Why $100,000 Teacher Salaries Make Sense

Many American educators–myself included–often remind ourselves and others that we didn’t enter education for the money.  I certainly don’t teach to become wealthy, but as I see outstanding educator colleagues and friends leave the classroom for higher-paying, often lower-stress jobs in education, I wonder what it would take to increase the tenure of experienced, skilled teachers.

And I wonder how long I will last, with increased financial responsibility coming with marriage and my own family down the line.

So what would it take to start attracting more talent into the teaching pool in the States?  It might boil down to greenbacks.  According to Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence Director Stu Silberman, dramatically increasing compensation could eventually lead to dramatically improved schools.

How about a starting salary for teachers of  $100,000?

Those numbers might seem ridiculous, especially for first-year professionals with a wild range of educational attainment and ability, yet Silberman argues that the idea is feasible in a recent blog post at Education Week:

…if the entry-level salary is $100,000 (this is possible within current budgets), what could we expect to happen? First, many top students who want to teach but now choose a different profession for financial reasons would bring their skills into the classroom for the benefit of our students. The appeal of higher salaries would allow universities to become more selective about the candidates they allow into their teacher preparation programs. As stronger talent entered the teaching workforce, student achievement would rise. The Center for Public Education reports, “There is research that has shown that students of teachers who have greater academic ability–be it measured through SAT or ACT scores, GPA, IQ, tests of verbal ability, or selectivity of the college attended–perform better.” As achievement levels rise, we would have a stronger pool of future educators, thus continuing the upward spiral.

I agree with Silberman’s general premise, but I doubt we have the political will to undergo such a dramatic transformation of the profession.

And it is true that the talent pool of teacher candidates is currently diluted.  According to numbers released by Education Testing Services (ETS), education majors score well below average on the GRE compared to students in other fields.  The exception is secondary education majors, who score slightly above average.  American schools aren’t going to dramatically improve with–let’s face it–such a wild range of abilities standing in front of 30 tired, eager, excited, or belligerent students in schools across the land.  Test scores aren’t everything, but the numbers are a strong indicator of where teaching falls on a career prestige scale.

Speaking of prestige, Finland’s education system has recently received a bounty of praise, and it’s no surprise that the best and brightest there desire to become educators.  What do we have?  A glut of Teach for America applicants from our top colleges and universities, but many of these students aren’t looking into education long-term.  Just look at retention rates.

It’s a tough sell to drastically increase teacher salaries and increase qualification requirements.  But I’m sick and tired of politicians and citizens lamenting the fact that our public schools are a mess, when recruiting, training, and compensation systems are not set up to create and retain widespread teacher excellence.

Big challenges require bold solutions.  What do you think?


  1. bottom line: teaching just does not provide even a living wage, especially after paying for student loans. It’s a no-brainer. Who’s going to go to school for five years to come out making 38,000 a year? Here in Cali, that simply CANNOT be done. This is THEE crux of the matter, period.

  2. Teachers should get paid more if it wasn’t for science and math teachers doctors,lawyers and other jobs society values wouldn’t even have students pursuing them. This post takes me back to my last year of high school in which for a week or so the teachers went on strike. They still taught but withdrew services like coaching and organizing extra-curricular activities. Then we realized how much teachers really did for our school.

  3. I can’t answer that one, but I think administrators, like teachers, can fairly easily attain their positions relative to skill, experience, etc. So if the screening process were more demanding, ideally resulting in higher performance across the board, from teachers to principals to superintendents, then they could make the same case, I suppose.
    In my experience, those who want to teach can become hired, almost without a doubt. Teachers who want to become administrators can jump through hoops and become qualified.

  4. Oh, and one more thing, if teachers feel like they are undervalued, I bet administrators feel the same way. So does the principal of my kid’s school think they should be getting $211K instead of $111K? And does the Superintendent think they should be making $500K instead of $250K?

  5. Also Watch “American Teacher” because in the film a teacher is profiled who switched to TEP Charter, but none of her switch is really in the film, ironic. She is in the 60 Minutes documentary, she’s the Harvard Graduate.

  6. OMG I wish I was a high school math teacher – but could not live with the salary. I think the money is what prevents a lot of people from pursuing a teaching career when they would make great teachers and be very very passionate! You bring up some great points in your blog. Thank you for sharing and congrats on FP!

  7. As I’m sure you’ve found out, we need to celebrate little wins as teachers, and we often don’t fully know our impact on kids. Nonetheless, I commend your decision to switch careers and try to give back!

  8. Dang, I’m reviewing the 60 Minutes video for TEP Charter and finding that they are wholly supported on public dollars. Remember that each state defines “Charter School” somewhat differently. They provide that salary by re-allocation, which is a point I want to reiterate from my first reply.

  9. I’m afraid I misspoke, it wasn’t a public school that was giving starting teachers salaries in excess of $100K, it was a charter school http://www.tepcharter.org/. I think it would be a good research project to study if there are any public schools experimenting with large salaries.

    I am just starting out as a teacher with my own classroom. I did student teaching last year in a non-traditional school (www.bigpicture.org). So I don’t have a baseline for comparing the two careers just yet.

    I will cite another Microsoft employee that has switched to teaching (I know only a handful) who said that the emotional and other demands (stress, homework grading, prep) of teaching far surpassed that of her old job in software engineering.

    I like to think about aggregate impact (Microsoft) versus individual impact (teaching). I heeded a call to come to teaching because I wasn’t having the impact I wanted to have on individuals (even though I was shipping software to 300-500 million people). I also wanted to open the door to opportunity for traditionally underserved students to jobs in STEM. I have gained from teachers who did that selflessly year-after-year, and now it is time to pay some of that back.

  10. since I don’t have time to spare right now and haven’t written anything useful :P, let me at least recommend you 2 books – I don’t know if you’ve read them or even heard of them, they’re both by a British critic called Raymond Williams (who unfortunately died in 1988, he’d have SO MUCH to say now that we have the internet…): The Long Revolution (which is pretty much about the educational system in Britain, and his suggestions to alter it, but I think what he said goes for any society, really) and Television (yes, it’s essentially about TV, but he pretty much covers ALL of our communications systems – also radio, etc.- in the most brilliant way I’ve ever seen….that book was written in 1973 but he was already talking about cable TV, interactive TV, flat screens and the impact this whole thing would have on us). Bah, who am I kidding, I strongly suggest you and everybody else to read ALL of Raymond Williams’s books (I can also think of The country and the city, and Keywords, etc…).

  11. remind me to come back here and read all of these comments, they all seem interesting but I can’t read them this month!! LOL Loved your article, I’ll also comment on it once I’ve read what everybody else had to say 😛

  12. I really do have to agree with you here. Education is a vital part of our society and therefore teachers should be paid a high paid salary as they are key aspects of the development and progression of our young people!

  13. Yes, but is it going to “provide an antidote” when we are paying the worst teachers out there at the same rate as the great teachers? I had an English teacher in middle school. Helped students on the SATs and threw a kid against the chalkboard. We thought they fired her, but they didn’t. A few years later, we had her for English in high school… Clearly, this woman should not have been teaching. We need a productive way of getting rid of teachers like her and making it easier for us to hold on to teachers who are worth more than their weight in gold.

  14. “….But your comment that “the state school system is fundamentally run and funded through coercion and violence.” takes the cake. Where on earth do you find this?….”

    Not in the school curriculum that’s for sure! 😉

    OK, suppose you don’t agree with what the state school system teaches children. Suppose your child is being damaged by this system and you want to take that child out of the system. Or maybe you just don’t have any children attending state school (or no children at all).

    If, for WHATEVER reason, you decide you don’t wish to continue to support & fund the state school system, the government will threaten you at first and may eventually send men in matching blue costumes round to your house to kidnap you and throw you in a cage. If you try to defend yourself or your property from these paid thugs they might even shoot you. I think that qualifies as ‘coercion and violence’ don’t you?

    Try not buying Coca Cola or Hannah Montana products for your child. It’s not always easy to find alternatives but at least no one is going to threaten you into buying these products and feeding them to your child, or punish you if you don’t.

    Now try not funding the state school education system and see what happens…

    If the state does not obtain a teacher’s salary (using the methods of coercion and violence mentioned above) then a teacher (or the school) will have to either (1) threaten the public into paying his wages by himself (2) hire a different third party to do it, or (3) compete in a free (ie non coercive) market for business, by offering a competitive, high quality, reliable and proven service and attracting ‘paying customers’ that way.

    I’m simply suggesting that (3) is the only morally acceptable and practically workable way of running schools. It’s how all other honest businesses run in society: if you provide a decent service then people will choose to become your customers. Scenario (3) is the only system not based on coercion and violence. If you want to argue the moral/ practical basis of the other scenarios then let’s hear your arguments. I’m all ears.

    You argue that the government does NOT run the state school system. I agree that I am simplifying the matter a great deal (trying to keep my comments short). I agree that in reality there are indeed many groups influencing education policy and determining the curriculum. But the key point is that these groups are all able to use government as a tool (a weapon) to impose their vision for an education system onto the public *by force*.

