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U.S. Flunks Teacher Pay

U.S. Flunks Teacher Pay

Jill Hare

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.

Discuss now. Salary Satisfaction.

Related article. The Most Comprehensive Teacher Salary Guide


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