Teacher-Pay Argument Is Built on Faulty Premise

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

To the Editor:

Your May 18, 2005, Commentary "Choosing the Lesser of Two Inequities," by Gary W. Ritter and Christopher J. Lucas, misattributes the root cause of the scarcity of qualified math and science teachers in inner-city schools, and hence proposes solutions that may not solve the actual problem. Pay differentials based on disciplines of expertise would be an ineffective and fundamentally unfair policy.

On the most pragmatic level, where would urban districts obtain the funds to pay higher salaries to math and science teachers? Given their limited resources, a problem that will only be compounded by the outflow of funds as students leave public schools to attend privately operated charter schools, should these districts penalize English teachers and ask them to take salary cuts so their counterparts teaching the “right” subjects can earn more? If they do, will inner-city districts then have fewer English teachers? Is that something we want?

How can we force teachers in overcrowded classrooms and dilapidated facilities to produce the same results as those in affluent suburban schools? Poor teaching efficacy in inner-city schools is found not just in the fields of math and science, but in other disciplines as well. The problem lies in the lack of funding in poor school districts. Teaching math and science, subjects that often require the use of costly equipment, is more expensive than teaching English, and consequently more logistically and financially problematic in poor inner-city schools than in wealthy suburban schools.

Messrs. Ritter and Lucas conclude that the relatively higher “opportunity costs” of teaching such subjects lead to the dire scarcity of math and science teachers. This is a scarcity not confined to inner-city teaching, however, but extending to all professional areas of math and science.

Empirical studies repeatedly show that this country is failing to produce adequate numbers of math and science professionals. If such studies hold only a grain of truth, the question then becomes: Is the scarcity simply because we do not have enough math and science teachers overall? Perhaps we are not successfully encouraging our young people in math and science.

Messrs. Ritter and Lucas set up a false dichotomy by forcing the reader to choose between teachers’ pay differentials and student learning gaps. The real questions to ask are whether we should use our limited resources to make some teachers worth more than others, or whether we should try to lift conditions across the board.

Alicia Yang Cao
Amherst, Mass.

Vol. 24, Issue 42, Page 40

Published in Print: July 13, 2005, as Teacher-Pay Argument is Built on Faulty Premise

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >