Class Warfare Blog

July 26, 2016

U.S. Schoolteachers Are Middling in Skills

A report by the Brookings Brown Institute provides data that shows that U.S. school teachers have “middling” (aka mediocre) language and math skills when compared to teachers in other developed countries. At the top of both of those lists? Finland, of course. The same Finland which bases its educational practices on American education research. Yes, that Finland.

So, do these findings provide ammunition for the public school reformers whose solution is to “get the bums out” by firing all of the “bad teachers” and replacing them with “great teachers?”

Uh, not exactly.

As to whether it is desirable for our teachers to show higher proficiencies in these basic academic skills, one could say yes, that is desirable. As to replacing the less adept teachers with really, really good ones … good luck with that strategy. Most reformer-types wouldn’t know a great teacher if one bit them in the ass. So their procedure breaks down to “fire the bad teachers and hire a bunch of new ones and hope for the best.” Then there is the small problem that teachers earn 20% less than others with equivalent education and skills. So the reformers are actually claiming to be able to find great teachers hiding in the pool of candidates willing to work for 20% less than others of the same abilities (on average!). Should they not rather conclude that that is why the current labor pool is as it is? That is, you get what you pay for? (If their business needed skilled machinists or skilled programmers, would you find them down at WalMart hiring guys off of the street?)

Let’s apply the reformer’s strategy to, say, CEOs. When companies struggle, fire their CEO’s ass and replace them with people making 20% less than others having similar qualifications. I am sure the application process can weed out those who are making more money to get a pool of those making 20% less than average, and then a few interviews and voila, a new CEO.

Maybe performance bonuses of 3-4X annual salary, like they do on Wall Street would help. You got any ideas? Can’t be worse than the current crop of ideas from the billionaire boy education reformers.

PS While Britain may be a “nation of shopkeepers,” we have always been a nation of the middling sorts. The post constitution period shows this quite clearly. Our early success was due to middling abilities surrounded by a vast wealth of natural resources. And we have always have had geniuses, a few anyway, but by and large we are average-ish. Consider our current candidates for President. These are our best and brightest? I shudder to think so.

PPS Oh, and Finland? Finland pays about 15% more for teachers compared to the earnings of others with the same skills and education.


  1. Steve,
    As a proud member of that “Middling” group of people who endeavor to provide a public school education to our blighted youth, I would like to provide a few observations. I applaud your constant support for us but I am not exactly sure you fully grasp the situation. You seem to think that we are actually a true profession. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us are only temporary hires and that is the way the powers that be want it. I have been a public school teacher for 16 years now ever since I retired from the Army. You once expressed surprise that I was an infantry NCO. Actually, that is the best training a teacher could have! NCO’s, especially combat arms ones, are teachers as well as instruments of government policy. We constantly were teaching people, just different things. I constantly fall back on my military experience in my classroom in providing instruction. We were good at providing instruction, after-all, we have been doing it for thousands of years!!! That is irrelevant though for my thoughts now, however. The big thing about teaching is that it is a female dominated field. You mentioned that once, but you failed to grasp the full implication of it. The reason it is a female dominated field and therefore subject for abuse in the job market/political field is that it was ALWAYS supposed to be only a supplemental income for the real bread winner’s (the male’s) salary. It is easy to see that when you look at our “benefits” package. My teaching salary plus my retirement income allows me to live in a comfortable manner. I have been in the same school now for some 13 years. It was a brand new school due to a large increase in population. I, a male, am the only teacher who has been there from the beginning. I am always out numbered by my female counter-parts. One year I was one of only two males. The other was a coach, of course. In my school there are currently 6 males and 56 females. This is what I noticed. The young ones stay for a few years, then get married, and most then leave. The married ones who stay have kids, and then leave. I asked one about to leave once, why? She frankly said, paying for daycare took her the majority of her salary. It was cheaper for them to have her stay at home, draw serious tax breaks than have her work. Amazing huh? Teaching is an art. It takes time to become good at it. I will not say I am great, but some seem to think I do well. Science is my field and evolution is one of my subjects. It is always interesting because in my neck of the woods, the Force, (God) is strong. The parents either love me or hate me. I am tough on the kids, for most I am the first taste of reality they get. However, Class management is the main thing, an NCO specialty, in teaching and without experience, you are lost. Knowledge comes second. Personality comes third. I have young teachers constantly ask me what to do and how to manage their classes. School of Education is worthless in that part of teacher prep. ONLY experience can make you good. Too many of the promising teachers leave before they have a chance to fully develop. The bad ones, the ones that everyone says are screwing us up, don’t last. The kids eat them alive. YOU try to come into a class of 25 12 and 13 year olds primed to give you hell. See how long you last. I digress, the main thing is that the powers that be want it this way. Starting teachers are cheap, experienced ones are expensive. I get paid twice as much as starting teacher. They can’t fire me though. I am one of the last in my county that is tenured. I am a veteran as well. Ha Ha! So the powers like it just like it is. Cheap teachers, no political pull, and money to give the Education Industrial Complex. Those are my few words on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Holding The Line In Florida — July 26, 2016 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

    • Always love to hear from people in the trenches! I retired in 2006 so I am much less well connected now than before.

      I agree with you that there is still the patriarchal attitude that “women” are just getting a second income, bur the Saint Ronald Reagan made a full second income necessary to stay in the middle class, so those troglodytes who think of the second income being “just” a second income need to get their minds corrected.

      Classy countries like Finland and South Korea pay their teachers better that the average for their cohort and treat them better. too. But we can’t do that here, because it ain’t American, I guess.

      I had great hopes for teacher’s unions but haven’t seen them effectively opposing the forces currently working against all unions. It doesn’t help that the Democratic party has dumped unions and poor people from their core constituency. The current administration has done squat for working people for the past 7.5 years.

      Hang in their, my friend.

      On Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 1:59 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 26, 2016 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  2. Irrefutable logic. Well done Steve


    Comment by lbwoodgate — July 27, 2016 @ 7:48 am | Reply

  3. With this pay, we’re lucky to have “middling”.


    Comment by List of X — July 27, 2016 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

    • He’s got a Point there!

      On Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 1:04 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 27, 2016 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

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