She teaches Special Education. These types of classrooms require a lower student to teacher/teacher aid ratio. For example, she has roughly 10 kids with varying mental and physical disabilities and two assistants.

    My perspective is:
    1. She doesn't get paid enough for the stress of the job. I keep telling her to go private.
    2. She doesn't have enough assistants, so most her time is spent feeding, changing, and dealing with interruptions. Inevitably, she loses her prep time and might get 10 minutes to eat in the classroom.
    3. Administration (lots of them) will reprimand her for asking for help (i.e. asking for more assistants, asking for help dealing with parents that continually interrupt and delay the class schedule)
    4. As a taxpayer, I can't understand why we pay her + 2 people to basically babysit some kids all day? I say babysit because due to having to feed/change constantly, there is hardly time for the kids to learn. Hire more assistants or send these kids home, because my tax money is being wasted.
    5. It is easy to see how there can be a lot of new teacher turnover. My wife just wants to teach/help/give these kids more in life, but she is constantly hamstrung and left out to dry by the "politics/bureaucracy/administrative BS" of teaching. Should the latter be considered normal for a teacher? My wife is very patient with the kids (this is almost a priceless quality, she grew up with it, having a sister with down's syndrome), but what she can't stand is the "politics/bureaucracy/administrative BS"!?!?!

  • foxmarks

    Mary misses the possibility of a substantial change in the goals and/or method of education. Of course if we're stuck with all the same presumptions, we'll be stuck with all the same problems and the same poor outcomes.

    Accepting that larger class sizes will lead to wider variation in ability within a class, rather than more staff time, perhaps we should change how we assemble classes. Why not segregate students by ability rather than age? And what are we teaching? If the problems are as the education insiders present, how did the one-room schoolhouse manage to teach fundamental reading and math?

    Very quickly, we'll be forced to discuss the importance of good parenting and how that matters so much more than quality of teacher.

    Mary also seems to miss Coyote's point about changing the pay structure for teachers. Pay more money up front to attract better candidates, without being stuck to the same scales of increase. Maybe we have to recognize that even a stellar veteran teacher is not worth so much pay as he might think he deserves. The human bias toward stability will tend to keep people in their careers anyway.

    Or, we begin to see teaching as a temporary career. Maybe something people do for 5-10 years before they move into something more valuable (and with better prospects). It could even be some kind of Americorps deal...teach 5 years at a Cincinnati city school for a clerical salary to get some tuition subsidy or whatever handout is popular at the time.

  • Mary

    Foxmarks- I absolutely don't miss his point about the pay structure needing changing. I even said that I agree the starting salaries need to be higher to attract strong candidates, and (here's where I'm very far from left) I even support merit pay if the calculations are based on factors within the teacher's control,

    But tell me - would you *ever* consider entering a career that paid a decent starting salary without any expectation of ever making more? I don't think so.

    As for structuring students based on ability rather than age - let's say you were the parent of a low-ability 10 year old, reading at the same level as a high-ability 5 year old. Would you really send your child to a classroom with said 5-year old and expect him to feel dignity or self-worth? Again, I don't think so. Conversely, that 5-year old would be exposed and forced to deal with a range of situations he lacked the emotional maturity to handle. Not good for either end.

    I agree that the current structure and fundamental philosophy of public education is at best flawed and at worst criminal, especially in urban environments. But I challenge you to come up with a different method that could reasonably be implemented given our current economic and social-class crisis. It's a difficult problem to solve and simply suggesting that vouchers or merit pay or increasing starting salary will be the answer alone is to undershoot the severity of the problem.

    And - the one room schoolhouse model managed to teach kids the very basics of reading, writing, and some social studies while using physical punishment and humiliation as behavioral techniques. You want your child slapped with a ruler for missing a "ma'am"? Me neither. We've come a long way since then and we are responsible for teaching these children far more now than that model achieved.

