U.S. Flunks Teacher Pay
We often hear how students in the U.S. lag behind students in other countries. This topic is rather different- it seems that teacher pay doesn’t come close to measuring up either. Are the two issues related?
With the struggling economy, making a steady salary has never been more important. The more attractive the salary, the more a career attracts job seekers. The starting salary for teachers varies from $23,000 to $37,000 across the U.S. How does this compare with other countries? Apparently not so well.
A study by McKinsey and Co. compared starting teaching salaries as percentage of per capita GDP (gross domestic product.) Out of the 30 countries from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) that were studied, the U.S. came in 10th. It found that U.S. teachers make 81% per capita of GDP. The others in the top ten are as follows:
1. South Korea 141%
2. Germany 141%
3. Netherlands 99%
4. Hong Kong 97%
5. England 95%
6. Australia 95%
7. Finland 95%
8. Singapore 95%
9. Belgium 92%
10. United States 81%
Source: McKinsey & Company
Why do people decide to become teachers in the U.S.? It most certainly isn’t the illusion of a high paying salary based on merit. But with teachers salaries not gaining ground against other professions, it leaves the teaching profession struggling to attract high-quality teachers.
In an earlier study done by the same company a correlation was drawn between school quality and spending. I don’t think that conclusion comes as a shock to any teacher- but those in the classroom are left to make the best of what they were dealt. The earlier study, titled “Worlds School Systems” made two obvious conclusions:
“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” “The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction.”
I would add two conclusions of my own.
The way to improve instruction is to attract high quality teachers. The best way to attract more high quality teachers is with a competitive salary.