If You Pay Peanuts, Do You Get Monkeys? Four Essential Factors in Promoting Teacher Quality, or, Getting Teachers Who Make A Difference

Source: Pearson – The Learning Curve

Getting Teachers Who Make A Difference

1. Attracting the best people to the profession:

Getting good teachers begins with recruiting talented individuals. Finland and South Korea – two perennially cited examples of education success and the top countries in our Index – obtain their annual teacher intake from the top 10% and 5% of graduating students respectively. The key to such success is the status in which teaching is held culturally. Here money can have some effect, not just as a simple inducement but as a signal of status. The South Korean government uses high levels of teacher pay in this way both to compensate for large class sizes and to indicate the importance it accords to the profession.

2. Providing the right training:

The training of these new recruits has to be appropriate to the conditions in which they will work. This varies by country. The Finnish system, for example, benefits from teachers having graduate degrees. On the other hand, Nahas Angula, Prime Minister of Namibia, points out that his country’s policy of requiring all teachers to have an undergraduate degree may be driving up the cost of education when other training would suffice for primary grades. Teacher training also needs to be ongoing. This has a very practical reason – that no teacher’s college course will maintain complete relevance across decades of work – but also a demonstrative one. As Mr Cappon notes, “teachers need to be lifelong learners themselves. You can’t inculcate a love of learning unless you live it.” Effective professional development needs to address not just upgrading the knowledge of teachers – providing, for example, a better understanding of new technology and teaching strategies – but also allow them to advance along their career path into more senior positions where relevant.
Teacher with red notebook
3. Treating teachers like professionals:

Consistent with the need to promote the status of teaching is its treatment as a profession. Mr Ratteree notes that “things like continual professional development and professional autonomy can be powerful incentives for better learning outcomes.” Mr Cappon agrees: “Teachers must be seen as professionals who exercise judgement, not just technicians.”

4. Implementing clear goals and effective oversight, and then letting teachers get on with it:

Professors Hanushek and Woessmann both point to this combination of accountability and independence as consistently correlated with improved outcomes.

Says the latter: “Education economists emphasise the need to think about incentives for people in the system to use resources efficiently. These are mostly framed by the surroundings of the education system, the accountability system and whether schools can act autonomously.

There is clear evidence of strong relations between these and improved outputs.” Professor Schleicher agrees. High-performing school systems, he says, combine demanding standards, low tolerance of failure, and clear articulation of expectations with “a lot of professional responsibility within a collaborative work organization at the front line,” for both teachers and schools.

Teacher in Classroom

Teacher in Classroom

None of these factors, on their own, alone, is enough.

Instead, they form an overlapping, and mutually supporting, set of strategies to provide the high-quality teachers that are so important for education and to use them in the most effective ways.[9]

[6]Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Jonah E. Rockoff, The Long-term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 17699, December 2011, http://www.nber.org/papers/w17699.

[7]One notable exception is P. Dolton and O. D. Marcenaro-Gutierrez, “If you pay peanuts do you get monkeys? A cross-country analysis of teacher pay and pupil performance”, Economic Policy (2011) 26: 5–55.

Why are teachers paid up to four times as much in some countries compared to others and does it matter? Specifically, is the quality of teachers likely to be higher if they are paid higher up the income distribution in their own country, and are pupil outcomes influenced by how well their teachers are paid? Our results suggest that recruiting higher ability individuals into teaching and permitting scope for quicker salary advancement will have a positive effect on pupil outcomes.

[8]David N. Figlio and Lawrence Kenny, Individual Teacher Incentives and Student Performance, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 12627, October 2006, http://www.nber.org/papers/w12627; Ludger Woessmann, “Cross-Country Evidence on Teacher Performance Pay”, Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Discussion Paper 5101, July 2010.

[9]For a similar discussion of the key success factors in teacher development see Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed, How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top, McKinsey and Co., 2007, pp 15-23.


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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