  • Willis

    Mary, so how would you propose increasing teacher pay? You did mention cutting useless administrators, I agree with that. Still that would only be part of it. Also, what makes larger class sizes work for South Korea that wouldn't work for the US? Would teachers rather a 40k starting salary with 20 kids or a 60k starting salary with 35 kids (these numbers are hypothetical and pulled out of thin air)? You seem to be pretty knowledgeable on the subject. Thanks for any info you can share.

  • DKN

    My wife has been in secondary education for nearly twenty years. She has taught in schools with demographics ranging from predominately white upper middle class, to predominately poor blacks; well funded to poorly funded. She's coached academic teams that successfully competed on the national level, and worked at schools were many Seniors read on a 3rd grade level. Many of our friends are teachers; my parents were teachers as well.

    Based on what I've heard (and seen) for many years, Mary and Rob hit the nail on the head. I would add that IMHO the primary problems with our education system are not due to a lack of talented and dedicated teachers, nor a lack of funding, but rather to pervasive political correctness and a popular culture that devalues education and self discipline.

    Too often students are not held to high academic or behavioral standards by administrations or, in many cases, parents. As a result, a substantial percentage of “students” are, at best, wasting both their and the teacher's time. At worst they are disruptive, foul mouthed, and too frequently, violent. Administrations often just slap their wrists because only so many can be sent to alternative schools or expelled before funding and careers are threatened. Parents often defend their precious little delinquents, or are unable to control them themselves.

    Too be fair, many of the "bad" kids come from dysfunctional families, that they function at all is amazing, but it is not the teacher's job, *cannot* be the teacher's job, to provide what those kids need. Until our society heals itself of its social problems, public education will continue to decline, and all the money and staff, all the No Child Left Behind, all the educational theories in the world will be to no avail.

    End of rant :-)

  • markm

    But tell me - would you *ever* consider entering a career that paid a decent starting salary without any expectation of ever making more? I don't think so. I'm an engineer. The salary curve is pretty flat, and there's no mystery why. Most of my college education was made obsolete by technological advances within a decade of graduation. To even maintain my value, let alone increase it, I have to continually re-educate myself. I have to find ways of persuading employers that I have managed to keep up. And past 50 (or even 30 or 40 in some fields), forget about actual raises, you're doing quite well if you can even get cost of living increases. But I'm responsible for my own progress, and happy to be doing this job.

    And don't even suggest that we track elementary classes. We all know that the veteran teachers will end up, invariably, with the high ability students and the new teachers who are just learning their trade will end up with the class of difficult to teach low achievers. That's a problem with school management, abetted by the unions. Veteran teachers who have proven their ability should be paid much more, and expected to earn it by taking the tougher assignments - that is, management needs to resist the union demands for allowing senior teachers to pick their assignments. Conversely, veteran teachers that haven't achieved high competency should be gone. As long as the unions protect the marginally competent (and in some cases I'm personally familiar with, the totally incompetent), and insist they get the same pay as good teachers of the same seniority, there's no reason taxpayers should bear the cost of higher pay, and no reason for college students of high ability to go into education.

    As for school "administrators", I've come to the conclusion that they're called that because most of them can neither teach nor manage. From what I've seen of SAT's and GRE's for college students majoring in education and administration, most future teachers aren't too bright, but the future administrators are the bottom of the barrel.

  • Mary

    I don't have the answer as to how to increase teacher pay. If I did, I wouldn't be sitting here posting on a blog- I'd be resting at my estate in the Virgin Islands ;) I also don't know why South Koreans can achieve more than we can in larger classes. My guess is that kids do their homework and have parents who discipline them if they don't. Maybe they have better early childhood education? Maybe the teachers are allowed to slap the kids' hands when they misbehave? Maybe South Koreans have higher IQs as a population? Don't know, don't pretend to know.

    But I do know a bit about education in the U.S.