    The government is an agency (uniquely in society) which grants itself the legal and moral right to use coercion and violence (force) to achieve its objectives (to implement and enforce its policies). THAT is the root problem. In the case of education, this means that whoever can position themselves behind this tool of coercion and violence can use it to impose their own hand picked information onto the minds of millions of children simultaneously across the nation. A VERY dangerous and in the long term inevitably disastrous situation, as we are now seeing.

    There is nothing ‘wrong’ with crappy government schools, greedy corporations, dodgy banks, fake economies or evil tyrants desperate to start illegal wars with sovereign nations. What is ‘wrong’ is when we are FORCED to support these things, participate in them and fund them with our own money. These things are only destructive when coercion and violence are used to impose them onto the rest of society by force. Do you see?

    We all understand the dangers associated with running things using coercion and violence.

    Instead of everyone having the choice to buy their own groceries each week, imagine if everyone was taxed by force and then a small bunch of ‘boards’, ‘think tanks’ and ‘policy makers’ determined what groceries were to be delivered to each household in the country. Not only would we all be forced to eat the same diet but you can bet your life that every food manufacturer is going to try and get their produce onto that shopping list …. and those with the most influence would inevitably succeed. (resulting in a weekly diet of big brand name fizzy drinks, crisps, pizza, cereal etc).

    Of course people would still be able to buy different food of their choosing at their own extra expense. But this would not be an option for most middle to low earners.

    Now just replace ‘food for the stomach’ with ‘food for the brain’ and that is the situation we have right now in education. And just look at the results. Both reason AND evidence scream that this system is failing children and dumbing down society – leaving each generation less able than the last to even figure out the root problem, let alone try and fix the situation. As the government eventually runs out of borrowed fake money (having spent it all on big government, bribing voters with ‘free stuff’ and wars on terror, wars on drugs and wars on innocent civilians abroad) expect to see the corporations move in and start funding state education – in return for having men sit on the education boards of course. This is corporate fascism by definition – in our schools. This is the inevitable result of Prussian style schooling.

    If we think the dumbing down is bad now – just you wait….

    Instead of being sensible and questioning the fundamental coercion and violence at the root of the education system (and at the root of society in general), what are we ‘responsible grown ups’ doing to try and improve education?……We are frantically drugging and tagging our own children and installing metal detectors and CCTV cameras in schools. And this drugged up and tagged generation will presumably end up doing even more insane things to their children.

    This coercion, violence and utter madness has to stop before it is too late (if it isn’t already).

  15. Thanks for chiming in. I can thank being Freshly Pressed for generating such a massive response, but this is one of the best discussion threads I’ve encountered!

  16. “….What about families who don’t have the money to put into education? Who can’t afford to “shop around”? And what happens to them when Rich Family Down the Street says they’re willing to pay for a good education for *their* kids but not all the lazy poor people in town? …”

    These are good points. But I would have to say this is already the reality with the current system. The rich already have the option to send their children to private schools. Only they can afford to do this and subsidise state schools as well. Private schools are often better in many ways (especially in terms of facilities and class sizes) but in many ways they just offer a slightly different form of indoctrination aimed more at creating the next obedient leadership class (officers, politicians, bankers etc). Private schools in the current system are as much about creating or heightening social (class) differences as anything. When the privately educated feel different (and superior) from the working classes they feel less empathy towards them. It’s then becomes much easier for the ruling classes to send them into battle to become cannon fodder or shaft them financially with unfair economic policies (or whatever). In a free market I think an entirely new form of private education would soon develop and thrive, one which far outsmarted traditional elitist private schools. Privately educated people tend to be experts and also have a tendency to be emotionally stunted, socially inept idiots lacking in any wisdom. At least this is true of the ones who get put into positions of power. Yes I am generalising, but still… 😉

    I know we’re taught that government redistribution of wealth by force is what saves us from ‘unfairness’ and ‘inequality’ but in reality the current system is actually far MORE elitist than a free market would be.

    Think about it….. as soon as government taxes everyone by force in order to redistribute this wealth and provide ‘free’ crappy government schooling for all what happens? Answer: The cost of educating children is shared by all.

    This is a good and fair thing is it not?

    No it is not, because now parents have more disposable income – after all, the cost of educating their children is now being shared by all of society including people with no children or grown up children no longer in school. And whenever we have more disposable income it allows the state to increase taxes yet again (to fund and even bigger and more bloated government with more wars, more wasteful departments and schemes etc).

    The end result is that now working and many middle class parents can’t possibly afford to NOT to send their children to state schools. So now only the rich can afford to opt out of state runs schooling. Instead of being more fair it actually widens the rich/ poor divide.

    This, I’m afraid is the reality of taxation by force.

    When women started flooding into the full time workplace during women’s lib suddenly households were getting twice the income! Yippee! But did this last? Of course not, the government just raised taxes and grew even bigger and added a bunch of more wasteful and parasitic departments and started a few more wars or whatever…….. And now these days both parents generally can’t afford NOT to work full time.

    And so who increasingly brings up children now and helps to form their world view? Answer: The state, a bunch of strangers in a daycare, Hollywood, Disney, Hannah Montana …. No wonder they are all freaking out! (It’s actually very serious and sad).

    When the state can tax us by force and borrow money at interest to be payed back by future taxation (translation: steal from future generations) every rise in standard of living is soon swallowed up by increased taxes, or inflation (which is just another form of taxation). This is why we are always struggling to make end meet. ALWAYS.

    But I digress….


  17. This is in reply to “Abandon TV, whoever that is! This comment addresses some of the things I said and is largely bombast, but I want to say a word or two. To begin with, I don’t know where you come up with the notion that the public school system is “government run.” It is run by an educational bureaucracy that ought to be cut to pieces, but the state boards of education — made up of ordinary citizens — make up the school boards that determine curriculum. I’m no fan of the government running anything, but I don’t see them having much to do with the education system. They certainly don’t fund it…if we are talking about the same government. Second, we have alternatives to public schooling in charter schools, private school, denominational schools and home schooling. But your comment that “the state school system is fundamentally run and funded through coercion and violence.” takes the cake. Where on earth do you find this? Your lengthy comment is short on particulars and sounds more like hysteria than careful thought.

  18. “…..If schooling depended on free markets there would be thousands who could never afford to read and write….”

    This is true at the moment with the children who already ATTENDING government schooling. Basic literacy and numeracy skills have plummeted and the spending has only increased. About half of all Americans struggle to fill in basic forms. Is that the mark of a successful education system? I think not.

    Schools have become so much like prisons that children are now being put on medication in an attempt to stop them from jumping in front of trains or cutting themselves…. or perhaps just running the hell out of the prison-like school system as their natural instincts tell them to!

    Are these depressed and/ or disruptive children really at fault here? … or could it be the grown ups who have failed as parents and as teachers? Oh no, we must never blame the grown ups, its always the children’s fault! Can you imagine if poorly performing or inattentive teachers (and there are many) were forced to take psychotropic drugs?! The way we treat these children is barbaric. Schools are unhealthy and unnatural environments. Period.

    Also, in case you haven’t noticed the economy is collapsing and is set to get much worse. What could be more of a damning indictment of government controlled education that the so called ‘well educated’ or even the ‘intellectual class’ that make up the establishment/ ruling classes can do little else but get every nation massively into debt and start a bunch of illegal genocidal wars. And those ‘intellectuals’ who aren’t directly involved do nothing but stand idly by say nothing – in case they rock the boat. There is no genuine intellectual class anymore, no true thinkers. Thinking has been schooled out of society. There are only hierarchy climbers… corporate or government employees… state funded repeaters of the consensus opinion.

    Government schooling is based on the prussian system (please research this). It was designed by the elite for the elite. The Prussian system led to the rise of Hitler’s Germany. People ask how a population could have been so blind to have allowed Hitler to rise to power – well, the answer is the Prussian Schule system which had been in place for several generations by that time.

    It was eventually adopted around the rest of the world …. and now look at what is happening in the world. Perpetual (illegal) wars and increasing militarism/ corporate fascism fuelled by unquestioning idiotic rascist patriotism, fear of ‘outside enemies’ and general dumbing down and infantilisation of the masses.

    Government schooling never taught anyone (1) what a government is (2) what money is (3) how the fake pyramid scheme economy actually works (4) why government’s monopoly on the initiation of force + democracy can only lead to government borrowing more and more money by force in order to bribe the public for votes while spending the rest on wars of empire and a bigger and bigger government, thus leading to inevitable economic collapse.

    “… There are problems, but those problems can be addressed — by people like the ones who have commented on this blog. Throwing out the entire system would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater…..”

    But *how* can these problems be addressed, and why have they not been addressed already? The problems CAN’T be addressed because the state school system is fundamentally run and funded through coercion and violence. Anyone who might actually care about the education and wellbeing of our children has absolutely no power to change anything. That is the problem!

    And I wasn’t suggesting ‘throwing out the entire system’. I was suggesting parents (and children) be allowed to make a CHOICE in how their children are educated. Why is that such a revolutionary concept? (is it because this concept is never discussed in government run schools perhaps?)

    In other words, parents should not be forced by the state to pay for the government controlled monopolised, standardised, homogenised, failing, damaging-to-children schooling system based on the Prussian Schule indoctrination system. By ‘forced’ I mean literally threatened with being kidnapped and thrown in a cage if they do not pay for it. Parents should be free to make a choice in who has access to the minds of their children.

    I’m quite happy for state run schools to be allowed to try and improve their standards if they want to.

    In a free market system state run schools would be perfectly free to compete with a million imaginative, passionate, independent thinkers all inventing new and innovative ways to provide a decent and affordable, inspirational system of education for children which, you know, actually works!

    In a free market the best systems of education would thrive because they would attract the ‘paying customers’, while the archaic, dysfunctional, crappy schools would soon fail and close down – or be forced to, you know… pull their socks up! 😉

    Isn’t that both sensible and fair?

  19. I do like the mentoring idea, though. My daughter’s school actually did something like this–each fourth grader gets a “kinderbuddy”–an incoming kindergartener to help out. The first few weeks, the 4ths help the Ks to find places, get to the bus at the end of the day, and such. And every week they have some sort of activity together. Good socially and in teaching mentoring to the older kids, while the younger kids get some “peer”-ish teaching.

  20. What about families who don’t have the money to put into education? Who can’t afford to “shop around”? And what happens to them when Rich Family Down the Street says they’re willing to pay for a good education for *their* kids but not all the lazy poor people in town? This is is at least one circumstance in which governmental administration is a good thing–ALL children, regardless of financial ability, get an education (although we could have a field day with how funds are distributed unevenly throughout the country, making many districts much stronger and others very poor in resources and infrastructure).

  21. Wow.I meant to reply to this when I first saw it, but I had no idea you would get a such a response! Hugh mentioned this post on his post today and I thought I would come over and share my thoughts. I am with you on this. Maybe $100,000 s a little high, but I do think that we need to reprioritize what we think has value in this society. Teachers have the most important jobs I can think of, and yet their salaries do not come close to relfecting this. It would be terrible for a great teacher like you, Mindful Stew, to have to walk away from such important work just because it is not financially feasible. Thanks for a thoughtful post and for generating a great discussion!

  22. If schooling depended on free markets there would be thousands who could never afford to read and write. This comment is written by someone who hasn’t any idea of the challenges in the schools and the number of success stories that come out of the public school system that everyone complains about. There are problems, but those problems can be addressed — by people like the ones who have commented on this blog. Throwing out the entire system would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  23. What about parents who, frankly, don’t CARE about their children’s education? I have a lot of those around here. They either have a very low view of being educated, or they’re whacked out on drugs. Or–often–the parents who *do* care are struggling to make ends meet by working 2 or 3 jobs and are simply not able to have any hand in their kids’ education (let alone lobby the local school board, or learn themselves about new teaching methods that their district might try).

  24. A good education system comes with its stages of development
    where good practices are adapted into the system / thus over a
    period of time you have the best teaching system that available.

    America does not enter the the challenge / or be any example
    to the world as it’s education is not based on learning but that
    of brainwashing / backed by a 24 / 7 govt brainwashing media.

    Thus the USA education system is a lost cause for parents for
    teacher as for chldren / if govt ever serious in making change
    in allowing american children their right to brain development
    to thrive in understanding as experience of creation / creator
    then they must / stop the 24/7 media brainwashing / allow an
    arena where being true debate // without people threatened
    with unemploymentn or imprisonment or a far worse outcome
    should they not follow or give govt’s political spin of the day.

    The origin of democracy freedom being that politicians were
    freely choosen as in representing the voice of their people’s
    the were a servant of the people protecting the rights of the
    people. Through decades of political corruption it having in
    resulted where the situaion having reversed itself / where it
    being the people’s whom are now the servants of politicians
    the servats of their govt’s / govt’s as politicians whom rather
    protect their rights /they having stripped them of their rights.

    Thus the true priority but not the education of the children
    but re-education of politicians /as unto their initial purpose
    in protecing the rights of people’s in allowing the ongoing
    development of the brain thus the gradual understanding
    of creation its purpose / that humanity ending it’s journey
    via growth in understanding / experience / via one’s brain
    & heart where all attaining knowledge unto enlightenment.

  25. Thanks for your reply. If you’re interested in private school positions, here are a couple of leads to follow:

    http://www.carneysandoe.com/ Carney, Sandoe and Associates is a private school recruitment and placement firm out of Boston.

    http://www.choate.edu/academics/teachingatchoate.aspx Here’s a link to the hiring page at a school where I’ve worked. Often the key to getting a foot in the door is to work during the summer session programs at private school, which can be as big or even bigger than full academic yearlong programs in terms of numbers of students, diversity of programs, etc. Then it’s a matter of working contacts you’ve made, being flexible about potential workload, assignments, and so on. Best — ADW

  26. With your suggestion, I guarantee that teachers would be let go after a couple of years. This is what tenure protects against. Teacher evaluations are very subjective and can be spun in many different ways. I agree it shoulf be easier to get rid of bad teachers, buit getting rid if tenure isn’t the answer. In terms of getting rid of benefits, what profession is out there that pays that much without benefits? They are so expensive, that 100,000 would end up equalling what we make now as teachers. In terms of our pensions, the pension system has turned into a savings account for our state governments since they have been robbong them for years to help balance their budgets, if they get rid of pensions, they’ll find another way to tax us rm make their ends meet. Lots of fixing to be done I agree

  27. “So raising the bar is a good idea, but there are many other bars that support that single bar. Remember, the support has to be in first then the bar can/will go up.” Never would I argue against what you say here. Raising the bar is teacher talk! 😉 Perhaps, I should have said, “Raising the barS” plural? Support would be nice. Good points; discussion is the key to change. Or I should say, one of the keys to change.

  28. Thanks, Hugh. This is such a great discussion thread. One of the things I appreciate about the WordPress community is the depth of thought I encounter, versus all of the trolling and partisan bickering on many other news outlet discussion boards.

  29. Sad, but true. Some of my college friends told me they’d go into finance, then leave after a while to become teachers and coaches. Most of them are sucked into the bankster game, I’m afraid.

  30. Not necessarily, with the right compensation systems. As someone who has mostly worked with high-needs students, the challenges are much more taxing and intense. Teachers at “good” schools might deal with overbearing parents, but this issue pales in comparison with trying to reach kids with horribly tough home lives and disadvantages.

  31. As much as I love my country, I completely agree. This is one of the most frustrating things about living here–too many folks are quick to put ALL of our values, policies, and actions on a pedestal. Like there aren’t other folks out there in the world to learn from. Pea-brained thinking at its best.

  32. We all should remember that people; parents,administrators,polititions etc. all love results. They lord and praise and welcome the results. But do they ever stop to think how and why these results come about? Olympics are in the air now. Have we ever stop to think what it cost those athlethes what it cost them to get on their respective national teams more so to be in a medal contention. Here are two of the many examples; Osain Bolt gave up his intemate relationship to prepare for the games. In China, talents are identified from tender age and snatched from their families for specialist training camps to prepare for Olympics. One gold medalist had the death of her grand parents hidden from her for two years and was not revealed until she won the gold medal in the current olympics.
    How many governments in the world are prepared to go that or even near, with education. This is an impossibility as there are too many facets that need fixing, the most dangerous one are the government themselves. Education is viewed in the eyes of the politition as non productive because it is a recuring decimal in the budget. They only value monetary returns or tangible returns that they can boast about that happened under their administration. Proof; if a pupil enters high school when a government takes office, a term of office last about four to five years, the student writes final exams in five years, his/her result more than likely will not be available for the political platform for the next election. That cycle is too long for comfort for the government, more exam results are needed- not possible. Look at the combination of conditions needed for conducive learning; Teachers’ support/power in the classroom,class size,proper rooms, adequate labs, disciplined learners,pupils held responsible for their actions, attractive salaries/perks, quality teachers, well structured programmes proper management to name a few. Difficult or impossible to find these togather. So raising the bar is a good idea but there are many other bars that support that single bar. Remember, the support has to be in first then the bar can/will go up.

  33. well has anyone considered that teachers are paid kind a low, if they truely are, because the gov wants to discourage really smart, logical thinking people? the last thing they want is a critical thinking, self sufficient bunch of kids growing up smarter then those in gov, it is harder to control/get obedience from people who question the right for others to tell them what to do when they can think for themselves and know what they are being asked is unjust or just plain wrong. teachers are also hindered by the gov mandates to teach junk, when they would rather teach something really integriging and enjoyable for the kids. book learning is boring, actual participation, thinking of ways to use info etc is more fun and developes the mind/heart to go beyond the propaganda given.

  34. You put your finger on the heart of the issue: “One thing that Americans seem very reluctant to do is study closely and learn from the mistakes and successes of other countries, whether it’s health care or education or environmental policy.” And educators are reluctant to admit there is a problem. Your job sounds ideal — any openings on the faculty for retired academics from America??!!

