Washington, D.C. – The Center for American Progress today released “Speaking of Salaries: What It Will Take to Get Qualified, Effective Teachers in All Communities,” which examines the relationship between school funding, teacher salaries, and student achievement. The study by researchers Frank Adamson and Linda Darling-Hammond examines the education systems of California and New York, and finds that while there have been a number of recent efforts to improve the fairness of the nation’s funding system, those initiatives have been only erratically helpful.
In looking at California, Darling-Hammond and Adamson find that high-wealth districts spend more than twice as much as low-wealth districts for beginning teachers. But those same districts spend nearly three times more for more experienced teachers. Statewide, the salaries for a teacher with a similar background ranged from $41,000 to more than $117,000.
“Solving the inequitable distribution of well-qualified and effective teachers is not impossible but it will ultimately require a focus on both strategic resource equalization and policies,” write the authors.
The researchers also find that massive funding disparities mean that low-wealth districts often get the least qualified teachers. In New York, for instance, a 1 percent increase in median adjusted teacher salaries is associated with a 3 percent decrease in the proportion of teachers without a permanent credential.
The report also finds that teacher qualifications are related to student achievement. In California, district scores on the state Academic Performance Index, or API, increase significantly as the proportion of teachers without a full credential decreases. In New York, the percentage of teachers without a permanent credential is significantly related to the proportion of students failing state tests.
The study includes a detailed list of recommendations based on the analysis, including:
- Improve and equalize salaries to improve the pool of teachers and level the playing field across districts
- Simultaneously raise teacher standards and teachers’ knowledge and skills through strengthened preparation and licensing standards, strengthened evaluation for teachers and school leaders, and extensive professional development
- Improve beginning teacher retention in order to improve effectiveness and lower the wasteful costs of high attrition by developing high-quality mentoring and performance-based induction systems
The report also has recommendations for Congress, which is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, or ESEA. Specifically, the report recommends that Congress should equalize allocations of resources in the education bill across states so high-poverty states receive their fair share of federal dollars. The report also recommends that Congress enforce existing ESEA comparability provisions to ensure equitable funding and equally qualified teachers to schools serving different populations of students.