    My main point is that there is no single answer or change that will correct what is wrong with public education, and when people suggest that there is it reveals their lack of understanding about about the reality. No Child Left Behind is just about the hugest joke that's come down the pike in the eyes of those in the trenches. It's not as simple as increasing pay and increasing class size, or changing curriculum, or testing kids again. The answer comes (as always) with a multi-faceted view, that is altogether unrealistic to implement given the restrictions that some of you have already pointed out (to be clear, the restrictions in my view are A) unions-which serve a much-needed purpose but in my opinion are too inflexible, B) inept administration, and C) inept parenting):

    -Increase the desirability of the job by raising starting pay, giving AT LEAST cost of living increases every year, and relinquish teachers of time-sucking administrative duties like bus duty and lunch duty so they can devote that time to planning.
    -Trim the fat at the administrative level, and make it law that only X percentage of school budgets can be spent at this level.
    -Establish a viable and guaranteed curriculum across states and hold teachers accountable for their students learning that curriculum, measured by comprehensive assessments, but establish some measurable and differentiated methods so teachers have flexibility in teaching and testing gifted and learning-disabled students.

    And this last one is the most important, and it involves both parents and school staff: Support teachers and principals who are tough on discipline. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen principals trying to expel a student, only for a superintendent kowtow to parents and allow the student to remain in district. Disruptive students are one of the biggest hindrances to student learning and their parents are typically equally as disruptive but even more unreasonable. Principals' hands are tied in this department because, as one poster mentioned, it's too expensive to farm these kids out, but traditional disciplinary measures just don't work. And, when we draw the parents in, we find the root of the problem: low to no expectations at home with no follow through or consequences for poor behavior at school. It's a huge problem that I'd love to hear some ideas on.

    In any case, I do strongly object the suggestion that "most future teachers aren't too bright". If you dig deeper you'd find that many teachers have grad degrees from prestigious universities and did quite well on GREs and SATs (but make sure you're checking out an upper class predominantly white district that pays well, because the urban districts can't find anyone to deal with that garbage on a day-to-day basis - yet another huge issue w/ education in this country). I will say, most future teachers are realistic in terms of future earning potential and will choose to attend state universities over private colleges to alleviate some of the immense cost involved in becoming a teacher.

    To add to the rebuttal, note that "bright" does not equal "expensive degree" or even "high GRE scores". In my experience, "bright" does not equal "good teacher". My sister in law is a certifiable genius, getting her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Harvard. She cannot teach to save her life and will admit to that. While I'm no certifiable genius, I did reasonably well in school and have a gift for helping people understand things, be it a 10th grader learning to write an essay, a 3 year old with down syndrome learning to talk, or my husband learning how to fold laundry. Teaching involves obviously knowledge of the subject with even more knowledge in the craft of designing lessons and encouraging and inspiring learning.

    Me? I was fortunate to have parents pay for my undergrad degree from Mount Holyoke (120K), but did the rest on my own: UMass for my Master's (25K) and then completed my doctoral work at Harvard School of Education (150K).

    Also me? Out of public education.

  • mark

    If teaching salaries were actually a problem then the market would correct it by not supplying it with new teachers. But that is not the case. The actual truth is that teachers, especially when they start, are actually overcompensated if you adjust their salaries for their 9 month working schedule and add in their generous benefits.

    Further, when you compare salaries/compensation it must be remembered that teachers are tenured so comparing a salary of a teacher with another professional is not even valid. The other professional can be fired with just a trip to their bosses office; a teacher it is a whole different story.

    The fact is that teachers have pulled the wool over the public's eyes. The vast majority of the public believes that teachers are overworked and underpaid. The vast majority of the public believe that if the NEA endorses a policy that it is endorsing that policy for the benefit of the students. Teachers are far from overworked and far from overpaid.

    Their salaries may not compare with the highest levels of professionals, but neither do their skills. Lets put it htis way, my son took the SAT test as a 7th grader without any preparation and had a test result that was a little bit higher than the median score of a college senior choosing education as a major.