  35. Perhaps teachers might like to ask themselves this simple question:

    “If the government did not steal my wages from the public by force on my behalf, how might I (non coercively) entice parents to part with their hard earned money and hand their children over to my school to be educated by me? In a free marketplace how could I and my school do things better, so that we can become more attractive to pupils and parents alike?”

    In other words, in a free (ie non violent, non coercive) market the public would have the choice to NOT fund state schools without fear of being kidnapped and locked up in a cage for tax evasion. This would allow them to spend their own money on schools of their own choosing, whether they be state run, or privately run or local co-opoeratives or whatever. Or spend the money on home education instead.

    In this situation state schools would suddenly have to compete with each other and with private schools or any form of private education ….. or else go out of business. (shock horror!)

    But most importantly this allow imagination and innovation to flourish and provide new forms of education more suited to the 21st century. At the moment magination and innovation in education are strangled to death by government. It’s no surprise that schools have remained relatively the same since governments took them over. The only thing which has changed is that basic literacy has fallen, bullying, drug use and general unhappiness and stress levels have increased and costs have skyrocketed. Otherwise it’s still mostly age segregation, sitting in rows and being herded about like animals (or convicts) every time a bell rings. It’s utterly demoralising and dehumanising (and it’s designed to be).

    We all understand that if the government monopolized mobile phones and we all had to pay ‘mobile phone tax’ in return for getting ‘free’ state controlled ‘mobile phone care’ this would be awful.

    We all passionately defend our right to enjoy the benefits of a free, competitive (but non coercive and non violent) market in mobile phones – choice, low cost, innovation, consumer power (voting with wallet) and consumer rights (contracts with T&C’s) etc.

    We would all be outraged at the thought of government taking over mobile phones and creating a virtual monopoly by force on the provision of mobile phone services.

    Yet we allow the government to impose their monopolised, poor quality, overpriced, run down, dysfunctional education system on our children! Why do we accept such an outrage? The answer is painfully obvious….. because we went through the same system ourselves and were indoctrinated to believe it is both morally justified and practically beneficial. It is neither.

    Just think, in a free market anyone who sees a gap in the market can have a go at catering to that specific demand. If they do a good job they get customers!

    Does the following qualify as a gap in the market just begging to be filled?….. a school not run like a prison, where children are not herded about like animals and made to start and stop what they are doing on the command of a bell! A school without bullying and drug problems, without ridiculous competitiveness and endless ‘tests’ or at the other extreme politically correct ‘fairness’ where everyone is special.

    A school which actually helped its students to become smart – ie capable of critical thinking – rather than just dumbing them down with government propaganda. A school which included philosophical discussions and helped children to develop a sense of morality and empathy – even if that made them critical of the evil they see operating in government or big business or anywhere else in the world.

    How about a school which thinks outside the box and allows older children to mentor and teach younger children (after all, you don’t really own knowledge until you’re able to teach it to someone else). This would not only foster social skills, empathy and creativity but also reduce teaching costs and peed up the whole learning process. (Schemes which have experimented with this system have already been a roaring success). It would also break the paradigm of ‘child vs authority figure’ which is the root of so many problems in society today. Not only does this authority based system make schools a drag (or even a frightening experience) but also teaches children to obey authority figures out of fear rather than respecting integrity, moral virtue, compassion and the values of true leadership (the non sociopathic kind!)

    How about forms of education which did not keep the children as pets until they were late teens or even mid twenties before spitting them out into a jobs market, laden with debt and full of naive (and indoctrinated) ideas about the world?

    Why not allow children to develop a work ethic (yes have ‘jobs’!) while still ‘at school’ and make education so efficient that they are NOT in debt and approaching middle age when they are released into the world? Then maybe they won’t all want to be investment bankers or arms dealers or celebs or any other morally dubious but highly paid jobs.

    If the market was free and parents could shop around then all of these things could be provided assuming there is a demand for this kind of education……Well, is there?? 🙂

  36. Reblogged this on femforchangenow and commented:
    I could not agree more with these sentiments. Somebody needs to get moving on making our education system better and that starts with great teachers.

  37. The greatest asset of any country is its children, and their education is the way to develop that asset.
    And yet, so many governments are blind to that fact, and refuse to supply the appropriate funding.
    Maybe we should start by demanding educated politicians first.

  38. If you look at it this way, teachers are the foundation to any student’s success. Without teachers, majority of the children would not have the extra ‘push’ to achieve something in life. Increasing their salary is indeed a good idea. However, the higher the salary, the more qualified the teacher should be. They should also have a certain standard of teaching and the way they teach and be up to date with technology since its the pass time of this new generation.

  39. “I certainly don’t teach to become wealthy…”
    Well, obviously not. If you wanted to become wealthy, you’d have become a bank robbing hooker. That’s where the real money is.

  40. As a prof on the way to tenure (I hope), I agree that the standards are often far from perfect. But in most cases, the department makes a subjective call, based on whatever balance of research productivity and teaching quality the institution expects. I think subjectivity is good in this case because it involves multiple people, because most people make an effort to be fair, and because it’s too easy to manipulate the objective metrics. But in general there is far too much pressure to perform for metrics, both in grade schools and at universities…

  41. It’s a very valid idea but it would mean that teachers would have to accept that they will have to raise the standards of their qualification and the outcomes they get would have to raise radically. And, even if that did happen, the best teachers would still go to privileged students and the worst would drift down to the least privileged

  42. Has anyone gone back and asked what was accomplished by the people who were educated in the old one room schools. Why are home schooled students so successful? Students need to be treated as individuals. No amount of money and no amount of scores on tests by teachers will make that happen. It takes teachers who care about the whole child and want was is best for each child in the room. It also takes schools that realizes children are individuals and schools should not be set up like cattle feedlots. I currently work as a substitute teacher because I am tired of all the crap of education and the disrespect given to teachers and education in general in this country. Check out the Olympics. When we start educating our students the way we train the world’s athletes then we will amount to something. And I do mean the world’s athletes. Note how many train in this country. Enough said, I will get off the soap-box. I did enjoy your thoughts.

  43. Teaching does not only limit itself with dispensing knowledge and skills. If that were the case, we should just abolish all schools since a vast reservoir of information can be found just about anywhere and let children explore by themselves.

    But the concept of children convening to a four-walled enclosure, having to sit for hours, going home afterwards only to come back the next day has perpetuated and that will be the case as long as civilizations endure. Why? Because the classroom experience is a synergism of acquired knowledge, carefully integrated humanistic values, and skills necessary not only for students to be competitive in the outside world, but to be equipped with a character that would enable them to face the realities awaiting them…

    Like what you said, it is not really all about the money— but teaching is not as easy as it sounds (making them memorize their ABC’s and 123’s). You mold people. You inculcate things that slowly define them… and thus, too much pressure is given on teachers to do the right thing, and not messing up with what is to be the inheritors of the land.

    So to give a somewhat respectable compensation, in turn, will give them the feel that everything, everything that they do— is worth it after all.

  44. I agree that a multi-faceted evaluation system is a necessary tool when evaluating teachers. Administration evaluations are very subjective and what one administer views as effective teaching methods may not be what another administrator sees when observing the same lesson. I agree that we need to get rid of bad teachers and make it easier to do so and I have been teacher for over 25 years. In terms of the tenure system at many universities, many tie tenure into how many articles the professor has written or the number of grants that he or she has obtained in the name of the university instead of how well he or she teaches. This is very unfortunate.

  45. Good post and discussion. I’ve had the blessing of a top private boarding school English position for the past 15 years — and while the salaries alone aren’t wonderful, the total compensation package is quite reasonable: health insurance, mortgage assistance, school housing rent-free, most utilities, etc. It’s motivating. Of course, dorm duty and advising and coaching and teaching mean you have no life during the nine months of school! But we teach motivated kids, and they draw out the best from their teachers. Almost everyone has at least a master’s at the school — faculty are encouraged to do grad. study, if they arrive with a bachelor’s, and the school provides tuition help. Parents are involved — and there are about 5 kids on wait lists for every kid enrolled, so kids tend to value the opportunity. There’s something to be said for merit and selectivity. And yes, there’s some elitist snobbery and “spoiled rich kid” mentality to deal with, but much less than caricatures portray.

    One thing that Americans seem very reluctant to do is study closely and learn from the mistakes and successes of other countries, whether it’s health care or education or environmental policy. Always assuming we have the best of everything means we can’t improve. Would 100K salaries make a measurable difference in teaching? I do know that if teaching had the prestige of medicine, and significantly better compensation, we’d begin see the same kind of achievement other countries like Singapore enjoy, with college grads competing for teaching positions, schools proud of their record, and students more motivated to learn. We could also improve our vocational training and selection, and not discourage but celebrate and train students whose talents lie outside the academic world. There’s a reason, after all, that so many Asian kids excel in math and science and school generally: their families more often value education, their parents are often more involved in their children’s learning, and strangely enough, this makes a big difference!

