Tag Archives: Teachers Unions

Teacher Pay In North Carolina

Corporate Competition

I need to stipulate three things: 1.  I used to be a senior high math teacher 2.  I work in corporate America in a highly competitive environment 3.  I am payed more than both the national average and mean Okay, teacher pay, here in NC it’s pretty bad:

Under the current state base pay scale, a teacher who started in the system with no experience would take 16 years to reach a $40,000 salary. North Carolina school teachers have only seen one one raise since 2008, which was 1.2 percent.

Like I said, pretty bad.  And we need to improve it. But let’s think about why.  Do we wanna pay teachers more because we only love them and think they deserve more pay?  No, at least not me.  I wanna pay teachers more because by creating the incentive to be a teacher, you attract better teachers. And why do we want better teachers?

The work of Bill Sanders, formerly at the University of Tennessee’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, has been pivotal in reasserting the importance of the individual teacher on student learning.4  One aspect of his research has been the additive or cumulative effect of teacher effectiveness on student achievement. Over a multi-year period, Sanders focused on what happened to students whose teachers produced high achievement versus those whose teachers produced low achievement results. He discovered that when children, beginning in 3rd grade, were placed with three high-performing teachers in a row, they scored on average at the 96th percentile on Tennessee’s statewide mathematics assessment at the end of 5th grade. When children with comparable achievement histories starting in 3rd grade were placed with three low-performing teachers in a row, their average score on the same mathematics assessment was at the 44th percentile,5  an enormous 52-percentile point difference for children who presumably had comparable abilities and skills.

And how good are we at measuring teacher effectiveness?  Well, consider this:

The vast majority of school districts in the U.S. presently use teacher evaluation systems that result in nearly all teachers receiving uniformly high ratings.  For instance, a recent study by The New Teacher Project of twelve districts in four states revealed that more than 99 percent of teachers in districts using binary ratings were rated satisfactory whereas 94 percent received one of the top two ratings in districts using a broader range of ratings.[i]  As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan put it, “Today in our country, 99 percent of our teachers are above average.”


We have no useful or meaningful way of evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness.  And that has to change.  We not only need to identify the best teachers and reward them appropriately, we need to identify poor teachers and remove them from our schools. And we have to go further. We need to pay more for the teachers teaching subjects we value more.  For instance – there is no reason that an elementary music teacher or a physical education teacher.

Further, raises and bonuses need to be assigned proportionately – the better the teacher the higher the raise.  And bonus. Some say that this will create a corrosive culture and pit teacher against teacher.  I dispute this theory and point to corporate America as my example. As I mentioned above, I live in corporate America and am compensated relatively well.

I earn more than some of my peers and less than others.  I achieve stronger raises than some and less than others; bonuses in the same manner.  And I ave yet to feel a level of resentment that leads to less collaboration or cooperation. In fact, the reverse is true – I see that it increases such traits as fellow co-workers seek to emulate the stronger employee. The pay of our teachers is a disgrace.  But the method by which we determine pay is a direct result of the teacher’s unions and needs to be scrapped for a merit system without tenure.

Grading Teachers

Teacher Evaluations

Compensation comes in many forms.  For example, I enjoy a matching 401k.  Additionally, I enjoy paid vacation.  Others, I’m sure, enjoy discounted airline tickets, free soda or “beer Fridays”.  There’s all kinds of way to compensate people.

One particularly attractive form of compensation would be freedom from evaluation.  Which, of course, leads to freedom from being fired.  This is part of the compensation package typically enjoyed by teachers compliments of the teacher’s unions backed by democrats.  See, unions have a natural organization, forced enrollment and mandatory dues which are then funneled to the election of said democrats.

None of this is a secret or disputed.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this piece of legislation proposed by the democrats in Minnesota:

Minnesota’s Senate Education Committee is considering a bill to prohibit schools from placing a student in a classroom led by a teacher deemed unsatisfactory under state standards, if that student had one the previous year.

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Supporters argue that students in classes led by ineffective teachers are at greater risk of falling behind their peers. It’s the latest in a series of bills at the Capitol focused on teacher effectiveness.

Democrats are sponsoring the bill in both the Senate and House. That could improve its chances with Democrats in the majority, although bills that make big changes to policies affecting teachers often face heavy opposition.

Not perfect, to be sure.  If I had my druthers, we’d fire poor performing teachers, hire more good ones and pay the best of them six figures.

The Power Of A Word

From The Economist - True Progressivism

I was going through my edition of The Economist the other day.  It was a treat really, in the “old days” I used have lunch across from the Barnes and Noble, buy the print edition and read it over Thai food.  I’ve long given that ritual up in favor of a subscription and electronic reading but hey….

So, anyway, there I was with my Phad Thai and the print version of the Economist.  I flipped to the “Leaders” section and just shook my head when I say this title:

True Progressivism

I’ve come to see The Economist as a more moderate magazine than I used to, but every now and then I hit an article that makes me wonder.  I nearly just turned the page and walked away.

But I read on.  And boy am I glad that I did!