    ANd, on the other hand, if you add in the relatively generous benefits and retirement plans that teachers have compared to professionals in the private sector the argument can easily be made that teachers are overcompensated.

    What can be done?

    First, merit pay needs to be instutited so that high performing teachers are kept in the profession and rewarded, and that a higher caliber of students enter the field.

    Second, high level professionals with technical skills and interest in teaching need to be entered into the fields without the extensive, and quite ridiculous, certification process. Math, science, computer science, and other technical fields could be enhanced by this level of teaching but the NEA prohibits it.

    Third, the entire organization of primary and secondary shcools need to be restructured. Probably too much to go into now, but the 19th century egalitarian model of our school systems needs to be changed so that children receive the education that they need. Our system is based too much on the "college" track cirricullum that the vast majority of students do not need or want. When you consider that about 30% of the students drop out of high school and that we spend more than $10,000/year per student we need to focus that money and energy giving the majority of students the tools they need to survive rather than some misguided attempt to turn them all into college students.

  • DKN

    Mark,

    There may be teachers that are overpaid, but I've never known any myself. My wife, a science teacher, works a minimum of 60 hours/week - not counting weekends. 49 weeks a year. She does four preps each day, grades papers, composes tests, does admin work and reports, creates multimedia presentations, calls parents etc, etc. She also has to take mandatory training regularly - I did not count that in her hours. And after nearly twenty years in the biz, with a M.A. in secondary education, and a Bachelor of Science in Geology, she makes under 50K.

    And it seems about like what many of her colleagues do as well.

    Beware of painting with a broad brush.

  • Aaron

    There has been several podcast at Econtalk.org about education, and the result is that increased budgets don't help and class size doesn't help.

    The idea of front loading the salary is good, as better quality teachers do help.

    It is also mentioned that private schools don't actually pay more, but get better results because they can screen for quality and then FIRE anyone who doesn't perform unlike the unionized public schools.

    Pay is one kind of incentive. worry about keeping the job is another.

    I believe the podcasts are with Prof. Hanushek (sp?) if you look for those specific ones.

  • Aaron

    And for everyone sending in their own anecdotes and deciding that they work too hard for too little pay...welcome to the rest of the world, where everyone feels that way!

    Here's another anecdote for you: our company hired a woman who had been a kindergarten teacher but wanted to try out business. She lasted two weeks. Her co-workers had to tell us to fire her (she was really nice but she couldn't work in a fast-paced environment.)

    p.s. I have been a teacher, too, and I find business to be far more stressful a job. No summers of either.

  • Mark

    All the claims about teachers working 60 hours a week are bogus, in my view. When I was a student I stayed after school for practices or rehearsals every day. Except for the teachers that were coaches, not one teacher was every there 30 minutes past the end of the school day. NOT ONE.

    And, as a parent I pick up my daughter from school day care every day. At 5PM when I go to get there the probability of seeing a teacher at the school is basically ZERO. IF they were all putting in 60 hour work weeks, or even a few of them were, you would see many teachers every day at the school. Teachers have a 9-3 work day, they work 9 months out fo the year, they have constant breaks and holidays, and it seems like every other week is a 4 day week because of some teacher's work shop or other shenanigans.

    Think about this. If other professions got 3 months of the year off, do you think they would ever be able to justify having WORKSHOPS and UNION CONVENTIONS DURING THE ACTUAL WORK YEAR LIKE THE TEACHERS????????

    Add in the tenure, the public health benefits, and the retirement benefits of teachers and you have to conclude they are overpaid especially when you consider the quality of their education. Eduction M.A. are not that rigorous.

  • DKN

    Mark,

    I assume the "bogus" reports you refer to allude to my earlier post. So, for my last word, and to address your arguments…

    I did not say my wife and her colleagues work 60 hours a week at the school, though my wife at least does put in quite a few hours after work there. No, mostly she does the extra hours at home - instead of spending time with me and the kids. And a lot of her "...3 months of...[sic]" is used to take those training courses I mentioned, or to plan for the next year (yearly plans need to be submitted for approval before school starts).