  46. I would like to prefeace by saying that I am a teacher and have been for over 25 years. My starting salary in Upstate New York was $14,000 in 1986. We have come a long way and are finally at least approaching a salary comensurate with othe professions with similar educational prerequisites. Realistically, however, I would like to at least remain status quo in terms of salary and benefits in the current economy. In my home state of New Jersey, our esteemed governor ( I say this with absolute sarcasm) would like nothing better than set us back 30 years in terms of salary and make it more difficult than ever recruit talented individuals into our profession. His main goal, as is many politicians’, is to tie test scores into teacher evaluations and force us basically to “teach to the tests”. There is little evidence that suggests higher tests scores translate into significant success in college and in life. It also prevents us from teaching equally, and in many cases, more important skills such as problem solving, social skills, intuitive thinking , reasoning, communication, and creative thinking skills. These, in addition to the basics, really need to be addressed. Sadly, however, the so called “experts” who are much more concerned with public opinion based on short sited philosophies, rather than doing what’s right. Most of these pundits have never been in a classroom in our role. Children need to learn how to deal with others and how to survive in this world. One thing that is unique to our profession is that, unlike in medicine and law, eveyone has been in a school. This gives many the ability to be “arm chair quarterbacks”, without really knowing all of the work that really goes into our jobs. We work many more hours than 8 – 3 Monday through Friday, and any teacher worth the title spends many more hours working on their craft. If you want to attract talented individuals into teaching, allow us to teach what’s important, not merely what’s going to be on standardized tests that many politicians and “experts” would like to tie into teacher evaluations, salary, and retention.

  47. Win,
    Thanks for leaving such a thorough response. For me, I choose to spend a lot of time reading, reflecting, and writing about my profession, which has helped me find great satisfaction in my work, in addition to improving teaching and learning (I hope!).
    Do you have a link to share about how the Oxford model is being used in the 21st Century?

  48. It is frustrating and mind-boggling to think that many top athletes make as much in ONE game that I’ll make in my career. Shows you what society values, I guess.

  49. As an educator as well and after seeing specials about educators in Finland who are treated as professionals by parents and society as a whole, in the form of respect and pay, I totally agree that the pay of teachers in the United States needs to go up dramatically to pull in those talented folks who we so desperately need to not only teach, but inspire our young people and keep this nation competitive against the rising powerhouses of China and India.

  50. Josh, I think your observations are spot-on. However, there are for-profit schools out there, and from what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like they are doing a great job.

  51. True, but it’s tough to dedicate oneself as a teaching, pouring so much into the job, and still have energy and time to devote to other entrepreneurial pursuits!

  52. The challenge, of course, is to create the conditions where we can all experience great teachers across the board, rather than the exemplary folks we remember. Imagine what a societal transformation might take place.. There’s always bad parenting and cultural problems that impede student learning, but a plethora of great teachers could provide an antidote.

  53. Reblogged this on Hidden Key and commented:
    I took a class once where we were expected to debate wether teachers should get paid based on student test scores. At the moment this system is in effect in a number of school districts. Might I add that it has been proven not to work. This post re hashed that old argument for me and another as well. Why are teachers getting paid less than athletes? Why are the people who transfer knowledge from one generation to the next given the lowest amount of respect by some of the population? I am not a teacher, nor do I ever wish to become a teacher, but I do feel like $100,000 as a salary is justified for what some teachers have to put up with on a daily basis. I hope politicians will realize that as they count their money, some had to teach them how to count.

  54. Your blog has certainly exacted a variety of responses. As an educator with a masters I don’t make a lot of money, then again, what is a lot? I have a career versus a job; I learn as I teach; and I have the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of young people. There is nothing like having a former student come up and thank me for what they learned in class.
    If we started teachers at the suggested salary would we be attracting those who truly want to teach or those who are attracted to the salary? At the top of my game I will probably make $50,000 and that’s after 15 years of teaching. I’d like to see $40,000 as a starting salary. I know teachers who rent because they can’t afford to buy a house. That’s sad.
    One salary problem is how education is funded–taxes and legislature-derived budgets. Education is not a profit-based engine; hence, it doesn’t get funded like other professions. It’s not a business. Merit pay is supposed to make a difference, but that is taking from Peter to pay Paul.
    It’s not going to be an easy fix. I do know that I would be reluctant to do anything else except teach. What other profession gets so abused, but has so much impact, for such low wages?
    Actually, I’m not in it for the money. I just like having my summers off (ha ha).
    Blue Skies,

  55. Clearly most of you have never taught a classroom full of students. It was one of the greatest things I ever did. When I had children, I left school. My daughter and my son (six and three, respectively) both attend school and are home-schooled. I started “hybrid-learning” when the Army moved us to VA. My daughter was in kindergarten, but had a reading level in the low second grade range. In CA, she was doing developmentally appropriate work. In VA, she was given homework consisting of connect-the-dots that went to 8 points! I started teaching her myself and she’s starting the second grade this year (in public school). Not every teacher deserves $100,000 a year, BUT there are teachers, such as the one she had in CA and the one she had last year here in TN, who go above and beyond to assist their students in growing, learning, and thriving. They deserve everything we can give them. These are the teachers we want to have around for many years.

  56. Personally if I could snap my fingers & make things easier for quality teachers to get into the school system, I’d ditch the idea of giving teachers ridiculous salaries (it’ll only make it harder for families to make ends meet) & make 1) post secondary education affordable for everyone & 2) their University curriculum much more challenging.
    From what I’ve seen in my experience as a part-time student, lectures are mostly filled with students from wealthy families who are on Facebook or some other means of distraction while the professor wastes his or her time reciting from a projector that maybe 15% of the class is looking at.
    Kudos for the attention-grabbing title!

  57. So I don’t think it needs to be that high, but 50-75K would be very competitive. I am a teacher, I barely make above poverty level. I used to be a research chemist with a real wage. I do it because I love it, but it would be nice not to have to work a second job to make ends meet as a single mom.

    I also think if teachers made more money, honestly, students would respect them more. Weird cause and effect, but talk to any teenager and they respect the all mighty dollar above all else. Everyone knows teacher make nothing, and in a teenagers eyes, that equates to only idiots teaching, so why respect them?

  58. Kelsey Mc / Your not a teacher yet yet
    your taking on the present attitude of
    teachers where you underestimate /your
    value as a teacher / not yet a teacher
    yet make own excuses to be badly paid.

    Forget the love of teaching nonsense it
    being but govt propaganda in paying you
    very little for difficult /testing work.

    Govt tried the same with doctors nurses
    etc etc yur a doctor you do it for love
    your a nurse doing it for love / it but
    a play on the emotions which saving the
    govt $billions underpaying public staff.

    Teaching is no less / more than a doctor
    and deserving equal respect as in salary.

    Your not paid to love teaching but one’s
    doing a very vital service to the nation.

    Your not paid to love such children your
    not the parent but the teacher /and such
    deserving the respect of govt and public
    and such should be reflected in a salary
    that matching one’s value in respect due.

  59. Kudos to you for your dedication. Without a doubt, you deserve a much higher salary for your efforts. It seems like government would rather spend more money on prison systems that preventative programs.

  60. I should have also pointed out that Finland FEEDS THEIR STUDENTS FOR FREE! Imagine! And we’re not talking “pink slime”. The only reason I know about Finland’s education system is because I am an American teacher who wanted to know why and how Finland is Number 1 in the world in education. So, I looked up their department of education website and read for days about how they do it.

    That concept of “divide and conquer”…..we’re doing it to ourselves.

  61. Reblogged this on witifulramblings and commented:
    Amen! This is coming from a student just finishing her masters in English and teaching college currently. Honestly–I’m not sure how I’m going to survive, much less pay back my student loans, on 15k a year (which is what they pay adjunct faculty even though no one believes me).

  62. Hi, I always thought Educators should be paid more than majority because they are the ones from whom most people are taught and able to create a means of living. However, that’s in a perfect world. The government always has a masterplan in regards to what it wants and how things will be. Because you are in a traditional system that isn’t quite up to date with the information age that we’re in, teachers are still getting paid as though they are still in the industrial age just like everyone else pretty much. However, the fortunate part is that you can be an educator if you love it, but your income doesn’t have to depend on it. You can create other forms of income: invest, start a home-based business, etc…Doing what you love isn’t the issue, your livelihood is so therefore you can’t depend on the government or companies to provide that. Gain more knowledge (traditional and nontraditional), use it to your leverage and act on it. My friend, thats pretty much the only way educators or other professions will see a worthier income.

  63. I think $100k is high for a starting position. Maybe around $50k… I understand that teachers do not choose their profession for money, but they have to be able to start out being able to afford a place to live. Starting salaries in the low $20k’s are ridiculous. I like the theory that this could lead to higher standards for universities in selecting candidates, but I’m not sure how feasible that would be. I noticed when I was in school (just 7 years ago) that quite a few of the teachers chose that major because they “didn’t know what else to pick.” Not exactly the type you want teaching your child critical skills… A problem that goes along with this is when these type of teachers get out of school and fail at teaching, the teacher’s unions support them and prevent their rightful dismissal. There could be some lessons for school corporations if they were ran more like a business.

