NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teachers' Pay And Students' Performance

April 23, 1999

Teachers' unions think they have the answer to improving students' test scores: more money for teachers. The National Education Association claims the average public school teacher made $38,611 in 1996-97 -- ranging from $50,647 in Alaska to $26,764 in South Dakota.

Nationwide, the NEA says, that's a drop of 0.4 percent from the previous year, after adjusting for inflation.

But new research, conducted by University of Rochester economist Eric Hanushek, Amherst College economist Steven Rivkin and the University of Texas at Dallas's John Kain, found scant evidence that teachers' salary levels influence either teacher quality or student achievement.

  • In a study of data from Texas, they found that higher salaries to attract better teachers -- based on schooling, experience, college attended or even teacher test scores -- accounted "for little of the variation in classroom performance."
  • A number of other factors may affect student achievement in wealthier communities which pay their teachers more.
  • These include better computers, better administrators, better public services outside of education, or a community environment more conducive to learning.
  • Using advanced statistical techniques to control for possible bias, they concluded that there was little support for the notion "that pay is an important determinant of teacher quality."

Source: Macroscope, "Pay for Performance?" Investor's Business Daily, April 23, 1999.


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