(Ed Glaeser) writes:
Want better schools? Hire better teachers: This election marks a new beginning. Improving our schools may be the most important way that President-elect Obama can leave America stronger than he found it. He must avoid any small plans. America doesn't need an $18 billion Band-Aid. The country needs a massive education overhaul, and better teachers will be the most important element in that overhaul. Spending more and attracting able teachers is the best way to use resources to improve the human capital of our children and the future of our nation...
IMHO, the K-12 educational establishment still acts as though we were back in the 1950s--as if women could be nurses, secretaries, waitresses, laundresses, and teachers and nothing else--and so you didn't have to pay teachers a reasonable wage to get high quality.
It does little good to pay every teacher a high salary. Pay needs to be connected to quality somehow, if simply by allowing schools to make matching offers to coveted teachers already at their schools. Good teachers need to be rewarded for their efforts. Poor teachers shouldn't be rewarded for their lack of effort. Throwing money at teachers will not solve the problem if pay is not somehow connected to quality.
I teach at a mid-sized unionized university with a strict union pay scale, not unlike what K-12 teachers experience as I understand it. Professors have control over their starting salaries, but after that they move up the pay scale simply by staying on from year to year and by gaining tenure and promotion.
Suppose Jack and Jill are both tenured full professors in their 8th years in the Department of Economics making $85,000/year. Suppose Jack publishes nothing, experiences a 75% drop rate in all of his classes, and gets low teaching evaluations. Jill, on the other hand, publishes 8 articles in top 10 journals, wins teacher of the year and advisor of the year, teaches to a capacity class in all her classes, and becomes the editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. All else equal, they get the same salary increase at the University. Where's the incentive to excel?
This could be remedied by allowing colleges to make matching offers to professors who get outside job offers from other universities - in other words, paying them a wage determined by the market - and by giving them incentive pay. But to my knowledge, neither is done in my system, nor is it done in K-12.