  64. I think you are absolutely correct! Starting teachers at $100k a year would be fine in my eyes. Most people that are teaches do it because they love it. Money was secondary. You see athletes that do nothing for their communities or families yet they earn millions of dollars for entertaining the masses.

  65. As a future teacher, I am all for raising teacher salaries. The only thing that concerns me is that high-paying teaching jobs may draw in people who are doing it for the wrong reason-money instead of love of teaching. Right now, at least I know that people who pursue teaching are doing it because they love it, NOT because of a high paycheck.

    And summers off I suppose…

  66. We have to change our collective mind-set about taxes. They aren’t the worst thing that can happen to us! They are necessary if we want our nation to prosper and grow. A weak education system translates into a weak political system that is unchecked by active, informed citizens.

  67. You said it: before anything can change there must be a commitment to change. And that isn’t going to happen in this country with the educational system. I wonder how many of those who oppose increased salaries for teachers and improving the profession realize how much this would benefit their children. Even if they don’t have kids, it would benefit the nation as a whole. But we tend to focus on the immediate and personal and we think that a raise in taxes — even for a reasonable return on the money — is the worst thing that can happen. Odd thinking!

  68. annie / the majority of teachers wish seeing
    children given an education based on reality
    not that of political as a religious fiction.

    Christianity (religious organizations)having
    a turnover of $billions which in main gained
    from those whom paying in booking such place
    in a fictional heaven which being /somewhere
    beyond the clouds /attained after ones death
    thus none returning in claiming their refund.

    annie / it gets ever more ridiculas that it
    claimed Jesus born of a virgin thus free of
    sin (sin christianity teach is sex an child
    being the product of sin /thus all sinners).

    Jesus free of sin it claimed having ability
    in removing the sin of others / thus it be
    they abled then to enter a fictional heaven.

    annie / for western nations the ability to
    read write witheld for centuries by Church
    Authority they believed with eductaion the
    people would challenge Church Authority as
    question christian teaching thus education
    witheld for centuries / till with struggle
    education being allowed /though it limited
    for the female an even greater struggle as
    according to religious teaching twas woman
    whom tempting man with a lust of the flesh
    thus he was with woman evicted from heaven.

    annie / it but utter religious brainwashing
    which brought not joy / peace but centuries
    of suffering / centuries of appalling abuse.

    For centuries to enforce christianity their
    were burnings at the stake as great acts of
    brutality / in main against the female thus
    in giving male as Church Authority complete
    control over a family unable of independent
    thought but controlled by Church Authority.

  69. You should read up on Finland. Education is free for students as high as they want to go. So, if you are inclined to be an entrepreneur, you can do just that. If you want to receive your doctorate and become a researcher in human genetics and have the brains to do it, you can. If you want to stop after secondary and go into a vocational career you are able to do that as well. The difference is that in Finland education is for the people as a “whole” to benefit their society. So yes, there is plenty more to do in Finland than teach.
    In the US, like everything else, education is for the “individual”. We do not have a consistent educational model in our country. It so divided it’s mind-boggling. We have the DOE on the federal level, then you have State Boards with some states having unions, then you have Districts which does not look the same in each state. Each state writes their own education laws that fall under the federal guidelines. But there is no consistency. Quick fixes are a recipe for disaster. Before anything can improve the country as whole has to be committed to improving the quality of education across the board.

  70. Bluegrasspb, in Ottawa, Canada alone this year there were 120 job openings in the public school system (including supply list) and over 2000 applicants. No surplus, I could never imagine!
    Weeding out public school teachers is tough, tricky and time consuming. There is no way of telling who is teaching effectively and truly doing there job. It is too much of a mess at this point. Unfortunately many teachers who should have retired years ago are still tinkering around on the supply list, reading the newspaper behind their desk and blocking the entrance to a job field that has thousands of young and eager to work people banging at its door.

  71. Great post! Will it happen, more than likely not. As teachers, we are truly galley slaves. However, we are educating the leader’s of tomorrow (yes – it’s cliche). What upsets me is that professional sports athletes get so much more money than us and we have the harder job. When Albert Pujols wasn’t hitting homeruns in the beginning of the season, were they still paying him? Heck yes they were! Teachers do a service that never gets praise or affirmation. We are there to plants seeds. With that all being said, it would be great to get paid for all the work we do. Just my two cents.

  72. Paul, thank you for your post, having served as a teacher and administrator in a private school, I will agree that the public sector school structure could certainly pay teachers significantly more than they currently do, particularly if administration is reduced in size. In the private school sector we did far more with the kids with far less financial resources (though teacher salaries were clearly lower).

    Sadly, I need to confess that I am in agreement with fireandair in saying that this is not likely going to happen…not unless there is a radical redefinition on how we look at education in the United States.

    Our educational model was designed to create good young men and women who would be law-abiding citizens and prepared to work in manufacturing plants, particularly in an assembly line model. Kids go to one teacher, let us say “English” for 50 minutes, a bell rings, and then they pick up their things and move to the next, perhaps “mathematics.” They live their life in the school building as if they are on a conveyor belt, being assembled.

    This model teaches kids to internalize facts and ideas without really digesting them…more importantly, the model teaches kids to create a false sense of divisions between disciplines and thus do not see the overlap between science and philosophy or history and ethics. In addition, it teaches kids to function within the system, not to critique and evaluate whether the system itself is any good. It is no different than the “we’ve never done it that way” mantra that often plagues our churches.

    Look back at the school model that was used 150 years ago and it will look nothing like what we have today…often kids were taught by a single teacher or a small group of teachers for multiple subjects. Connections were natural because the same person was teaching in multiple areas and thus showing the connections. And, if you are tempted to suggest that kids get a better education today than they did 150 years ago, I would challenge you to think again. Kids read the classics at a young age, were often introduced to Latin young, and understood their Bibles and their philosophers. Today that is anything but the case, even in the private school sector in many instances.

    In addition, in today’s structure of schooling, education is typically seen as being of secondary importance to extra-curricular experiences. Facts and principles are replaced by how we feel about an idea.

    I am not inclined to go entirely to electronic schooling as has been suggested by some, but I would suggest that perhaps the old Oxford model is something to consider at least in secondary education, a model where you had professors and tutors (or deans). Students would attend occasional lectures but would spend the bulk of their time working in small tutoring groups.

    While I don’t know any teacher that is overpaid, I will say that what teachers need vastly more of is time to think, contemplate, and write. Time to do just that will take a good teacher and help him or her to become a superb teacher. In the Oxford model, most professors spent most of their time studying and writing and thus when it came time for their lectures, students benefitted from the cutting edge research or study that the professor had been doing. And, since this model was originally employed for use with teenage boys, it does not have to be a model relegated to the university (most of which also do not take advantage of this model).

    Such a model would also assist students with learning disorders because of the additional time given one on one or in small groups with a tutor, and kids that are very advanced could easily adjust schedules in such a way to work on a more advanced level (juniors could attend senior lectures, etc…)

    We are stuck in a model right now and the administration that exists within school systems is committed to maintaining a status quo because that assures their power. Even the accreditation models (which are more interested in administrative items than quality of teaching) are designed to keep the status quo. We are falling behind given the model we have embraced and no amount of money thrown at a faulty system is going to restore its vitality. As one British comedy skit portrayed it: “The Department of Education is the tombstone that marks the plot where British Education is buried.”

    Blessings and thanks for raising the dialogue,


  73. My first year teaching, I earned $23,000 and that was only eight short years ago. My husband, with a high school diploma and four years in the Navy makes more than double that. It is laughable to think someone with a bachelor’s degree should make so little. I gave up on the profession because of a lack of faith in my own abilities because, simply put, my students’ parents treated me with the same level of respect my pay reflected. As a teacher who graduated magna cum laude, with high state test scores for licensing, my students’ parents never got to see that part of me. They assumed because I worked at a school that paid so little (the only job I could find in a state inundated with teachers) that I was a flunky who couldn’t do any better. I think low pay sends a message to people: low pay, low respect. When teachers, who are required to earn a Master’s Degree or higher over the course of a career, retire at $50,000, you aren’t going to attract the best of the best for long. Teaching will become, if it hasn’t already, a jumping off point, just like you have stated: A weigh station to pass the time until something commensurate with their abilities comes along.

  74. Exactly! Given this, we should try to make the salaries match the worth, so that the worth matches the salary…

    But we should acknowledge that our efforts will be imperfect.

  75. Good comments, Alan. The interesting thing about teacher evaluations is that I have always heard they are unreliable and yet when I was teaching all the other faculty (and the students themselves) knew who the good teachers were! I think in this culture prestige would come with higher salaries (ironically!) We tend to measure a person’s worth by how much money they make. Sad, but it seems to be the case.

  76. The same politicians who lament the state of our system are the ones defending for-profit schools and undermining teachers to paint them as lazy, incompetent, and greedy. Politicians love to harness the old saw that “those who can’t, teach” and use it to point resentment at the educational system.

