McGraw-Hill Research Foundation recently published a study claiming that in order to improve America’s educational system to the level of better-educated countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Finland, the “status” of the teachers needs to be raised.
The study, titled “What the U.S. Can Learn From the World’s Most Successful Education Reform Efforts,” states the U.S. should recruit more qualified candidates and offer better training and better pay for teachers. Surprisingly, the problem is not in paying teachers. The key difference between America’s educational system and the systems of more successful countries is the money going into the schools themselves.
It is a sad fact that teachers are being underpaid for the job they do. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average salary of an experienced elementary teacher in 2008 was $44,172, which is 40 percent below the average for American college graduates and lower than the Korean average.
However, the average American teaching salary is higher than the average for teachers in Finland and their math and reading scores are higher than ours, and comparable to Korean scores. When it comes to teaching salaries and education scores, there is no correlation.
Andreas Schleicher is the director of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and claims that the problems in our education system are because of the lack of respect for the profession.
This is in stark comparison to the fact that we do pay teachers in America more than most OECD countries and many of the countries that outscore American students are being taught by teachers who are paid less than ours.
The problem also does not lie with the amount of money America is putting into the school systems. According to Schleicher, Luxembourg is the only OECD country that spends more money per elementary student than the United States, and has the same middle-of-the-road test scores.
However, he does say that the U.S. spends taxpayer money meant for schools on more non-educational facilities, such as bus transportation and sports, than other countries.
This makes sense.
In order to increase the respect of teachers to the level of more successful countries such as Finland and South Korea, we need to improve the work environment they’re in.
In order to improve our educational system, we need to improve “the learning experience of students in their classrooms,” according to a 2010 McKinsey report. This is done by “modifying curriculum and improving the way that teachers instruct and principals lead.”
This doesn’t mean that we need to pay teachers more, however it partially means that we need to focus less on athletics.
This is not to say that athletics should be left out in the cold. There still are a lot of educational and fiscal benefits to a school’s athletic program. A successful program bolsters a school’s reputation not only to the school, but also to the students involved in sports and can lead to college scholarships and donations to the school by alumni and community members. However, there is still too much money going into the programs and it isn’t how it should be spent.
Instead, more money given to the schools should be put into better supplies and resources for the teachers. It is extremely hard for any teacher to teach with outdated and obsolete textbooks and computers. This contributes greatly to the very same lack of respect the McGraw-Hill report seeks to improve.
No matter what the career is, people find more satisfaction when they can see the impact they are making. Progress is its own reward, and for a teacher, it’s seeing how much their students are learning from them.
There aren’t many people that would say that teachers are getting paid an adequate amount for what they do. However, in our current economic state and with a skyrocketing deficit, we cannot afford to pay teachers any more than we already do.
If we provide better talent and more resources for teachers, and if we can do this and see improvements, then teachers will get not only the respect they deserve, but the pay will increase as well.