    She is not in a union; many teachers are not. As for tenure - Hah! Some school systems may offer that, but none she has worked in. Teachers can most definitely be fired; for example, their contracts do not get renewed if they fail “too many” students (never mind that the students refused to work). And if they quit without permission (e.g., due to really bad conditions), they most likely will never teach again – they get blacklisted.

    My wife’s benefits are comparable to what I had working for a number of private industry firms; decent, but nothing special. In fact, her benefits, and pay, are less than what I enjoyed as a blue collar union member.

    As for the lack of rigor in an Education M.A. - depends on the particular curriculum. Many teachers have additional, specialized degrees – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, for instance. In my wife’s case it’s Geology (which involves math, physics, and chemistry). These are not easy subjects.

    Teacher educational requirements, pay, benefits, and work loads vary widely from state to state, between systems within a state, and between specialties. In some places or situations what you write is spot on, in others you are way, way wrong. That is why I cautioned against generalizing.

    Oh, I have rarely heard a teacher seriously complain about pay and benefits. They mostly complain about poorly behaved students, poorly behaved parents, reports and paperwork that distract from teaching, and non-supportive administrations, i.e., stuff that interferes with work. They are not a bunch of whiners.

    Finally, in civilized discourse one does not imply another poster is a liar without strong, independently verifiable evidence. You can verify my arguments by doing an internet search of school system hiring sites, and university educational degree programs. All you have are your own anecdotes – and that does not cut it.

  • DKN

    Mark,

    I almost forgot - where do teachers have a 9-3 workday? Maybe the teachers in your location have it cushy? Do kids hang out at home after Mom and Dad go to work? In my experience 7:30-3:30 is a typical teacher workday, with 20-30 min for lunch.

  • mark

    Oh...the ole "works at home" claim. I highly doubt that very many teachers work an average of 4+ hours per night, five days a week to make the 60 hour claim. If they do, then you must question what they are doing.

    ANyways, anyone who thinks that an education degree at any level is rigorous has no experience with other graduate programs.

  • mary

    Mark- since you seem so knowledgeable on the topic of master in education degrees, pray tell, where is yours from and what is your other graduate degree in that you're comparing it to? Reveal your background and give yourself some credibility.

    You strike me as a seriously undereducated man with no real experience or facts to back these opinions up with. Stop insulting people anonymously on internet blogs and go make a difference in the world.

  • DKN

    I was lurking!

    Thanks Mary, Mark does seem undereducated, and bitter too - or maybe just the typical troll. Your advice to him is excellent.

    In response to Mr. Know-It-All, I do have "experience with other graduate programs": M.A. in Geography (specializing in Geographic Information Systems), with an Ecology minor. I worked in warehouses until going back to school; worked through college too, T.A'd 4 sessions of Climatology lab each week, and full time on a loading dock at night. I'm now in the info technology end of Natural Resource Mgt.; it's much easier on the back and knees!

    Of course, there's no reason to believe all that - I'm "bogus" after all. :-)

    Cheers and Bye (for real this time)!

  • mark

    Undereducated? Whatever. I am for all practical purposes overeducated. I have a Ph. D in economics from one of the top graduate schools in the country (at least it was when I went there). The fact is that I, and all of my fellow grad students, could have done the course work for a graduate degree in education with our eyes closed but it would not have been the other way around.

    The statistics do not lie. People chosing education majors have amongst the lowest SAT/ACT scores. The programs for education are not academically rigorous and the quality of the graduates from such programs is rather low.

    I do believe that teachers are professionals when they want to be, and they do the job they are asked. They also play the role, when they want to, of a group of blue collar workers more worried about their union rules than education students. The constant claims of how overworked and underpaid are not true, and cannot even be factually supported.

