Getting What We Pay For in Our Schools
In September of 1971, I was a 24 year-old third year teacher sitting in the auditorium of Bristol Junior-Senior High School with my teacher colleagues. Our new superintendent, Dr. Michael Zotos, was up on the stage with transparencies and an overhead projector showing our school district's ranking, based on test scores, against the 12 other school districts in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Bristol, a small, working class school district with considerable poverty, ranked in the middle of the pack. The superintendent found this concerning.
As a newly minted member of the Bristol Borough Education Association's negotiation team, I had some data, too. I raised my hand.
"Dr. Zotos, I see that the test scores show that we are about average in achievement across the county. Is that correct."
"Yes. As I have shown here."
"Isn't it also true that Bristol Borough teachers are the lowest paid teachers in the county?"
"Yes, from what I saw reported in the papers, that is also true?"
"Well then, Dr. Zotos, couldn't we say that the taxpayers of Bristol are getting a very good bang for their buck?"
"Why, yes, I suppose that is true."
I tell this story today, because forty-five years later research shows that this "bang for the buck" is still true. A report from the Brookings Instituteyesterday cites a recent study by Erik Hanushek and others on teacher cognitive ability in literacy and math around the world. Now normally I am very suspect of research on education done by economists and especially research on education done by economist Erik Hanushek, who is the father of value added measures (VAMs) and fire your way to excellence. While I am circumspect, however, I think their is information of value in this study.
The findings of the study can be summarized as follows. As measured on the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, American teachers are about in the middle of the pack relative to other college Russ on Reading: Getting What We Pay For in Our Schools: