International Study Links Higher Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality

This week, the New York Times invited a few members of the education policy world to answer the question “Are Teachers Overpaid?” Probably quite a few teachers are incredulous that this question is even being asked. They know that too many educators have been denied competitive, professional pay for too long and that low pay comes at a high cost for schools and kids. A recent analysis comparing teacher pay and student outcomes around the world backs them up.

Peter Dolton and Oscar Marcanero-Gutierrez, two economics professors at the University of London and University of Malga respectively, collected data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) annual Education at a Glance reports, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to determine the relationship between pay and student achievement. They concluded that – guess what? – better teacher pay leads to teacher quality and that leads to improved student performance.

In their analysis, Dolton and Gutierrez identify two key factors that determine how professional pay enhances teacher quality, particularly as it pertains to attracting new teachers. One, higher pay promotes competition and therefore more and better teaching applicants. Secondly, improving pay increases the “national status” of the profession, again making it more attractive to potential recruits.

Specifically, Dolton and Gutierrez used recent PISA and TIMMS results to draw a clear statistical correlation between higher pay and student performance across different countries (see chart below).


London School of Economics


From this and other data, they conclude that a 10 percent increase in teachers’ pay would produce a 5-10 percent increase in student performance.

“Most obviously, if a government is concerned with educational outcomes,” Dolton and Gutierrez said, “then it should be aware that the quality of its teachers is of fundamental importance. Increasing teacher salaries will help schools to recruit and retain the higher ability teachers that schools need to offer all pupils a high quality education.

“Governments and administrators need to know that there is no ‘free lunch’ here.”

Read the report summary

Read the full report

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