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Higher Pay, Larger Classes

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Schools that do well in math and science tend to pay teachers in those subjects more than other teachers and—perhaps less intuitively—have larger class sizes, according to a study released this week by a conservative Texas think tank. By analyzing scores on a variety of standardized tests, the Texas Public Policy Foundation identified 39 demographically diverse high schools in the state that have been “achieving success” in math and science performance. The study found that, thanks to incentive or stipend programs, math and science teachers in those schools generally made some $3,000 more per year than other teachers at the schools. All of the so-called “best practice” schools, meanwhile, had larger classes in math and science than the average class-size in those subjects—although the extra percentage amounts to only about two or three students more per class.

Other noteworthy findings: The percentages of math and science teachers at the schools who were working out of field were considerably lower than the statewide averages, and—here's the kicker—the schools spent only half as much time as other schools on test preparation.

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Just goes to show you--assessment and accountability to do not dictate all the test prep that's going on. Better scores result from solid educational practices.

The average class size in the nations that outperform the US on TIMSS and PIRS is 32 students. In Singapore, and Korea they often have 40. Singapore ranks #1 in math and science education (TIMSS). Class size is the least relevant variable to educational excellence. In Jim Stigler's seminal work "The Learning Gap" he suggested just such a strategy (larger classes to afford higher pay) back in 1992.

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