A highly educational day

Today I heard Kevin Rollins speak in Salt Lake City at a BYU Management Society meeting. My good friend Dave Bryce (Wharton Ph.D. and professor at BYU) got to conduct an interview with him. It was really interesting.

Next, I got to meet with a vice president of a major internet company, several local marketing experts, and a professor and some gradudate students at the University of Utah. We had some fascinating discussions, which I can’t write about.

Finally, I was invited to participate in a discussion about the future of teaching and education — and why it matters so much — with a dozen or so people at the BYU College of Education. The college is named for David O. McKay, a lifelong educator and president of the LDS Church from 1951-1970.

He said, “… the noblest of all professions is that of teaching, and that upon the effectiveness of that teaching hangs the destiny of nations.” (David O. McKay, 1934)

I believe that.

Utah just raised its education budget by 10.9%, the largest increase in a long time. I wish all of it could go to teacher’s salaries. I hope a lot of it does.

I heard once that Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world, with Finnish students ranking first in the world in reading literacy and science and second in mathematics.

I also heard that their teachers all have Master’s Degrees and that the profession is highly regarded and highly compensated.

In the US, a recent study (2004) shows that 73% of the nation’s eighth graders tested below “proficient” in mathematics. The same study shows no connection between standardized achievement test scores and any of the following: 1) teacher to pupil ratios 2) spending per pupil and 3) teachers salaries.

This study makes no sense to me. Maybe it was funded by state legislators who wanted ammunition to argue with teachers who want higher pay. It seems obvious that paying teachers more would attract more qualified candidates and result in less turnover and better teaching.

But my main point is that teaching is a noble profession and ought to be highly compensated in this country so that more talented people can “afford” to become teachers.

Passionate teachers change lives. I owe a lot to some of my AP teachers at Orem High like Dee Allred, Tess Morris, and Marty Monson. Many of my life interests (and much of what I studied in college) were influenced by them.

But as much as I want to see teachers paid more, I also believe in parental choice in education, and I am greatly disappointed that the vouchers legislation didn’t even make it to the house floor during the recent Utah legislative session.

One of the most ingenious ideas I have heard for improving education and raising teacher’s salaries comes from Overstock.com’s Patrick Byrne. His idea is that 65% of every dollar allocated to education should be spent in the classroom (which includes teacher’s salaries).

Does anyone know how many states have passed the 65% legislation that he proposed?

One Comment

  1. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), and international body, does a regular comparison of countries’ educational efforts, and the US doesn’t fare vary well in these comparisons. We are #2 among developed countries in terms of how much we spend on education ($11,000 per student, which works out to more the 7% of GDP); this includes being #6 of 30 in terms of teacher salaries. Despite this investment, we’re not performing very well: we’re 12th of 21 in terms of high school dropouts, and our 15-year olds rank 24th of 29 in terms of both mathematical performance and cross-curricular problem solving capabilities. More here, including a link to the original OECD report: http://www.dehavillandassociates.com/2005/09/compared-to-rest-of-world.html.

    The 65% Solution, as it’s called, makes a lot of sense in theory – but as they say, the devil’s in the details. For example, libraries are not included in that 65% (they’re not classroom expenditures, after all), but I don’t think anyone would argue against funding the library. I think if it were better defined, and that definition could be standardized across states, it could be a very good thing – time will tell. Unfortunately, our state governments can’t even agree on how the graduation rate should be calculated, believe it or not.

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