    As a teacher myself, I think it’s important that we understand the purpose of education so that we can defend the jobs we do. When people see us as job training and job training only, it becomes easy to saddle the classroom with unhelpful testing, useless metrics, and ‘performance based objectives’ that ultimately hamper our ability to teach critical thinking, appreciation for culture, and ability to function as a thoughtful citizen.

  77. I couldn’t agree with you more. I volunteered as a tutor at a struggling public school in St. Louis during grad school, and I was astounded by the ignorance of the teaching staff. (As in, “Let’s learn the size hierarchy: molecules are smaller than atoms are smaller than compound are smaller than elements.” Not joking.)

    Change wouldn’t be instantaneous with better salaries – it would take a while (maybe a generation) to change the perceptions of the profession. It’s not really even about the money, it’s about the change in prestige and respect that go with society saying “This is a priority.” We can manage to pay our doctors $200K or much more, and we manage to pay Wall Street bankers millions. (Even in a free market, these salaries still result from policies and regulations, and thus reflect societal priority choices.)

    The flip side is that teachers should accept performance reviews, and we should be able to get rid of bad teachers. Most teachers I talk to are adamantly opposed to this because they think standardized tests are poor measures of performance, and they worry about a rigged system. These are valid worries, but a multi-faceted evaluation system (scores, student/parent evaluations, colleague evaluations, administrator evaluations) could help circumvent this. The tenure system at universities, for example, is far from perfect, but it does ensure a minimum standard without undue burden.

    In the end, education is a critical priority for society. This should be reflected in how we value our teachers, including their pay, and in how hard we work to ensure that only the best teachers have access to a classroom.

  78. Karen, I didn’t realize you were commenting on my comment. I didn’t mean to imply that there is a connection between intelligence and college training. On the contrary. But the schools generally are failing the students — long before they get to college. Much of what is done in college these days is remedial — even standard Freshman courses. Sorry to have misled you!

  79. Karen is right: Lincoln never went to college! If it were up to me I would throw out the certification requirements. In my experience (41 years of college teaching at schools with education degrees) the certification requirements are often Mickey Mouse and discourage the bright students — as though the salaries they might make as teachers isn’t enough to discourage them! I would get rid of all external accreditation agencies and promote more local autonomy. And I would give teachers their heads to teach as they think best — as they do in Finland.

  80. I agree with a $100,000 starting salary for teachers with some considerations. We should be attracting the best and brightest to teach our children because they are the future of our nation. Teachers can only do so much as home environments of students contribute so much to behavior but higher skill levels might help. The changes I would recommend in order to pay our teachers a “starting” salary of $100,000 would be the elimination of tenure, pensions and lifetime health benefits. Provide for them in the same way that business provides for its employees today. It’s not the salaries that our killing our school systems today, it is the tremendous burden of lifetime pension and health insurance.

  81. Good points. The more local control over schools, the more responsive the schools will be to parents. And hopefully, to taxpayers who don’t have kids, too. We all pay for this, after all.

  82. Firing public school teachers is exceedingly hard. Unfortunately, there isn’t a surplus of highly trained, qualified individuals knocking on the door to replace ineffective teachers.

  83. Teachers are fighting a lost cause where children
    but so out of control it being an zoo they should
    be in not a school / a teacher being a babysitter
    thats but taking charge of the children till they
    reach such age they can be put into adult prisons.

    Teachers but underpaid unappreciated child minders
    as such totally taken advantage of by govt under a
    cover that they provide an education where reality
    the children in main unteachable lacking a minimum
    of brain cells to remember nations national anthem.

    If govt is serious in allowing teachers teach they
    need awake come to their senses seeing reality not
    illusion thus put aside all aim of world political
    & military domination start behave as human beings.

    Stop the 24 / 7 media brainwashing & start control
    the amount of mindless violence children subjected
    via cartoons as movies / an diet of violence which
    carried to adulthood that resulting with worldwide
    conflict / in millions man woman child slaughtered.

  84. Charter schools are fine as long as they are accepting everyone at all skill levels. But if you’re picking out the best and separating them from the rest, is it any wonder that the public school system isn’t doing as well? Are the charter schools accepting students with Downs Syndrom, cerebal palsy, ADHD, and other disabilities? If they are and are doing better with ALL types of students, then they have something going for them that public schools can look at and learn. If they’re not accepting ALL types of students, then why wouldn’t they be doing better?

  85. True, intelligent people can’t necessarily teach, but I wouldn’t bet against a huge cohort of intelligent people who decide to teach, receive rigorous training, pass higher certification standards, etc.

  86. To complicate matters, the metrics of a merit system are difficult to agree on. Right now, there is a push in some places to tie student test scores to teacher pay, which is highly problematic in my view. Is there any way to objectively measure a teacher’s impact in ways beyond test scores?

  87. You’re right. It’s way too much money; it would drive up taxes, and it still would not be enough. It will never be enough. And already some teachers want their college tuition to be subsidized by other taxpayers. Yet the reality is that teacher salaries aren’t much different from any other profession when you look at the total wages and benefits package.

    I would like to see teachers rewarded on a merit system, though, and I’m not talking about tenure. I think tenure is the path to laziness for many professors, but seniority and quality teaching should count for something.

  88. I don’t think it will happen anytime soon in the current teacher-bashing climate, at least in Michigan and the Midwest.

    Teacher pay in Michigan has been frozen or reduced, and benefit costs have been negotiated down in most MI districts for 3+ years. Well, that was when we still had collective bargaining. That was outlawed last year. Now they’re taxing pensions, even after the Gov stole some millions or billions from that pension fund.

    More state legislation mandates a new evaluation system for teachers, even though it hasn’t been fully thought through yet, tying pay to student achievement. OK, learning is proven how? State tests? I don’t think so.

    Some form of these new evaluation systems have already been implemented across the state, even though they don’t quite know how to do it. A committee to review said eval systems reportedly said they need around $6 Million, just an estimate, to put all the pieces together.

    I agree with your concern for reducing teachers to babysitters in a computer lab. How do they learn social skills? How do we teach them attack skills when we don’t know what they’re missing? Why? Because it’s cheaper.

    Just a few things on my mind. Disheartened by the disrespect I see more and more.

    Congrats on being FPd! THE blogger’s best love. I’ll be back!

  89. Unfortunately there are many teachers and professors who are quite capable of filling students’ heads with crap, too. And politics. At least on the Internet there’s a fighting chance of finding different opinions or stumbling across valid information. The Internet is a tool but I agree it shouldn’t be the first or only tool in an education system. Teaching students to recognize valid information and how to reason would be a good start.

    The problem with school is quite frankly the government and the ridiculous school bureaucracies. I’ve never met a teacher yet who did not have a problem with the administration. To attract good teachers back to public schools requires reworking the system, and not just throwing more money on the problem. We have good teachers, we just need to let them do their job and get the politics out of schools.

  90. You also want to keep in mind though, that there are greater and greater levels of regulation which are also causing problems. For example: teachers being forced to do more and more state testing. This increased testing means that teachers must cover what is on the tests specifically – sometimes only since they have limited time resources – that decreases the amount of time they can spend encouraging learning through more imaginative and attractive means. Does anyone remember the movie “Dead Poet’s Society?” Those teachers are pretty much gone because we’ve regulated them to death.

    Next: Just because people are intelligent does not mean that they can impart knowledge to others. A lot of the time, teaching has to do with the dedication and enthusiasm of the teacher and not whether or not the teacher was the smartest person in the applicant pool. Paying them more, while nice, is not likely to effect their enthusiasm in a positive direction. Or at least, won’t for very long.

    Finally, almost anyone can be accepted into college these days. A college education is beginning to mean absolutely nothing. Just look at the writing of many college graduates (or even their resumes!) and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the dumbing down of America.

    I actually have more points, but am beginning to ramble, so I’ll stop here. 🙂

  91. How about getting the federal government OUT of education all together? The more local the decisions affecting our schools, the better for all concerned–teachers, students, parents and communities. I have no problem with states and even districts within states competing for the best teachers wtih benefits, salaries, schedules, etc. And conversely, schools should be free to get rid of underperforming teachers without the consideration of tenure.

  92. I agree, more money doesn´t mean better education, but here in México there are teachers who win $ 500.00 monthly, even less (elementary school). Of course we need more than that!

  93. When you include benies and retirement, NY already spends 100K on teachers a year. All the bright kids leave and never contribute to sales, income or property taxes.
    Would any fiscally prudent company pay to educate its employees, then promptly allow them to go work for their competitor?

  94. I should preface by saying that I am an educator, though not in a traditional setting.

    I make $22,000 a year, work over forty hours a week year-round (no seasonal or holiday breaks like most schools get) for a non-profit teaching English to adults. I have a degree in this field and for over 4 years, my students have consistently shown improvement on test scores and have went on to get jobs and/or attend community college.

    When my manager and government contract manager discuss finances, the subject of increased wages does not come up. This creates an negative atmosphere. Many of my coworkers have left this job due to the combination of high stress and low pay. We are all highly competent professionals, yet are treated as expendable.

