Better Teachers, Better Schools

BETTER TEACHERS, BETTER SCHOOLS….EPI directs our attention today to a recent McKinsey study that examines high performing school systems from around the world and comes to the conclusion that the key ingredient in their success is high quality teachers. And how do you get high quality teachers?

School systems, from Seoul to Chicago, from London to New Zealand, and from Helsinki to Singapore, show that making teaching the preferred career choice depends less on high salaries or ‘culture’ than it does on a small set of simple but critical policy choices: developing strong processes for selecting and training teachers, paying good starting compensation, and carefully managing the status of the teaching profession.

Their suggestion, then, is that it’s not high pay per se that matters as much as it is high starting pay. Gotta nab the bright kids straight out of college before they settle into product management jobs at Lever Brothers. And on that score, we’re laggards. Instead of paying starting teachers 95-100% of our per capita GDP, we only pay them 81%. To hit the 100% mark, we’d have to increase average starting pay for teachers from its current $35,000 to around $44,000. At a rough guess, that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-30 billion per year.

Plus we need to manage their status better and *cough* pay McKinsey *cough* to develop strong processes for selecting and training them. No idea what that would cost or what it would take. But food for thought, in any case.