University of Vermont

Teacher Salaries and Opportunities to Learn

An issue brief from the James M. Jeffords Center

"Opportunities to learn" is a widely used term that describes the full range of opportunties available to students that provide effective preparation for their next level of schooling or career success.  The James M. Jeffords Center for Policy Research presents new research in the brief "Teacher Salaries and Opportunities to Learn."  Authors John Rogers and Bud Meyers report that teacher salaries were strongly predictive of 10th grade mathematics performance, and of opportunities to learn reported by 8th and 10th grade students.

Teacher salaries can be viewed as a proxy for teacher quality, as better trained and more experienced teachers can be reasonably expected to command higher salaries.  The analysis reported in this brief is a preliminary exploration of these relationships. Research questions included: 

(a) Is student performance better in supervisory unions with higher teacher salaries, relative to those where salaries are lower? and (b) Is OTL rated more highly by students in supervisory unions with higher teacher salaries, relative to those where salaries are lower?

The analysis of teacher salary expenditures with 2004 survey data, salary reports and test results reveals a complex set of relationships between salary, OTL, and mathematics performance at the level of supervisory unions. 

According to Rogers,  "Consistent with our previous report, OTL shows the strongest relationship to performance in grades 4 and 8.  Salary expenditures, on the other hand, are most strongly related to performance in the 10th grade, and to OTL in grades 8 and 10.  It appears that at the higher grade levels, students in supervisory unions with higher teacher salaries do in fact report higher levels of learning opportunity while performing better on mathematics examinations, relative to those in supervisory unions with lower teacher salaries."

The challenge of escalating education costs in Vermont raises questions about the relationships between education spending, the quality of instruction, and student outcomes.  It is not possible to infer causal relationships on the basis of these analyses, so additional research is needed to better understand these relationships.  This understanding can only be realized if standards are adopted for measuring educational opportunities, spending and outcomes in Vermont; and if those standards are used to guide data collection and analysis.  Until that time, we can only speculate about how well the costs of educational opportunity are balanced by the value of highly trained and experienced teachers. 

The complete Jeffords Center report about this research is available at 

www.uvm.edu/~jeffords/reports/pdfs/Teacher Salaries and Opportunities to Learn.pdf

The James M. Jeffords Center is a public policy and research center housed at the University of Vermont.  The mission of the Jeffords Center is to promote successful public policy decisions in environment, health care, and education, and seek to make government more effective.  For more information about the Jeffords Center, go to www.uvm.edu/~jeffords.