    I hear a lot of people complaining about paying taxes. What about paying the Department of Job and Family Services? When I educate adults to get GED, learn English, and get jobs/higher paying jobs I am removing one more family from government dependence. When your children are educated in the hands of a capable teacher, they ensure a better financial future for themselves.

    Give us some respect, let us earn a decent wage, and we will unlock the doors of opportunity.

  95. How can you be sure that if stronger talent entered the teaching workforce, student achievement would rise? Don’t some students learn at their own pace regardless of who is teaching them? The answer is more closely related to charter schools, not just throwing money around…just because you pay someone more, that doesn’t mean they are going to do a better job.
    If you are starting at $100K for fist year teachers, what would you pay a teacher that has 20 years of experience?? Where in the budgets are you getting all this increased funding from…raising taxes, cutting after school programs?
    The reason bright people in Finland become teachers is…what else are they going to do? Is there a Wall Street in Finland where someone can go start a hedge fund and earn $1 million…probably not.
    The answer lies in Charter Schools…they’ve been very successful here in the city as well in other parts of the U.S. Schools need to be run more like private companies, not like pathetic state and government run entities. A principal needs to have the ability to pay more to recruit better talent (that is only part of the equation), but they also need to have the ability to fire the teacher if they are unable to teach.
    The bottom line is that the DOE is so screwed up, they are miles away from a quick fix.

  96. That’s it, I’m moving to Finland.

    In all seriousness, thank you for writing this piece. Not just as an educator, it is disheartening to read all of these commenters lamenting about how their children are not receiving a quality education. Unfortunately, I cannot disagree with them on all accounts. I’ve worked alongside some wonderful teachers who feel burnt-out and worry about being able to provide for their families, and I’ve worked alongside teachers who, frankly, don’t need to be teaching. I’m not sure what the solution is, but obviously our education system needs to try something new so that those good teachers stay right where they are and keep the bad ones from joining them. I’m all for raising the bar.

  97. I’d suggest trying to centralize funding of education and creating stricter requirements for education majors, plus increased salaries for teachers and teacher evaluations, but judging by our political climate it may get me killed to suggest that to Congress.

  98. I think getting rid of the Dept if Ed along with those insipid self serving teachers unions would be a start. Then maybe taxpayers will entertain the idea of raising teachers salaries.

  99. I wholeheartedly agree something needs to change in our country’s education system. Is it the teachers that can make the difference, though? I would argue that the major problem is not the quality of the teachers, but the way the school day is structured. It’s absolutely unreasonable to ask children to sit still at a desk for 6+ hours a day while being talked at by a teacher. That is “old world” schooling. Today, with our bright exuberant children, they deserve to move, jump, explore & let out their energy. Why not put sports in the middle of the day for an hour so they can run and play while learning teamwork? Instead of lecturing, the day should also include hands-on activity work with a wide variety of skills so students can learn by doing. Yes, there should be time for online research. And yes, there should be designated time for reading. The smallest percentage of the day should be sitting at a desk when there are SO many other ways to teach the ways of this exciting world we live in. It’s time that alternative education become mainstream. So that if a boy is a genius fixing cars he doesn’t have to be made fun of for going to a “special” school. So that kids with ADHD are recognized as gifted and energetic, not slow. It’s time for change in the structure of school itself.

  100. pay teachers $100,000 pa and before you know it everyone else with a diploma will want parity. The love of money is the root of most evil. Turn to God and be saved, accept the teachings of Jesus and live. If you have money use it on the poor. Don’t amass personal fortune

  101. Unfortunately, there’s a reason many of us only recall a few great teachers from our youth–there is a lot to forget. I was lucky to have supportive parents and many great teachers in my life. This is not a combination many students are blessed with, so elevating the teaching profession is one thing we can try.

  102. Great post! As someone who has been an adjunt instructor on and off for years at our state’s flagship university, I obviously love the idea of salary increases. Then I might spend more time on than off!

  103. I so agree with this comment. More money doesn’t mean better education. It just goes to more students getting computers and iPads that the normal family can’t afford.

    Get out of sex education and get back to the basics of reading great literature (not the kind that pushes sex agendas), writing (again that doesn’t push sex agendas) and ‘rithmatic (without the use of calculators). I’ve read some of that material, and it doesn’t belong in schools or colleges!

    Home-schooling and self-educating are doing a better job of learning. And they don’t get paid.

    $100,000 a year is ludicrous. It only raises our taxes and puts us further into the lower income level.

  104. I love love love love LOVE this idea — and no, I’m not a professional educator. But yes, I do have children in public schools…both in the Gifted and Talented arena, yet both receiving somewhat sub-standard education, in my opinion. I wholeheartedly believe that I received better public school education — and that was 30 years ago. Clearly, that’s not progress.

    And now I’m off to read your link about how $100,000 salaries are feasible…

    Thank you for making this uber-important case!

  105. John,
    I’m about to check out your links, and thanks for such a thorough and insightful reply. Do you have any links to the models you talk about in the last paragraph? I wonder if those districts have experienced an uptick in quality candidate applications.
    On another note, how do you compare your two careers, as far as cognitive demand and stress potential goes? People who don’t teach have no idea how exciting,
    challenging, and difficult a career teaching is for those of us who strive to continue learning and improving on the job!

  106. I retired from Microsoft in 2011 (after 13 years) to become a teacher. I’ve managed really smart folks that were not making $100,000. I’ve also seen that managers more quickly break through the six-figure barrier, than excellent individuals.

    Microsoft is for-profit corporation, and thus is constantly tweaking their salary and performance review system. That is a different world from the public sector, so I would not presume to start making comparisons or contrasts, but here’s the general idea.

    Every year 20% of Microsoft Employees exceed expectations, 70% meet expectations, and 10% are given “not meeting expectations” messages. Each division in the company must bucket their employees to meet that curve. If you want to read more about the latest changes in the review model go here:

    Now then, when you say teachers should earn $100,000, is that the minimum, the mean, the median, the mode? Or is it the maximum? Any one of those designs would be interesting. Here in Washington, all public education salaries for 2010 are published on the web:

    The interesting question then is one of redistribution. Do superintendents need to earn so much? Do we really need so many? And what are Educational Service Districts? What is their value add? When you work for profit-motivated company, everyone must justify their existence or be re-assigned or removed.

    And what about union leaders, how much do they make, and what is their value add?

    The beauty of public education is that we take all students, and work with them to become productive citizens. Anything that threatens that basic mission is suspect, but there are models that are taking the public funds available and paying teachers more, by keeping staff and overhead lean and mean. If you haven’t looked those up, take a look! Very interesting.

  107. It is certainly true that a great many students are not ready for college. But fewer and fewer will be able to go as things now are. The population will simply get stupider — if you can imagine. The only way to break out is to pay teachers a salary that attracts the best of our college graduates — as they do in Finland — and then give them their heads. But I don’t see that happening!

  108. Appreciate your comments! I’m not about to throw away traditional school buildings and teachers–I worry about the trend towards individual instruction driven by technology, and not people, to tell you the truth.
    You are right to point out that throwing more money at the problem hasn’t worked, but creating bold systems to attract a better talent pool hasn’t been tried.

  109. I’m not a big fan of internet learning. There’s too much crap out there and students need to learn critical skills — and how to recognize crap, for example. Like it or not, they need the classrooms. But those classrooms need to be led by the best and brightest minds we have, and at present this is not the case (present company excepted, of course). This country needs to make education a top priority, not an afterthought. But the internet is NOT the solution!
    By the way, speaking of mindless slugs swallowing the official line, I note that companies are going after veterans whose main strength is “following orders” (I quote one of the veterans interviewed recently on TV who seemed proud of the fact). As colleges become more and more expensive fewer high school graduates will go on to college — many will go into the armed forces where they will learn to “follow orders.” This sounds like an ideal situation for the companies who will hire them. Again, we need to make education a top priority, not an afterthought.

  110. Your post assumes the government isn’t already providing exactly the type and quality of education it (a) wants and (b) decided to put into place.

    Too little education and the masses become incapable of being productive and paying taxes.

    Too much education and the masses might become nearly as smart as their rulers.

    Like with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ the current level of education (based on the Prussian model) is ‘just right’ for a modern consumer and war based society 😉

    To provide a decent education does not mean throwing (even more) money at the problem…. all that needs to happen is for one generation to break free of government controlled education, and having done so start providing better alternatives, that’s all.

    In the information age education has become infinitely cheaper, which is why we need to question the motives of the hugely-expensive-yet-still-failing government education system.

    Just fifteen well spent minutes on the internet can help a student (self) educate – and for free – perhaps more so than a thousand of hours in school, sitting in rows, being filled with propaganda and beaten up in between class. Here’s proof.

    Like government itself, school is a legacy of the dark ages. Isolating children by age (and sometimes by sex) and having them sit in rows before forcing information into their brains to be regurgitated again on command is not, as the old saying goes, “lighting a fire”… it’s “filling a bucket”.

    We can (and must) do better! 🙂

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