To be sure they came out of the gate pretty slowly:

BY THE end of the 19th century, the first age of globalisation and a spate of new inventions had transformed the world economy. But the “Gilded Age” was also a famously unequal one, with America’s robber barons and Europe’s “Downton Abbey” classes amassing huge wealth: the concept of “conspicuous consumption” dates back to 1899. The rising gap between rich and poor (and the fear of socialist revolution) spawned a wave of reforms, from Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busting to Lloyd George’s People’s Budget. Governments promoted competition, introduced progressive taxation and wove the first threads of a social safety net. The aim of this new “Progressive era”, as it was known in America, was to make society fairer without reducing its entrepreneurial vim.


But the plot improves quickly:

Thus, on America’s campaign trail, the left attacks Mitt Romney as a robber baron and the right derides Barack Obama as a class warrior. In some European countries politicians have simply given in to the mob: witness François Hollande’s proposed 75% income-tax rate.

I’m willing to trade a whole bunch of ideology to someone who’s willing to admit that the left is nothing more than class warriors.  So anyway, the article moves along and then comes some true gems:

In the rich world the cronyism is better-hidden. One reason why Wall Street accounts for a disproportionate share of the wealthy is the implicit subsidy given to too-big-to-fail banks. From doctors to lawyers, many high-paying professions are full of unnecessary restrictive practices. And then there is the most unfair transfer of all—misdirected welfare spending. Social spending is often less about helping the poor than giving goodies to the relatively wealthy. In America the housing subsidy to the richest fifth (through mortgage-interest relief) is four times the amount spent on public housing for the poorest fifth.


The Economist is calling out the label, “Too Big To Fail.”  And then the truly Libertarian line of logic that begins to pin back the lawyers and the docs.  Who WOULDN’T love the racket that allows barristers and snake oil salesmen to restrict competition?  And how about that fact regarding the mortgage-interest?

So, ideas?

Compete, target and reform

The priority should be a Rooseveltian attack on monopolies and vested interests, be they state-owned enterprises in China or big banks on Wall Street. The emerging world, in particular, needs to introduce greater transparency in government contracts and effective anti-trust law. It is no coincidence that the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, made his money in Mexican telecoms, an industry where competitive pressures were low and prices were sky-high. In the rich world there is also plenty of opening up to do. Only a fraction of the European Union’s economy is a genuine single market. School reform and introducing choice is crucial: no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have. Getting rid of distortions, such as labour laws in Europe or the remnants of China’s hukou system of household registration, would also make a huge difference.

Next, target government spending on the poor and the young. In the emerging world too much cash goes to universal fuel subsidies that disproportionately favour the wealthy (in Asia) and unaffordable pensions that favour the relatively affluent (in Latin America). But the biggest target for reform is the welfare states of the rich world. Given their ageing societies, governments cannot hope to spend less on the elderly, but they can reduce the pace of increase—for instance, by raising retirement ages more dramatically and means-testing the goodies on offer. Some of the cash could go into education. The first Progressive era led to the introduction of publicly financed secondary schools; this time round the target should be pre-school education, as well as more retraining for the jobless.

Last, reform taxes: not to punish the rich but to raise money more efficiently and progressively. In poorer economies, where tax avoidance is rife, the focus should be on lower rates and better enforcement. In rich ones the main gains should come from eliminating deductions that particularly benefit the wealthy (such as America’s mortgage-interest deduction); narrowing the gap between tax rates on wages and capital income; and relying more on efficient taxes that are paid disproportionately by the rich, such as some property taxes.

Thoughts on paragraphs 1, 2 and 3:

1- A gigantic FU to the teacher’s unions and labor laws!  What I wouldn’t do to compromise if the deal included teacher’s union destruction and the loosening of labor laws.  I mean, holy shit – “No Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teacher’s unions!”

2- Welfare reform.  We can only hope to slow the increase, but we should!   Though they do slip on early education; there isn’t any data that suggests the gains last beyond 3rd grade.

3-  This sounds exactly like Romney’s tax plan.

And to think, I almost passed this by because of the word Progressivism.

Thoughts On Chicago Teacher Strike

Teachers Walk Out On Strike!

The emotions of a strike are sure to supersede the rational negotiations.  However, this struck me as interesting:

Lewis said among the issues of concern was a new evaluation that she said would be unfair to teachers because it relied too heavily on students’ standardized test scores and does not take into account external factors that affect performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness.

I’ve often encountered this line of reasoning when discussing teacher evaluations.  First, I find it unfathomable that an educated group of experts who routinely adjudicate proficiency of very subjective materials find it completely out of the realm of possibility to measure the effectiveness of teachers themselves.  Second, if they are unwilling to allow themselves to be measured on their effectiveness based on poverty, violence and homelessness, can we expect them to adjust grades so that such impacts are taken into account?

For example, I’ve heard that teachers won’t accept performance based measurements because, “a dog may be barking during the test.”  Yet, are these same teachers willing to change the test scores of those kids subjected to the barking dog?

Utter nonsense.