    On top of this, the teacher's union has become a roadblock to every meaningful reform in education today. On the other hand, the union only supports initiatives that will deliver more money to their constituents despite the fact, as demontrated above, that the marginal value of incremental funding is dubious at best.

    Today, the public schools graduate only 71% of its students. In many areas, particularly the Democratic inner city strongholds, the graduation rates are as low as 25%. Despite funding levels that in many cases are more than $10,000/year/student this is the best that the public schools can do. And graduation rates are not the only issue. The utter ignorance of the majority of students graduated by our public schools is astounding. Testing has indicated that even college bound students are ignorant on basic concepts, facts, and ideas to alarming levels. For example, not understnading even within a range of dates when the American Civil War was fought means that these students have very little comprehension of basic historical events and the relative impact on current events.

    I am not claiming that these problems are all the faults of the teachers, particularly when you consider individual teachers. However, these results are the problem of an EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM that has been set up by the entrenched interests of the teachers and their political affiliations and choices. The Democratic Party machines have run almost every urban city, from the mayors office and city council, to the school board and police and fire departments. Yet, after all of these decades what have they delivered? Dirty, miserable cities surrounding fancy, governmnet funded master projects; high crime rates; schools that the word failure is not even a true measure of their failure; and the flight of the taxpayers to better enviroments.

  • DG

    This has to be the nth post about teachers by Warren and the nth stream of comments that has devolved into "teachers complain too much" versus "teachers are overworked and overpaid." While each side may have valid arguments, Warren does not deign to argue for either side. Instead, Warren suggests once again that it is the system that is the problem, not the individual teachers. Vile injective should be in the direction of the root of the problem, which is the monolithic government, and not at each other.

    For the public school teachers who are reading this thread, think not of how entitled you are being a government teacher, but of how the government infrastructure impedes your ability to do your job of educating children. If your only complaint is being overworked and underpaid, you are not going to find a sympathetic audience. However, if you complain about provisions of No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, and other government regulations that make your job more difficult, and better yet, suggest solutions, you will be greeted in a more positive way.

    For the non-teachers reading this thread who think public school teachers have it good, stop making claims about teachers that you cannot defend by personal experience. While it is not necessary, it is kosher to thank the teachers as individuals for their work while still railing against the system. It is helpful if, instead of attacking them and expecting them to be miracle workers, you encourage personal responsibility and removing the inane government-imposed obstacles teachers face.

    Teachers and non-teachers each have many pet peeves concerning the opposite group. However, they must realize it is not each other they should be attacking if conditions are to improve, but instead the system should be targeted.

  • Miklos Hollender

    OECD average of 17 kids per class? Wow! How much is the American average then, 10-12? When I was in school (in Hungary) usually we've been 26-33 kids in a class, with 30 being the target number thy tried to maintain and it wasn't a problem at all. Most kids don't really ask questions anyway.

  • mark

    Again, no one actually can dispute the real statistics. Facts are stubborn things.

    1. The average test scores of education majors is amongst the lowest of any other major.

    2. When annualized to a full 12 month year teachers starting pay and average/median pay compares favorably with other professionals. If you look at total compensation after including the generous benefits and retiremnt packages teachers do very well.

    3. The teaching profession is protected by tenure which makes it virtually impossible to fire teachers that have attained tenure. Tenure protection is something other professionals do not have.

    4. If the average teacher is working so hard, the results clearly do not indicate it. Drop out rates and the overall quality of education given the cost, leave much to be desired.

    5. Teachers and their unions, supported by the Democratic Party, have opposed every initiative to improve education, save spending more money on teachers. They will only support initiatives like reduced class size, which studies have shown do not improve education, because it will increase the union's constituency. The study above shows that improved teacher quality is perhaps the biggest contributor to improved educational results, yet the teacher's union opposes any effort designed to do this like merit pay, clinging stubbornly to the blue-collar like union wage scales that simply reward time of service and not quality.