Percentage of public school teachers who are “excellent”

I was chatting with a dyslexia specialist at a public middle school in a wealthy Northeast U.S. district. The union pay scale for teachers reaches $100,000 per year for those with a bit of experience. The specialist interacts with nearly all of the roughly 70 teachers in the school.

  • me: How many of the teachers would you say are excellent?
  • her: About 2 percent. But another 50 percent are “good”.
  • me: So 48 percent of the students aren’t getting the curriculum delivered as designed?
  • her: True. But you have to remember that it is all about the school leadership. They’re not investing enough in teacher training. The administrators send one teacher to a class and then expect the teacher to come back and teach other teachers. That’s not what they’re qualified to do.
  • me: Suppose that the district had infinite budget and time for training teachers. How many would then work hard enough to become “excellent”?
  • her: Maybe 10 percent.

7 thoughts on “Percentage of public school teachers who are “excellent”

  1. Phil conflates two issues, the quality of school teachers and their compensation. As for quality, as “rounding error” points out, these sorts of numbers would probably be typical of any occupation, a small percentage who are very good, a small percentage who are very bad and the rest in the middle. As for the appropriateness of compensation, that is hard to know because the law makes it very difficult to set up a competing school system, which could pay different (lower) wages — so how could you possibly know if the current arrangement is appropriate? The current wages are probably too high judged by a market system otherwise why would the unions try so hard to reduce competition? On the other hand notwithstanding the 180 day work year, you don’t see people lining up to become school teachers, which would seem to indicate that the current compensation structure is not wildly excessive given the negatives of the job — working in an unpleasant bureaucracy, no rewards for merit, having to deal with society’s intractable problems, etc.

    • Philg, your highly affluent coastal surburb is likely close to the typical teacher’s ideal job. Low rates of crime, major behavioral dysfunction, and ESL students, kids raised by college grads who’ve been taught that college is a necessity, but also an achievable one. I’d bet that you probably get substantially more applicants than most schools.

    • Z: I am sure that we get more applicants than a small town in Oklahoma would get. But I think the most sought-after jobs these days are in urban districts, such as Cambridge (which pays better). The typical 22-year-old graduate with an education degree would rather walk to work in a city than learn how to drive (even a Tesla!) and sit in traffic.

      (One can say the same about the district discussed in the original post. It is a high-paying district with easy-to-control students. So presumably the overall teacher population is better qualified than the U.S. average.)

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